Why do the BJPs hate Muslims

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi: A man of the streets

Narendra Modi comes from the far right. Some call him a fascist. The nationalist Hindu will soon be ruling India.

Islamophobic and sure of victory: Narendra Modi. Image: Reuters

AHMEDABAD / VARANASI / VADNAGAR taz | With Narendra Modi comes a sea of ​​people. They wear orange caps, waving flags, and wear masks with Modi's face. On the streets of Varanasi, otherwise full of pilgrims and tourists anyway, nothing works for hours. Modi's election campaigners were expecting 200,000 people, it is more like half a million. Nobody knows exactly.

This morning at the end of April, the candidate is standing on a truck decorated with marigolds, the orange flower truck slowly making its way through the crowds. Modi is actually only in the 1.2 million city in Uttar Pradesh because of a formality, he wants to register as a candidate for the Hindu nationalist Indian People's Party (Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP). He wears a white shirt for the occasion, not the saffron tones of his party as usual. He folds his hands and waves to the supporters.

It can be celebrated now, days before the polling stations close. In the forecasts, he has been the next prime minister of the billion-dollar country for weeks. "I wasn't sent to Varanasi or came myself," Modi says slowly and emphatically. “No, Mother Ganga called me.” It takes him a good two hours for the two kilometers to the electoral office.

Ganga, as Hindus call the Ganges, is the center of Varanasi. The river is sacred to Hindus. It is said that anyone who takes a bath in Varanasi will be redeemed from their sins. Those who die here can escape the eternal cycle of rebirths. Every year a million pilgrims come to walk through the narrow old town to the ghats, the bathing spots on the Ganges. Varanasi is called the "capital of religion".

The holy river calls, the Messiah is coming. This year, Modi and his BJP party are combining the election campaign with fundamentalist megalomania. That fits in with the top candidate, who joined the Hindu nationalists as a child and is known for his vanity. The man who repeatedly brags about his chest size has become a redeemer figure for many. He is supposed to save India from mismanagement and corruption, from the special wishes of Muslims and from the archenemy Pakistan.

Narendra Modi comes from the far right. Some call him a fascist.

It promises good roads, less corruption

The election is above all a deselection of the Congress Party, which has ruled India almost continuously since independence. It has been back in power since 2004 and, for many voters, has been synonymous with bribery scandals involving tens of billions of dollars. With corruption and standstill. Meanwhile, Indian growth is still lagging behind its major competitor China.

As prime minister of the affluent state of Gujarat, Modi has given himself an image as a “development man”. In Varanasi, he promises what Gujarat already has: roads, electricity and freedom from corruption. Perfect asphalt and such a beautiful bank of the Ganges as the one in Gujarat's largest city, Ahmedabad on Sabarmati.

With his white beard and rimless glasses, Narendra Modi has something gentle about it. His words and gestures are precisely choreographed, Modi is managed by a PR agency that has tailored the election campaign entirely to his person. He can be seen on every poster, dressed in the orange Indian kurta pajama. He appears in holography in different places at the same time, always with the slogan: “This time a Modi government”.

In Modi's state of Guajarat, the sun burns down the Ahmedabad waterfront at noon. The light concrete turns into a shimmering glitter surface. The construction work is far from finished, but the Sabarmati Promenade already looks like an inviting promenade - if it weren't for the heat. “It's mostly empty here, I've rarely seen a lot of people by the water,” says a local resident.

Modi has been ruling here since 2002, 63 years old, it is already his third term in office. Many of his government's projects, like on Sabarmati, are limited to what is particularly visible: dark asphalt has flowed for hundreds of kilometers over dusty sandy roads, almost all villages are supplied with electricity and around 80 percent of all households.

Like nowhere else in India, you can rely on the infrastructure here, and that is attractive not only for citizens, but also for large companies. “Our government relies on industry,” says State Secretary Bhagyesh Jha. "With industry come jobs and with them development."

Residents: 1,236 billion

Eligible voters: about 815 million

Religions: Hinduism 80.5 percent, Islam 13.4 percent, Christianity 2.3 percent, Sikhism 1.9 percent, other 1.8 percent (source: 2001 census). With up to 180 million Muslims, India is the largest Muslim country in the world after Indonesia.

Parties: Around 60 alliances take part in the election, but only three in all of India: the ruling Congress Party, the Hindu nationalist BJP and the anti-corruption party Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which emerged from a protest movement in 2012.

