This final communiqué is also interesting, because of its long paragraph on the need for a "more democratic world", not only in the Indo-Pacific (where the imperative of freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as rule of law is emphasized), but in terms of the "promotion of human rights" too. This formula is made in reference to the resumption of the EU-India Human Rights Dialogue and in the context of the strongly worded resolution that the European Parliament had passed a few days before the Summit, in which a majority of the MEPs had "encourage[d] India, as the world’s largest democracy, to demonstrate its commitment to respecting and protecting the freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, to end attacks against - and to release arbitrarily detained - human rights defenders and journalists, including in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, to repeal laws that may be used to silence dissent, and to ensure accountability for human rights violations".
Is the Covid-19 crisis weakening Narendra Modi’s party?
Till recently, the Modi government had not been affected by the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, in spite of the fact that the initial lockdown, decided in four hours during the first wave, had badly hit migrant workers - millions of whom had had to go back to their village by themselves. The second wave is different. Not only is the number of casualties much higher, but among them are people from the middle class, whom the media cannot ignore and who form the core of Modi’s support base. These citizens are very well aware of the state’s mismanagement. The risk of unpopularity is such that neither Narendra Modi, nor his right-hand man, Amit Shah, are speaking out: they have disappeared from the public scene, where they had occupied such a central place for years.
Will this change of atmosphere translate into votes? Possibly, if the number of casualties continues to increase for weeks and months - especially if the media do not only give the official figures, but the more realistic evaluations of the scientists.
The recent state elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam suggest that the present crisis may be a turning point. Not only could the BJP not conquer any new state, but the kind of identity politics the party used to capitalize upon has lost some of its shine, with the exception of Assam, to some extent. First, two outgoing Chief Ministers, Mamata Bannerjee in West Bengal (of the Trinamool Congress) and Pinarayi Vijayan (of the Communist Party of India - Marxist) have been reelected, partly because of their social welfare programs and - for the latter - for the way in which Kerala successfully managed the pandemic thanks to a robust public health policy. Their victory suggests that governance efficiency and results may prevail over Hindu nationalist mottos and that issue-based election campaigns may be back, at the expense of identity politics. Secondly, and correlatively, the voters who have made possible the victory of Mamata Bannerjee, Pinarayi Vijayan and M.K. Stalin in Tamil Nadu (where his party, the DMK, has dislodged a partner of the BJP from power) mostly belonged to the plebs of India’s society. To some extent, class is back in Indian politics.Gender is also playing a new role, as women’s vote contributed to the defeat of BJP and its allies in some states, including West Bengal.
In the 2010s, Hindu nationalism had gained momentum, while the Indian middle class and the dominant castes regrouped behind the BJP in reaction to the rise of the lower castes. This cycle may be over. But this trend will find expression in national politics only if the charisma of Modi is seriously eroded and if the opposition gathers together around a leader...
Copyright: Diptendu DUTTA / AFP