Opp common agenda needed to defeat the making of Hindu Rashtra

April 01, 2017 01:29 PM
Muslims protests

WITER: S Nihal Singh

Beyond the ritual calls for Opposition unity in a political environment in which the BJP is in the process of replacing the Congress as the hegemon comes a voice from the Janata Dal (U) seeking the leadership role for Bihar’s CM, Mr Nitish Kumar. Thus far Opposition parties have been seeking a way out of the predicament they find themselves in.

The Opposition, together with the rest of the country, has had to adjust its sights to a new political environment in which Mr Modi is prospering in the face of a confused Congress and shell-shocked other Opposition parties. 

 In the confusion that reigns in Opposition ranks, a few political points are clear. By its choice of Yogi Adityanath as UP’s CM, the BJP has tied its mast to the Hindutva flag, irrespective of the unease it causes the large Muslim minority. The BJP’s sweep of Uttar Pradesh was mainly on the basis of Hindu votes. The dilemma for the Opposition in the 2019 election is that it cannot run on an anti-Hindu platform even as its constituents seek the votes of Muslims and other minorities.

To an extent, despite Ms Mayawati’s dismal showing and the BJP’s success in dividing the Dalit vote, she can play a crucial role in the general election if she can get her flock together. Judging by the manner in which the new UP rulers are treating meat shops, largely owned by Muslims, the Hindu rashtra has already arrived for many. A BJP legislator suggests that he would break the bones of anyone being unkind to the cow and the mood in the BJP camp is of jubilation, of having won a famous victory. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi became a party to stirring communal passions in his UP campaign, where do the political parties go?

The Constitution of India with its pitch for secularism will not be amended in a hurry. It will be subverted in stages, with chants of Bharat Mata ki jai as a given and Hindu imagery more and more in the foreground. A Meerut mayor insisted board members sing Vande Mataram before being admitted, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. Yogi Adityanath had had the official CM’s bungalow in Lucknow purified by Hindu priests from his hometown before he could move into it. Superstition about dates and numbers will reign supreme for our new rulers.

Whether Mr Nitish Kumar will fill the bill of Opposition leader remains to be seen. He has undoubtedly lost some of his appeal because of the compromises he has had to make to lead a coalition with an assertive Mr Lalu Prasad. But politics is a murky game and compromises are par for course.

Among Opposition parties, the ruling AIADMK is undergoing succession problems in Tamil Nadu following the death of Jayalalithaa. Ms Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal is a determined leader but lacks national appeal. She is already in the sight of the RSS, the BJP’s mentor, for allegedly encouraging jihadis. In Mr Naveen Patnaik’s Odisha, the BJP has already made forays in local elections alerting the ruling state leadership to take steps to guard its flank. For medical and personal reasons, the Congress leadership was absent after the Assembly elections.

Alert as ever, BJP president Amit Shah is already revving up his workers for a string of local elections in Delhi, which was swept by the AAP in the last Assembly elections. The CM, Mr Arvind Kejriwal, has had his wings clipped in Punjab where he thought he would win, but he has what Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi lacks, an ability to punch back when he is hit. Most recently, he was hit by a defamation case which did not go his way. The Left parties are largely living in their world.

The Opposition, together with the rest of the country, has had to adjust its sights to a new political environment in which Mr Modi is prospering in the face of a confused Congress and shell-shocked other Opposition parties. The Prime Minister might have diminished his office by becoming a street fighter in campaigning in the Assembly elections but for him his goals were important. They were to take charge of the country’s most populous state, the traditional heartland of national politics and increase the BJP's strength in the Rajya Sabha where it does not command a majority. In short, ends justify means. The insults he has handed out to Opposition leaders will not be forgotten by them in a hurry. He is a Prime Minister who wants to be in the fray, rather than above it.

Against this backdrop, two questions arise. How will Mr Modi reconcile his mission of creating a Hindu India full of myths in the garb of history by rewriting it with his penchant for technology? Second, how will this India’s image spread in the world to the amazement and derision of many?

Mr Modi and his companions have been so absorbed in creating the India of their dreams that they have given little thought to the larger picture. RSS ideologues argue at length about the virtues of Indian wisdom and the wonderful discoveries of our ancients, with planes flying, head transplants routine and plastic surgery common, that when they talk about decontaminating the Indian mind of colonial ideas, they make one laugh were it not for the seriousness of their propagation of absurdities.

As it is, Indian universities are being constrained and instead of encouraging the free flow of ideas, RSS myths are being encouraged. If freedom of universities is being hobbled, the standard of education will inevitably fall. What is worse, it is meant to encourage a narrow form of nationalism far removed from the Independence movement of the Congress and its rule for much of Independent India's existence.

Can the Opposition parties scramble to form a meaningful alliance after they solve the leadership problem? The traditional answer is to look at the winning combination in the last Bihar Assembly elections. But the stakes are much higher this time. The aim must be to deny Mr Modi the hegemony he seeks. The answer is to make a binding combination on the basis of a common minimum programme. Can the Opposition work the miracle?




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