I thought I'll carry the discussion further here. So the reasons I can't vote for the BJP are:
1. Amitav Ghosh is absolutely right. The BJP's reading of history, indeed their construction of it, is a huge problem. The sheer ethnocentrism is such a put off.
Their reading of history and current ideology, finds no place for the plurality of Indian life--languages, cultures, religions, festivals. I enjoy the plurality so much, that I find it impossible to think of lending support to anyone, any party, or any philosophy that opposes it.
This is a very big debate and I dunno if Indian Economy Watch is the right place for it.
2. There have been a lot of comments about the possible emergence of the BJP as a respectable center-right (conservative) party. Rueben looked forward to their becoming something like the New York Republicans. I also think its a good idea. In any democracy, as in any blog, its helpful and fun to have disagreements. A centre right BJP and a centre left Congress would be useful.
But I think this argument ignores the metamorphosis of the word "conservative" that is taking place right in front of our eyes. I use the term "conservative" as most Americans use it denoting a free market ideology, small government, perhaps a hardy culture of self-reliance. Conservatives are the sort of people who more or less look to Milton Friedman as their guiding light. And even though I disagree with conservatives on most issues, I respect them. I think India would greatly benifit from more people of the sort. We tend to look to the government for, frankly, too much.
But the BJP is not such a party. Nor for that matter are the Republicans, or the Le Pen right in France. They are increasingly, er, National Socialist. I am not just saying that. The working class is increasingly voting right and all the three parties I mentioned have very strong Nationalist rhetoric.
The BJP actually was never a free market party, all they believed and still believe is in transfering government sops from the poor to the relatively better off.
Can you imagine the followers of Milton Friedman demonstrate against the scrapping of the rent control act?
3. Mob rule. Ghosh makes this point better than I do. But I tried to write about in an article in the Business Standard, "Tea with Mussolini". It's archived here. Having read Hannah Arendt, Samantha Power's account of the genocide in Rawada, and lately Kaushik's reply to Brad Delong, in which he wrote:
I guess it touched me in the raw because the BJP is indeed a nasty piece of work. Its leadership is full of terrible, Neanderthal men whom the Vajpayees think that they are exploiting to stay in power. And India will pay a price one day. It would have taken generations to have really gotten over partition. And now we have Godh[r]a.
I am scared about banality of evil. The mob the BJP excites will get out control and dictate policy. Already Togadia feels no obligation to be civil to his parivar members. This is too dangerous a game to play and Advani for all his TV composure has played it too long.
4. The human element of the Hindutva. Hindutva is all about taunting the minorities, its about making them blast crackers when Sachin hits a century, its about making them prove their fealty to "India", its about degrading them for who they are (and have no choice about) and its about excluding them from national consciousness.
Why would I support such a party?