On May 16th 2014, after the general elections for the Indian People's Assembly, a new political icon emerged, 64 years after India's independence. The Indian People's Party (Bharatiya Janata Party) only obtained a slim majority in the Lok Sabha,1 but they left all competing parties far behind.2 The former Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi was now India’s new prime minister. He had placed himself as a representative for the ‘new India’ in his electoral campaign.
Like the "father" of the Indian nation, Mahatma Gandhi, Modi hails from Gujarat. In his inaugural speech Modi echoes the Mahatma, vowing to dedicate his prime ministership to improving the lives of India's poor:
However, whether their dreams are to come true now, remains in doubt. What led to the BJP's sweeping victory? What is the face of the "new India" that Modi and his party have proposed throughout their electoral campaign? In view of the fact that every sixth human being will be Indian in the 21st century,4 these questions are not only topical for those interested in India, but also have global relevance. Author and journalist Pankaj Mishra, opens up a different perspective on the BJP's and Modi's win. He points out the influence and money of the large corporations and industry giants like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, who generously sponsored the BJP election campaign. He questions Modi's loyalty to the poor and the marginalized Indian society.
His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer - via privatisation or outright gifts, of national resources to the country's largest corporations. His closest allies, some of India's richest businessmen, allow Modi to use their media organisations, so he can attempt to influence the media. Dissenting journalists are removed or silenced.5
The importance of the middle class
The former tea stall vendor, does not distinguish himself from the corrupt politicians he frequently chastises for owing their power mainly to the clout and money of others. Nonetheless, the electoral victory of the BJP cannot be explained solely through the backing of a few powerful individuals. Instead the social level which has become the primary political power in India since the country's economic liberalization in 1990, needs to be addressed here, namely the new Indian middle class. It is this group that is mainly driving India's domestic consumption, arousing the interest of sociologists and political scientists alike.
It was the opening of India's economy and the emigration of highly educated Indians, which dramatically increased the political weight of the middle class: After succeeding abroad, the non-resident Indians working in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, now rediscover their roots and increasingly identify with the new, strong India and the ideology of Hindutva (political Hinduism), which it represents.6
According to Christiane Brosius, the city focuses on the social impact of the new middle class.7 The new India primarily appears a (hyper-)urbanized country8. Nowhere does economic development progress as rapidly and nowhere is it as strikingly clear, how little this new wealth benefits those at the bottom:
"The Indian Government has promised repeatedly to eradicate poverty by the year 2010. However, while many surveys propose rapid increase of wealth from the aspiring middle classes through to the 'super rich', the number of deprived households in India remains surprisingly stable. Concerns have been raised as to whether the removal of poverty is only a slogan of neoliberalisation, as part of 'shining India' that does not want any 'dark spots' on its glossy facade."9
The face of India's cities and particularly its metropolises, is undeniably pockmarked by darks spots, which show that the Indian economy still largely depends upon the cheap labour of the lower castes, Dalits, OBCs10 and itinerant workers.
In Mumbai, slum dwellers comprise more than a minority, but a stunning 50% of the total population.11 Their makeshift dwellings standing on urban wasteland, under highways and on public squares, are repeatedly removed by the municipality, but since the poor only find work here, they return again and again. The fact that the figure of slum dwellers has doubled between 1981 and 2001,12 shows that economic liberalization has exacerbated the polarization between rich and poor considerably. Modi's promise to fight poverty thus appears only as a rhetorical concession.
Through its emphasis on Hindu values, the BJP also managed to appeal to the poor and uneducated, who see their values and traditions threatened by globalization, yet it tacitly made the middle class its political priority. This type of politics manifests itself clearly in the urban battle for space.
Although many wealthy inhabitants live in gated communities, serviced by armies of employees who live close by, more and more so called "citizen's initiatives", actively oppose squatter and slum settlers. The municipality and jurisdiction almost invariably ignore the interest of the latter, granting a clean and "safe" environment primacy over the needs of the service class. Interestingly, representatives of such initiatives claim to work for the good of the public and their right to a livable environment, thus implicitly declaring their interests public. At the same time, more and more urban space is privatized, policed and thus withdrawn from use by others. This is characteristic of the increasingly aggressive manner in which the Indian middle class reclaims its civic rights, increasingly with the support of mainstream media.
Since wealth is inalienably predicated upon access to
education, and since corruption is rampant, wealth is unattainable for those who have nothing to begin
The exclusion of muslims
Aggressive expulsion and marginalization are also the plight of the Indian Muslims. Although largely secular in their orientation, Muslims are frequently reviled on television, online and in films, as ignorant, medieval and malicious people. A convergence emerges here, as the political ascent of the BJP in the late 1990s was marked by a contemporaneous increase in violence and hatred vis-à-vis Muslims, which culminated in Mumbai's communal riots13 in 1992/93 and Gujarat in 2002.
