The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is testing the water. It too realizes that elections are many months away but wants to know whether Hindutva is acceptable to the voters. Spreading the name of anti-Muslim Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is meant to assess if his non-secular image would attract the ordinary Hindu voter. The party has not yet got over from the defeat of last parliament elections when it was all set to occupy the treasury benches only to find out that the communal tag attached to it had pulled the party down. Its Hindutva image brought the surprised Congress back to power.
The BJP is open to all options this time. The RSS is in the picture from the beginning. Its chief Mohan Bhagwat has not only welcomed Narendra Modi at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur but has also announced that Modi would get a higher position in the BJP after the Gujarat assembly election next month. This, indeed, reaffirms who controls the reins of the BJP. However, to lessen the party leaders’ humiliation, Bhagwat has said that the selection of prime minister’s candidate is the prerogative of the party. Yet, on the other hand, he has rubbed the salt on their wounds by making it clear that Modi is the best candidate available in the party.
Modi does not go higher in the estimate of people just because Britain says that it wants to do business with him, though it does not endorse his actions. Taking the initiative of sending its envoy, James Bevan, to Modi after maintaining the touch-me-not stand for a decade conveys a London’s keenness. America or other countries may follow suit in due course of time.
Yet this does not make him acceptable to India which is the subject matter. Modi has bamboozled Gujarat in the name of identity as if its people have a different entity than the rest of Indians. Had Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal done it, the entire nation would have pounced upon him for leading the Sikhs to separatism.
Modi is responsible for misleading the Gujaratis, who look like re-electing him. They have been daring the country for almost for 15 years that for them the state government is more important than the nation which is sworn to the principles enunciated in the constitution. For the Gujaratis, equality before the law and separation between state and politics has stayed on paper because their chief minister Modi has been determined to flout the principles. This was visible in 2002 when some 2000 Muslims were butchered because they were not considered equal and because they were sacrificed at the altar of Modi’s innovation of mixing religion with the state.
Had the guilty been punished in 1984 when the Sikhs were the victims at Delhi, the Gujarat Hindus would not have dared to indulge in ethnic cleansing. The burning of 46 Hindus in a compartment at Godhara was a provocation. But the pogrom in Gujarat would have taken place even without the Godhara incident as a few plucky journalists have brought out in their write-ups.
The guilty in Guajrat have not yet been brought to book. There are some pending cases in which Modi’s name is mentioned. To project him as India’s next prime minister tantamount to dragging down the country to the dust of shame and oblivion. How can a political party think of Modi even if it shuts its eyes to the murders, rapes and lootings?
The BJP has been hurt by another unexpected quarter. Its chief Nitin Gadkari is allegedly possessing bogus firms which he has created to make money while he was the PWD minister in Maharashtra. The charges against him are so serious that even the RSS sources have reportedly said that the BJP’s image has been severely dented. The Congress has been given a god-send opportunity and it has already ordered what it refers to as “soft inquiry.” In any case, the BJP will not be in a position to roar in parliament as it did in the last session. Its image of cleanliness has got a serious beating.
The party will have to reckon with Gadkari’s episode in the next election. Therefore, it does not have to confine its strategy of finding out whether the wind is blowing in favour of Hindutva by giving currency to Modi’s name. There are other issues which the opposition will be exploiting. And corruption, so far tagged to Congress, will be a charge against the party to which it will have to reply. One’s scams will be pitted against another’s to the confusion of the electorate.
As for Hindutva India, with all its faults and failings, is a country which prides itself in the spirit of accommodation and a sense of tolerance. Unfortunately, communal riots still take place, not at the scale as they used to be in the fifties, sixties and even later. But the nation is sensitive enough not to return those who have only religion to sell.
In the last six decades, India has come to settle down as a democratic, pluralistic nation. Whatever else happens—it happens to the country’s shame—democracy has got entrenched deep. Religious slogans cannot destabilize it. It may well be truism but the fact is that there can be no democracy without pluralism. It is a pity that the BJP has not yet understood this very basic thing. It should remember that when it came to power at the centre, it had to cut off its communal fangs and give an undertaking, among other things, on giving a special status to Kashmir and not build temple on the place where the Babri masjid stood before destruction.
In fact, Modi himself should withdraw his claim for the post of prime minister because he reduces the stature of the position as well as the chances of the BJP. If he were to say sorry and undo the wrongs he has done to the Muslims, he would perhaps come to be known as a reformed Modi. Then there may be a chance for him and his party. EOM