Indians love premature celebrations almost as much as they seem to like disappointment. Witness any cricket world cup in which India has been a contender: the victorious dances the moment a match begins, and then the familiar, subdued return to reality when it is lost.
Right now, as the Indian elections progress towards their finale, there’s a mood of celebration among the supporters of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The market decided some time ago that India will soon have a BJP government, and since then has stabilised and is now on an upswing.
For those who aren’t looking forward to a BJP reign, it is a time for nervousness. Those like me who have lived through a term of BJP government (1998-2004) know that Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate revered and reviled in almost equal measure is only part of the problem; the larger issue is the BJP itself and its disciplinarian, quasi-militant, extreme right-wing outfit, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The riots in Modi’s Gujarat that killed 2,000 Muslims took place while the BJP was in office. During that period the BJP education minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, proposed that astrology should be studied at university. Both these were expressions of the party’s robust, masculine Hinduism. We can’t be certain what might be on the agenda with an entrenched BJP.