Lok Sabha elections 2014 and the significance of the urban voter

Reblogged from : CPR-Urbanization Project

Source: http://indianexpress.com/ by Christophe Jaffrelot | February 10, 2014 11:30 am

Parivar and the City

Traditionally, in the Sangh Parivar, the decisionmaking process has been largely collegial. That was also true within the BJP, where the personalisation of power never went as far as it did with the Congress under Indira Gandhi. Even if L.K. Advani was in the limelight during the rath yatra, he continued to work in a team and it was not he, but A.B. Vajpayee, who became the first BJP prime minister six years later.

The personalisation of the BJP’s election campaign today does not stem only from the presidentialisation of the Indian polity.

Narendra Modi had already initiated this process in Gujarat — it was one of the reasons why senior BJP leaders seemed to feel alienated…….

he rise of Modi is also changing the ideological mindset of the Sangh Parivar. Previous leaders of the Sangh, including its chief ideologue, Deendayal Upadhyay, who is still referred to with great reverence in the Parivar, displayed strong reservations on industrialisation, industrialists (who then supported the Swatantra Party and the Congress) and urbanisation. Opposing Jawaharlal Nehru’s policy, Upadhyay wrote in the late 1950s that the Indian government aimed to “build an industrial, in place of an agricultural, society”, which meant that it tried to “build a pyramid from the top downwards”. Modi’s affinities with the urban stand in stark contrast with this worldview.

In 2009, he declared at the conference of chief ministers and chief justices of high courts: “there are no villages in Gujarat”. This was the prefiguration of his “rurban” project. His former professor, Pravin Sheth, recalls that Modi had once said: “We’re bringing a new concept called rurban, where the soul would be that of villages, but facilities those of a city, such as uninterrupted power supply and broadband connectivity etc.” This plan was translated into a policy in 2009, when “rurban centres” were initiated. They were supposed to take shape in 118  panchayats having a population of over 10,000 people. For implementing this policy, separate rurban general development control regulations were prepared. Presenting this scheme, the principal secretary (panchayat and rural development) declared: “The project will create urban-like facilities and high quality urban infrastructure in rural areas and encourage urbanites to enjoy rural life. It’s a concept of countryside living found in the US and UK and other European countries where land is costlier outside the city areas”……….

Beyond the “rurbanisation” project, the symbol of Modi’s urban dream is probably the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (the “GIFT city”), a financial capital 30 kilometres outside Ahmedabad which is to consist of 124 skyscrapers, accommodating 75 million square feet of office space. He says: “The vision of Gujarat would be incomplete without capitalising on the in-house financial business acumen. To tie-up with technology, to create a hub complete with infrastructure, to meet the needs of modern Gujarat, modern India and to create a space in the global financial world, that is my dream.” ….

By dwelling on the importance of the city, Modi moves away from the Sangh’s traditional emphasis on the rural. By being as close to the corporate sector as someone like Pramod Mahajan used to be, he separates himself from the old affinities between the Sangh Parivar and small entrepreneurs. Upadhyay would probably never have imagined that a tycoon from the Ambani family would be at the helm of a “petroleum university” bearing his name. Nehru turned his back on the Gandhian, village-oriented project immediately after Independence; it has taken a few decades more for the Sangh Parivar to distance itself from its core ideology, where rural India was twinned with swadeshi, a word nobody uses anymore.

Modi’s promotion of cities is in tune with the support he receives from the urban middle class. In the 2012 Gujarat elections, he only lost in the rural constituencies. To woo urban voters will definitely serve his interests in the coming Lok Sabha elections. But it may not make such a decisive impact, because the urban population in Modi’s state, 43 per cent according to the 2011 Census, is 11.5 percentage points above the national average — and the Aam Aadmi Party may do well in big metropolises too.

Read entire entry at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/parivar-and-the-city/99/

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