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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 July 2024

Not that distant

THE THIN EGDE || What these EU results mean for the RSS-BJP regime can be seen in one visual nugget in a selfie video posted by Meloni from the recent G7 Summit in Italy

Ruchir Joshi Published 18.06.24, 06:59 AM

Sourced by the Telegraph

The voting booth is just across the road and I have a good view of the people entering and leaving. Naturally, things are tense with this election: it’s a battle between those who see humanity as a large, connected family and those hell-bent on dividing people and excluding millions on the basis of religion and ethnicity. It’s a battle between politicians who want to protect their oligarch funders from taxes and crucial environmental restrictions and others who want to see a more equitable distribution of wealth. It’s a fight between those who are deliberately ignoring the exponential degradation of our living environment and those who are terrified by how quickly we are hurtling towards an ecological Armageddon.

Who will win? The ones who want to capture or maintain power on the basis of an imagined cultural hegemony while denying all those they label as ‘outsiders’ or ‘termites’? Or the ones who see all humans as equals involved in an unceasing dynamic of give and take? Those who are hell-bent on imposing their fake claims as shiny replicas of truth or those who believe in the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press? The ones whose only mode of politics is to create and shore up personality cults to serve themselves or the ones who work as democratic teams to serve their societies?

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The only thing identifying the ballot station is a small board outside the building with a notice in marker pen giving the timings of the voting. There is no queue at this particular booth. The crisp June air is well short of a fully unfurled summer and all through the day people trickle in, in ones and twos, some pushing baby-buggies, some carrying their shopping, stopping at the station to cast their ballot on the way home. Across four consecutive days, adults from 27 countries with a total population of 447 million people cast paper ballots for their continental Parliament. The election is quiet. Voting numbers are down across the huge territory and the whole election seems a bit ‘depressed’. Today is the last day of voting — June 9 — and the booths shut at 6 pm.

By late evening, the results are out, the writing is on the wall, and it does not make for happy reading for anyone who stands against fascism and racism, nor for anyone who cares about the fate of the planet. Whether it’s a rap on the knuckle side-vote against incumbent parties, an early jackboot stride desirous of stamping out of liberal and democratic values or an emphatic shoring up of the right-wing parties already in power, millions of Europeans, especially in three of the largest EU countries, have voted for the most poisonous, cynical, and cruel candidates available on the ballot papers for the European Parliament.

“It’s crazy,” says a German professor friend who teaches modern history, “most of the old GDR areas plus parts of the south have all gone Nazi.” “Nazi?” I ask sceptically. “Well yes, be in no doubt, the AfD makes masking noises but if you scratch the surface they are Hitlerites 2.0.” A French friend sends a colour-coded map of how all the French MEP constituencies voted adding “... nous sommes vraiment dans la merde!” (we are really in the s**t.) The Rassemblement National (RN, also called National Rally in English) had been allotted the colour, brown, and the map shows almost all of the country covered with that colour and, yes, visually it does resemble a map of France painted with excrement — for the first time since they were formed in 1972, the French white supremacists truly look like they are in the ascendancy. In Italy, there is a resounding vote for Giorgia Meloni in her double avatar as the prime minister leading the extreme right-wing Brothers of Italy party and one of the main leaders of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, which is the conglomeration of most of Europe’s big, proto-facsist parties. In Hungary, the quasi-dictator, Viktor Orbán, is happy; in Poland, the recently ejected conservatives have made a comeback in the MEP vote; in Holland, the Dutch right-wing has made gains.

Sitting in this Europe and reading about the aftermath of the elections in India (I left the day before the results were declared), the elation at so many parts of the country fighting their way out of our own chemical orange mire is short-lived. Even though there are solid reasons to celebrate the survival of a democracy that skydived without a parachute, there comes the counter-balancing reality of these results in the EU. Almost without let-up, we now await the outcomes of three more foreign elections that will affect India in varying degrees: around July 7, the result of Emmanuel Macron’s Russian roulette move of declaring snap elections in France; on July 4, hopefully, the ejection of the Tories after 14 long years of heartless and clownish incompetence (to be replaced by a Labour government over which there are already many questions); and, then, come November 5, the scariest of them all — the United States of America choosing between a deeply flawed and visibly evaporating Joe Biden and the walking, orange, radioactive meltdown known as Donald Trump.

How do all these political battles far across the world affect us? Well, who runs the US, the UK and Europe and how they deal with us matter to any Indian government, no matter how much the RSS-BJP regime may pretend otherwise; much as our leaders may preen and prance or deploy braggadocio and bluster, India is not China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Israel. We are far from achieving any effective unilaterality; we need the Western powers more than they need us, much as we may nurture other delusions. Their official opprobrium, their governmental displeasure, and the judgement of their media can and do hurt us in serious ways; it impacts our economy, our defence capabilities, and our general position and honour in the world. Be in no doubt that the naked contempt the regime has displayed towards democratic norms would have been far worse but for the constant softly spoken but serious words from Western counterparts and diplomats urging restraint. Therefore, when there’s a Trump in the White House, a Priti Patel in the UK home office, a Nero Netanyahu in Tel Aviv or a Meloni ruling Rome, that constant urging and the attendant costs of ignoring it are that much reduced.

Despite the projections that a coalition would give it some pause, we are seeing the regime's default autocratic mode kicking back in: the ink hasn’t yet dried on the signatures of those who took oath in the new government and we are already witnessing the renewed weaponisation of the most draconian laws in the re-activation of absurd, long dormant cases against prominent political dissenters. From July 1 come the new penal code laws that were rammed through with a large chunk of the Opposition locked out of the Lok Sabha, laws that belong only in a kangaroo raj. Let’s be under no illusion that these manoeuvres and the conduct of the somewhat free elections that preceded them would have been far worse but for the privately conveyed and publicly broadcast criticisms from major Western governments.

What these EU results mean for the RSS-BJP regime can be seen in one visual nugget in a selfie video posted by Meloni from the recent G7 Summit in Italy. In it, you can see Signora Meloni waving and proclaiming "Hello from the Melodi team!" as Mr Modi chortles just behind her. Video memes of their meeting are already up on social media and variations on the unfortunate ‘Melodi’ coinage will no doubt surface shortly to join in the tune. Much as we may laugh at ‘Nargia’, ‘Giorendra’, ‘Melanomodia’ or ‘Melanomendra’ or the quip, ‘at least the RSS-BJP won't be able to harp on about Congress ka Italian Connection anymore’, the rise of a cynical, extreme, right-wing phalanx in Europe is no laughing matter for us in our still beleaguered Republic.

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