Politics in India may not be the same again. The Bhartiya Janata
Party (BJP) has charged the agenda. It has introduced pure communalism
to the soft Hindutava that prevailed so far. By appointing the
hardliner Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister, the panel chief for
the 2014 parliament election, the party has dropped every bit of
ambiguity over secularism. It is stark Hinduism for all to see.
Apparently, the old leadership resisted the decision. Tall L.K.Advani
had even submitted his resignation from all the posts he held in the
party. Yet the irresponsible younger cadre was in no mood to
accommodate the sober point of view. For them, a sharper communal
politics was the minimum. Advani had reportedly warned behind the
walls that Modi was not a proper person for India.
The atmosphere may become more bitter when the BJP propagates the
Hindu Rashtriya openly. True, the concept goes against the very grain
of the constitution which wanted the country a secular democratic
republic. But the BJP has found no benefit from it. In the future, the
very word, secularism, will come under different interpretations.
Parties, however parochial in outlook, will claim to be secular.
Therefore, Modi’s acceptance speech was understandably vehement
against the Congress, the largest political party which has come to be
associated with secularism. He wants the party to disappear from the
scene so that there is no confusion between the BJP, a Hindu outfit,
and the Congress, with secular credentials.
This may or may not happen but the BJP has embarked upon the task of
wiping the slate clean with no mention of secularism whatsoever. Since
independence, even long before it, the freedom struggle was based on
the idea of an independent India which would know no difference on the
basis of community or caste.
The leaders immersed in that struggle agreed to India’s partition but
not to the thesis that the religion could be mixed with politics.
Secularism is thus the corner stone of the structure that India has
tried to raise after partition. It has not been an ideal effort. Yet
it has kept the country together, with no recurring example of
In the process, the nation has also come to recognize the distance
between the communal forces and the secular elements. It has resulted
into a healthy development: secular political parties have generally
kept away from the BJP to stall its installation at the Centre. The
induction of Modi may not defeat the process. But it will definitely
confuse the Hindus who, leave some apart, are animated with
cosmopolitan thoughts. They stopped the BJP winning in the last two
parliamentary election because when the time for casting votes came,
they put their weight behind the liberal forces which has kept the
country more or less midway neither left or right. The danger of its
going right has increased now.
RSS, which has initiated and supported Modi sees in him someone
nearer to their ideology of Hindutava and anti-Muslim. Real Modi was,
however, exposed when he blessed the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat a
decade ago. Not a word of regret even after years only underlines his
anti-Muslim thinking. How can India have a person like him as the
The repercussions of such a person at the helm of BJP, not
possessing even a semblance of liberalism, can be dangerous. Obsessed
with driving a wedge between Hindus and Muslims, he can vitiate the
young mind. Liberalism or idealism already receding to the background,
bigotism and the extremism will go to allocate what is left of the
When I was India’s High Commissioner at London, Prime Minister Margret
Thatcher asked me the secret of India staying together for centuries.
I told her that we did not believe that the country was divided into
black and white. We believed that there was a vast grey area. We went
on expanding that area. That was our secularism. The idea kept the
nation together. She was reportedly impressed by my explanation and
she told this to Soviet President Gorbachev. He sent a delegation to
India to study the strength of grey area, secularism.
Modi will make black further bleak and shut every opening for the grey
area to expand. In the last few decades, the BJP has purveyed the
impression that it is looking for a space that will give it an image
of being right of Right, that of pro-Hindu but not of extremist. Modi
will stop such an ideology developing. It will be saffron all the way.
The BJP has foolishly come to realize that it would have to sharpen
difference with the Muslims to look different. It believes that if
there is any time to play the Hindu card, it is now. This is a wrong
thinking, leaving no space for even small gestures for conciliation.
Advani’s presence evokes hope.
The greatest benefit of Modi’s importance will be to the Congress. Not
that it is intrinsically secular but it has the reputation of being
so. The Muslim electorate, nearly 15 per cent, will move towards the
Congress and adversely affect large parties like of Mulayam Singh’s
Samajwadi party, which has a large Muslim following in UP. The party’s
image is also secular. The Congress will gain because the next
election is not that of state assembly but of Parliament. The Muslims,
know the importance. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the BJP’s
allies, may still part company with the party.
The real loss is that of the Indian nation. At a time when it looks
that the various elements have found their identity within the
country, Modi’s image of parochialism comes in the open. The idea of
India will be jeopardized. It is a pity that the country will be
unsettling when it is settling down to an ideology which may not be
purely secular but does not disturb people of different faiths to live
a life of their own in their own way. EOM