The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity, and Secularization

By Achin Vanaik | Go to book overview

6
The Communalization of the Indian Polity

The Historic Decline of the Congress

Virtually every major political development in recent times bears the stamp imposed by a basic structural malady expressed in a double dilemma. There is the historic decline of the Congress party and the simultaneous inability of any political formation to replace its historical role. The overall result is an unprecedented political and ideological vacuum, and a politics of extreme flux as competitors strive to cannibalize the space hitherto occupied by the Congress. Whatever the partial or temporary successes enjoyed by one competitor or the other, these have proved neither stable nor significant enough to make any single force the new fulcrum of Indian political life in the way that the Congress was for so many years after independence.

If the era of 'one-party dominance' at the Centre is long gone, neither is there any visible prospect that a stable two- or three-party competitive system might institutionalize itself. Most importantly, it is no longer obvious that some kind of bourgeois centrist formation is fated by the sheer complexity and segmented character of Indian society to always rule at the Centre. Therein lies the principal danger. A decisive communalization of the Indian polity and its authoritarian transformation is now a distinct possibility.

It is not a certainty, but the basic mould of plebiscitary politics and centrist rule which encased the range of variant regime possibilities for so long is now so seriously weakened that the future has become far more open-ended and unpredictable. 1 The single most important reason for this turn of affairs is the scale and depth of Congress decline in the last few years. The general trajectory has been visible for a long time, beginning in the late sixties, but the gradient of its decline was not, till recently, steep. Moreover, the two alternatives to Congress rule at the Centre -- the Janata Party ( 1977-80) and Janata Dal ( 1989-90) --

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The Furies of Indian Communalism: Religion, Modernity, and Secularization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Part I 1
  • 1: Introduction 3
  • 2 - Reflections on Communalism and Nationalism in India 29
  • Notes 59
  • Part II 63
  • 3: Religion, Modernity, Secularization 65
  • 4: Communalism, Hindutva, Anti-Secularists 130
  • Part III 235
  • Situating the Threat of Hindu Communalism: Problems with the Fascist Paradigm 237
  • 6: The Communalization of the Indian Polity 296
  • Index 361
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