THE Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has triumphed in its tactics. It has emerged as the real opposition. After losing in the last parliamentary election it was keen to win over the Left which could give the BJP, rightist in outlook, an image of being a liberal in economic matters. It has finally duped the communists to believe that its agenda on India’s development was more or less what the Left is following. In fact, efforts to woo the communists began in the last session, but bore fruit only during the budget. Both found an understanding in their hurt.
This was visible in parliament when the BJP and the Left rose together in the two houses against the government on price rise, shouted in the same vein and walked out hand-in-hand on the first day of the budget session. It was more or less the same story on the subsequent days. Apparently, the two had met beforehand and consulted each other to finalise their strategy. Both the parties were seen having the floor coordination, suggesting who would speak when from amongst them.
No doubt, the topic was the inept handling by the inept government of price rise and abnormal inflation. The BJP also brought in the India-Pakistan secretary-level talks in the discussion. Yet the Left did not realize that making a common cause with the party which has communal credentials may rub off on the secular ideology of the communists. Why couldn’t they retain their entity in parliament and still criticise the government? They would have found support in Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party and, possibly, Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
It is not known what advantage the communists saw in diluting their identity with the known rightists. But the BJP leaders have already gone to town to propagate that the Left has come to their side. People are confused because they cannot reconcile to what they have seen on television: the BJP and the communists thumping the table to congratulate each other’s speeches, attacking in tandem the treasury benches and raising together anti-government slogans.
When the vision gets blurred and when political parties think of their immediate gain, pluralist Indian nation has every right to be worried. It has seen the communists hugging the BJP members who swore at their Indore sitting a few days ago to build the Ram temple where the Babri masjid stood once, to have a common law in place of personal laws and to abolish the constitution’s Article 370 which gives Jammu and Kashmir a special status. The communists forgot to underscore any of these points during the debate and did not realize that their bonhomie cannot disguise the BJP’s parochialism. There is no change in the party’s core agenda.
The BJP’s appeal to the Muslims to allow the building of the temple at the site of the Babri masjid may have been worded differently but the content remains the same. The party should recall that it came to power only when it put aside its three-point agenda. In doing so, the BJP got the much-needed credibility to attract secular parties, except the Congress and the Communists, to support the government led by a relatively moderate Atal Behari Vajpayee. True, the BJP honoured its promise of not touching the issues of mandir, the common law and Article 370. Yet the party saffronised all other fields, particularly education and the Information and Broadcasting ministry.
It looks as if the communists have let the BJP off the hook on communalism. Battering the government for its non-performance is justified but not sharing the platform with the party which has been taken over by the RSS openly. Surely, the communists, after the rout in the Lok Sabha election, have not strayed from their ideological moorings so much that they want support even from known communalists. How does the Left square with the party which hates communism and all that it preaches?
Word has also gone around that the entire opposition was against the India-Pakistan talks. Even if the communists have a different viewpoint, they have not made it clear. They looked going along with the BJP’s haranguing. The talks between the two countries are yet to get into stride. The communists should have stood at a distance when the BJP poured venom. The intemperate Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has unnecessarily introduced China in the bilateral talks. He has given a “blank cheque” to China to play a role in improving the Indo-Pak ties, knowing well New Delhi’s stand against mediation.
Unfortunately, a Muslim gathering, the National meet of Reservation Activists at Delhi, has given a handle to the BJP and the Shiv Sena by passing a resolution for reserving 10 per cent seats to Muslims. Even the banner put up at the back wall of the meet said: National Movement for Muslim Reservation. Understandably, the backwardness can be the criterion, not religion. Some High Courts have already rejected religion to be the basis for reservation.
The constitution makes it obligatory for the government to address the problem of poverty and educational backwardness. The Reservation Activists should have concentrated on getting reservations without translating the demand in terms of Muslims. The RSS, the BJP’s mentor, has begun propagating that reservation will lead to another partition and induce Hindus into embracing Islam and Christianity.
The Sachar Commission on the plight of Muslims was correct in diagnosing the malady. It pointed out how the community had been denied its share in education, economic benefits and services on the basis of its population. However, the subsequent Ranganathan Commission has recommended reservations for all minorities on the basis of religion.
India is a pluralistic society and it cherishes diversities in the name of religion, language and customs. The community consciousness which the Reservation Activists are trying to arouse may deliver a serious blow to pluralism. The same old question of separate identity will come to the fore when there should be only one identity—Indian. The reservation for Muslims may open the Pandora’s Box of communal and divisive politics.
Yet the 12 to 13 per cent of Muslims in the country should reflect their number in employment in government and private sectors. The community’s share should also be tangible in the economic fields. There is no alternative to the affirmative action. The government has done little since the submission of the Sachar Commission report two years ago.
However, mixing genuine aspirations of the Muslims with religion will be misdirecting the effort to find a remedy to the long-time neglect. The louder the Reservation Activists raise their voice, the more favourable will be the fallout for the BJP to exploit. The pluralistic India cannot afford it. Nor can the Muslims.