Hindutva For a Few Dollars a Day

people would like to say that only a few bad apples do not condemn the entire

orchard: but we are not talking about a few apples, but the core itself, the

president of the party, the leaders of its main alliance partner and trustees of

its ideological wing. And, besides, these few names are only those released in

the first set of tehelka.com tapes (knowing them from the cricket scandal, they

will carefully release their tapes for maximum media impact). Also, the scandal

was uncovered by two journalists who spent a mere Rs. 11 lakhs on the story. If

a national inquiry was conducted at a larger scale, it would surely have shown

that the RSS-BJP patriotism was rotten to the core, but true to those classes

that benefit from its rule.


scandal is not only in the bribes. These are nothing. A lakh here, a lakh there.

Journalist Ken Silverstein informs us that the U. S. Congress is no better. The

return on investment to U. S. lawmakers is astounding: in 1996, Lockhead spent

$5 million to lobby Congress and earned $15 billion of tax-money to underwrite

foreign weapons sales, while in that same year, Microsoft spent under $2 million

and earned tax credits worth hundreds of millions of dollars for license sales

to software programs manufactured overseas. Washington D. C. on $10 million a

Day. New Delhi on $2000 a Day, a few cowries more or less.


scandal is not just the bribes, but it is the institutional rot. Whatever the

RSS-BJP touches is fundamentally corrupted. As it came to power in 1998, the

Hindu Right stuffed its people into government bureaucracies and fired many

long-time civil servants (no government before had done such extensive

house-cleaning). The scandals over the Indian Council of Historical Research,

the NCERT, and every other government bureaucracy is by now well-known. This is

just how fascistic movements operate: they do not allow state institutions an

autonomous logic, but try to make them subservient to its own will. The ICHR,

for example, ceases to be about the discipline of history, but it becomes about

the glorification of the past as represented by Hindutva. But the RSS-BJP did

not stop at the civilian bureaucracy, for it also put its paws into the

military. The scandal over the firing of Admiral Bhagwat, the favoritism in the

promotions in all three services and the scandalous use of military honors after

the Kargil War — all point to the widespread disruption of the military

establishment for nefarious political purposes. That the military is now so

heavily involved with the corruption is thanks to the RSS-BJP-type regime.


General Manjit S. Ahluwalia, Director General of Ordinance and Supply, one of

the top men in-charge of goods, told the tehelka.com journalists "you can’t come

to my house without a bottle of [Johnny Walker] Blue Label [whiskey]." The

dollars are in liquid form. On 22 December 1998, the BJP welcomed 90 retired

military personnel into the party. At the event, one ex-officer noted that "the

armed forces can do anything better than others, whether administrative work in

the government or running the politics of the country." This undemocratic, and

fundamentally fascistic, sentiment should have been hastily condemned by the

RSS-BJP, but no, the party of "stability" and "honesty" went along with it. We

had a senseless nuclear blast which provoked the Kargil War, and now we have a

fundamentally compromised military.


RSS-BJP-allies government refuses to resign. It may hold onto power in the

short-run, and its friends in the U. S. may claim that the entire episode is

politically motivated. No-one, however, is misled that this party of "dharma" is

nothing but the pious face of dalali and hawala, of those who want to sell off

the country’s assets (such as profit-making public sector concerns like BALCO)

or else bankrupt the country for multinational firms (as with Enron). The

"patriotism" of the RSS-BJP is the patriotism of money, of the saffron dollar

that is insatiable for profit and unconcerned with the welfare of the people.

Some will nod their heads and say that "everyone takes bribes" as if this is

normal, and therefore forgivable. Others will say that only some are involved,

that Vajpayee (always Vajpayee) is above it all — this is like saying that

Ronald Reagan did not know about the Iran-Contra affair, when in fact the point

is that these people tell us that they operate as a disciplined party that has

an ideological face. There is no way to tell this story and not offer a

fundamental criticism of the Hindu Right and its shenanigans whilst in power. We

urge all those who love the idea of India to condemn this scandal in the

strongest possible way.

Biju Mathew is Professor of Business at Rider College (New Jersey); Vijay

Prashad is Director of International Studies at Trinity College (Connecticut)

and author of <Karma of Brown Folk> (Minnesota, 2000). Both are co-founders of

the Forum of Indian Leftists (FOIL) and members of the collective of Youth

Solidarity Summer (YSS).



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