The vote: The election lasted five weeks. Monday is the last of nine election days. Counting starts from May 16th.

In fact, no state is as good to industrialists as Gujarat. You get land, electricity and road connections at the best conditions as well as tax advantages that offset your investments within years. How easy it is to get rich is shown by the case of Gautam Adani, who operates India's largest private container port, coal-fired power plants and a special economic zone.

With the support of Modi's government, he made it to become a billionaire, even though numerous farmers and fishermen have been fighting against the loss of their pasture land and the pollution of the sea for years. Modi has now also brought India's largest car manufacturer Tata into the country, via SMS, so goes the legend.

When the company announced in 2008 that it was giving up planning for a plant in West Bengal due to resistance from farmers, company boss Ratan Tata allegedly immediately received a short message from Narendra Modi: "Welcome to Gujarat". Three days later, the deal was perfect. Tata was followed by Ford, Peugeot and Bombardier.

Since then, India's great entrepreneurs have been celebrating the premier of Gujarat. The telecommunications company Sunil Mittal said in 2009: "He can rule the country". And billionaire Anil Ambani even calls him "King of Kings".

It seems like an old dream for Modi will come true this year: to finally become premier. The transformation from a tea seller to the most powerful man in the country.

Modi's career started early

Narendra Modi's story begins in the medieval town of Vadnagar, whose crumbling city gate is protected by two replica cannons. Behind it, the alleys meander up a hill on an almost circular lake. A narrow single-family house is lined up next to the next. The one in which Narendra Modi lived with his parents, three brothers and two sisters has now given way to a new two-story building.

While his mother worked in the neighbors' oil press, his father ran a tea stand on the station's only track. Class friends and neighbors describe young Narendra as a sporty kid and a mediocre student. He plays kabaddi and kho kho, Indian fishing games like “robbers and gendarmes”.

His political career also starts early and athletically: At the age of six, Modi attended the daily evening meetings of the Hindu nationalist national volunteer association RSS, a mixture of militia and social organization.

“Every day after school we ran to the meeting at five o'clock,” says Sudhir Joshi, a childhood friend. Such RSS meetings still look openly military to this day: the members line up in uniform - black cap, white shirt, short khaki pants - and sing and drill on the orders of a leader.

Friends today take on tasks that the family has long taken care of. But do they stay when things get uncomfortable? You can read an essay on this in the taz. On the weekend of 10/11. May 2014. Also a conversation with Manfred Stolpe. He was Minister of Transport when he was diagnosed with cancer. He's doing better today than some newspapers say, he says. And: Why it is eccentric to be normal. At the kiosk, eKiosk or with a practical weekend subscription.

As a young adult, Modi moved to Ahmedabad and worked his way up the RSS from the bottom up. He cleans, makes tea, and later he also takes care of the mail. Then he will be responsible for maintaining contacts at the grassroots level.

“He worked hard,” recalls one of his superiors. “He rode his bike through the villages all day. Sometimes he went to bed without eating. ”Modi rises up as a talent for organization. But he is also considered a troublemaker who disregards the orders of superiors. And does not tolerate any contradiction against one's own.

In 1988 Modi switched to the BJP, which was founded at the beginning of the decade as the parliamentary arm of the Hindu nationalists. He should ensure more influence of the RSS. It is the time when the BJP is consolidating its role in politics. And the time when one of the biggest waves of pogroms against Muslims since the founding of India broke out. The conflict ignites in the holy city of Ayodhya, where the Hindu nationalists are building a temple for their hero Rama and want to demolish the Babri mosque for it.

On December 6, 1992, the BJP organized a large demonstration with the RSS, the crowd broke the police chain and destroyed the mosque. This in turn causes rioting between Muslims and Hindus across the country, killing more than 2,000 people - mostly Muslims. The BJP benefits. After the Ayodhya conflict, it finally becomes the people's party, and in the 1996 parliamentary elections it even became the strongest force.

Back then, Modi was far from the action, but ideologically in line. He is interviewed by the left-wing sociologist Ashis Nandy, who recalled ten years later: Modi explained to him in a sober tone the theory of a “cosmic conspiracy against India” and portrayed every Muslim as a suspected traitor and potential terrorist. “The conversation left me in no doubt that this is a classic clinical case of a fascist,” writes Nandy.