The rumour that Modi, then the chief minister of Gujarat, tacitly accepted the organised killing of hundreds of Muslims,14 in retaliation for a presumed Muslim attack on a train with Hindu pilgrims, and even ordered the police to give the Hindu radicals free reign, is vociferously disputed by his party and mass media. Independent enquires such as that undertaken by the investigative journal Tehelka, offer evidence that politics and jurisdiction sought to prevent the complete clear up of the charges.15
In "No God In Sight"16, former journalist Altaf Tyrewala paints a fictional and yet acutely realistic image of Muslim life in Mumbai, 10 years after the riots.17 Here the Muslim characters are still facing daily hostilities and discrimination. Many are victims of multiple discrimination as Muslims, members of the underclass, women and handicapped people. Even if economic success carries the promise of greater freedom, the latter largely remain confined to the exercise of consumption. The gospel of wealth displaces all other aspirations to personal happiness.
Besides Krishna and Ram, a favourite divinity of Hindu nationalists who demolished a 16th century mosque in his name in Ayodhya in 1992, sparking nation-wide riots, Ganesh and Lakshmi (Gods associated with material wealth) seem to enjoy the greatest popularity in the Hindu pantheon.
The orientation towards a neoliberal, radical form of capitalism advocated by the BJP and the renaissance of Hindu Nationalism (which was a minority ideology for many decades), are not simply contemporaneous, incidental phenomena. They are premised upon each other.
Since wealth is inalienably predicated upon access to education, and since corruption is rampant, wealth is unattainable for those who have nothing to begin with. The enormous frustration and violent potential (resulting from the impossibility of equal participation), is diverted onto Muslims, terrorists, Pakistanis and other images of the enemy.
The current state of the Indian democracy
"'Democracy in India', BR Ambedkar, mainly responsible for India's constitution, warned in the 1950s, 'is only the top layer of Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic.'18Ambedkar saw democracy in India as a promise of justice and dignity for the country's despised and impoverished millions, which could only be realised through intense political struggle. For more than two decades, that possibility has faced a pincer movement: a form of global capitalism that can only enrich a small minority, and a xenophobic nationalism that handily identifies fresh scapegoats for large-scale socio-economic failure and frustration."19
Ultimately, the "new" India seems too deeply rooted in the old India. The latter has found a fertile soil in neoliberal capitalism, onto which its paradigms can be almost seamlessly sowed. This genuinely Indian modernity – if one wishes to name it, defines itself through the radical realization of a polity, in which the powerful/wealthy individual is the origin and yardstick of all action.
Consequently, the widespread notion of an "archaic" India, in contradiction to a technocratic modernity, requires critical revision. It is not the putative clash of the traditions of millennia and post-modern lived reality, that is to blame for India's problems. The hierachies and customs of the old India, used an economic system similar to the current one, which renders existing disparities insurmountable.
The logic of enlightenment, which assumes that political progress is a corollary of economic progress, appears obsolete and no longer serves as an explanatory framework. Whichever path the new India takes, it cannot be viewed and understood against the background of western and European political and historical developments.
 Lok Sbha (Hindi) means assembly of the people.
 However, 194 of these seats were won in only six states in northwest India, among them Modi's home state Gujarat.- Cf. Sircar, Neelanjan: The Numbers Game: An Analysis of the 2014 General Election, Philadelphia 2014, URL: https://casi.sas.upenn.edu/iit/nsircar, 30.03.2015.
 The Hindu (20.05.2014), URL: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/text-of-narendra-modis-speech-at-central-hall-of-parliament/article6030457.ece, 30.03.2015.
 Varma, Pavan K.: Being Indian. Inside the Real India, London 2006, p. 1.
 Mishra, Pankaj: Narendra Modi and the new face of India, in: The Guardian (16.05.2014), URL: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/16/what-next-india-pankaj-mishra, 30.03.2015.
 Cf. Varma, Pavan K.: Being Indian, Neu Dehli 2004, pp. 183f.
 Cf. Brosius, Christiane: India's middle class. New forms of urban leisure, consumption and prosperity, New Delhi 2010, p. 2.
 Cf. Bronger, Dirk: Metropolen, Megastädte, Global Cities. Die Metropolisierung der Erde, Darmstadt 2004, p. 163.
 Brosius 2010, p. 5.
 Other Backward Castes.
 Cf. Bronger, p. 163.
 Ibid., p. 164.
 Scholarly texts mostly focus on progroms or ethnic cleansings, rather than riots.
 According to the official statement of the government 790 Muslims und 254 Hindus died.- N.N.: Gujarat riot death toll revealed, in: BBC News (11.05.2005), URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4536199.stm, 30.03.2015.
 Cf. URL: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main35.asp?filename=Ne031107what_they.asp, 30.03.2015.
 Tyrewala, Altaf: No God in Sight, New Delhi 2005.
 Bombay was renamed Mumbai after the Shiv Sena victory in the November 1995 state elections.
 A speech to the constituent assembly on the 4th November 1948.
 Mishra, Pankaj: Narendra Modi and the new face of India, in: The Guardian (16.05.2014), URL: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/16/what-next-india-pankaj-mishra, 13.03.2015.