He compares Muslims to dogs

In the 1990s, Narendra Modi worked his way up the hierarchy of the BJP, first in Gujarat and later - when he was transferred to Delhi for intrigues against party colleagues. In January 2001, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck Gujarat, killing 20,000 people and leaving half a million homeless. The state government fails to do the relief work and loses several local elections. Modi seized his chance, on October 7, 2001, the then BJP government in Delhi installed him as Prime Minister of Gujarat.

Less than six months later, on February 27, 2002, a train car caught fire near the small town of Godhra in Gujarat. 58 people die, some of them Hindu pilgrims on their way back from Ayodhya. After the accident, pogroms against Muslims begin again. Mobs of RSS militias and other Hindu nationalist groups are running through the cities of Gujarat with machetes and attacking people in Muslim residential areas. Hundreds, maybe thousands, are killed.

The military only intervenes after three days, when the worst is over. Since then it has been rumored that Modi's government at least let the pogroms go, if not fueled and supported them.

Human Rights Watch reported weeks later that politicians and police officers led many mobs and carried official lists to identify Muslim homes and shops. Under false pretenses, journalists film some of the mob leaders in interviews in which they claim Narendra Modi personally gave them a free hand. At a meeting he instructed the police to hold back on the "reaction of the Hindus", reports a BJP politician.

But nothing can be hard to prove, the politician is murdered a few months later by strangers. Finally, in 2010, the Indian Supreme Court closed a criminal case for lack of evidence. The reason is that the government has destroyed numerous documents, meeting and police radio minutes, the judges complain. Modi and his party, on the other hand, celebrate this as a complete acquittal.

And Modi makes it clear how little he cares about the Muslim victims. His government is delaying the reconstruction of the destroyed mosques, and he even made a pogrom leader a minister until she was indicted in 2009.

For years he refused to show sympathy for the victims. When Reuters interviewed him in 2013, he remained aloof: Of course he felt bad, just as he felt bad when he was sitting in the car and his driver accidentally ran over a puppy. Like murder was an accident.

No water connection in the Muslim quarters

In Modis Gujarat, not everyone benefits from his development work. Despite the high per capita income, almost half of children under five are malnourished, and Gujarat does worse than many other states when it comes to fighting poverty. But worst of all are Muslims, who are eight times more likely to be at risk of poverty than higher-caste Hindus.

Highly developed Gujarat often ends at the borders of the Muslim quarters: in Juhapura in Ahmedabad, for example, where the streets are unpaved, where there are villas and apartment buildings, but all without water.

Asifkhan Pathan, who has opened a private school here, complains about the lack of initiative by the BJP city government. “We have now drilled the third well for our school, two have already dried up,” he says. To the northeast, a high wall with barbed wire separates the district from the neighboring Hindu district. Although the walls have existed since the 1990s, segregation has been increasing since 2002.

At one of the larger intersections of Varanasi is one of the city's few high-rise buildings. Here, the BJP has rented three floors for Modi's campaign office. The rooms are simply furnished, mostly with tables and chairs with laptops for work on them, posters and banners are stuck on the walls, Narendra Modi smiles on them and promises: "Let's end corruption - this time a Modi government".

The election campaigners are confident of victory. "There is no doubt that Modi will get a record result," says Kailash Kesari, the city's former BJP boss. The electoral alliance of the BJP needs 272 seats to form a majority in the parliament of Delhi. “The BJP alone will create more than 300 seats. Guaranteed."

Again, not even the boldest predictions predict that, but they see the BJP and its allies close to the 272-seat limit. That would be impressive in itself. The BJP promises roads for every village, easier procedures for investors, a tougher line against Pakistan and the construction of the Rama Temple. The program is well received: street vendors in Delhi, farmers in Bihar and taxi drivers in Pune, they all voted for Modi. They do not know who the BJP candidates are on site. Modi is the world's most popular right-wing politician.

Although he moderates himself in the election campaign, he does not completely hide Islamophobia. Rahul Gandhi, the hope of the Congress Party, is what he calls "Shahzada", a word with Muslim connotations for "prince". He calls the government the "Sultanate of Delhi". He likes to bring other opponents closer to Pakistan and terrorism, with the subliminal message that they are lackeys of the Muslims.

The election ends on Monday with the vote in Varanasi and 40 other constituencies. Narendra Modi's BJP will win. But in order to fulfill his dream as prime minister, the result has to be spectacular.

He now hopes that reality will adapt to the larger-than-life image he has created for himself.