Minister Narendra Modi’s hour of triumph has been described by some as
prolonging a ‘nightmare’, by others as an electoral demise of secular India,
that the Hindu mind has been ‘seduced’ by ‘envy and hate’. This seems to
suggest that Hindu voters were only waiting for an alchemist to bring to boil,
the reservoir of bigotry that allegedly rests deep within them. That somehow,
Modi learnt the dark arts that even eluded his mentor LK Advani, who as BJP
president in the late 1980s quickly realised that there were electoral limits
to a political strategy entirely based on hard Hindutva.
analysis of the electoral result, however, confirms that it would be a mistake
to brand Modi’s return as a harking back to saffron fundamentalism. Modi cast
his spell, not by promising a Hindu Rashtra – a Hindu Pakistan as it were –
which challenges the overarching framework of the Constitution.
been so radically inclined, he would have attempted to deliver to Hindus the
Ram Temple through executive fiat. Indeed, for most ‘Hindu nationalists’, the
construction of the Ram Temple is not just an assertion of Hindu pride, it is
the first flagstone on the road to a Hindu state. Under Modi, there has been no
widespread communal rioting either, fuelled by the rhetoric of Ram-Rath borne
Hindu supremacists. While there is no denying the pressure from Hindu
hardliners to dismantle India’s Muslim past, in most cases it is being
resisted. In fact, an ambitious tourism policy designed to unlock the riches of
Muslim heritage comes from no other than the controversial UP chief minister
Yogi Adityanath. This policy re-imagines the Golden Triangle – with the Taj
Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri at its heart – to create five lakh jobs and raise Rs
5,000 crore in investment per year.
sceptics will point out that, apart from selecting the saffron-cloaked
Adityanath to run Uttar Pradesh, BJP has played to the saffron gallery even in
the run up to the general election. Why else was the controversial ‘Sadhvi’
Pragya Singh Thakur handed a free pass to enter the Parliament? Though an
optically jarring move, Modi and BJP have insisted this had more to do with
punishing a politically self-serving attempt by the opposition at linking the
Hindu faith with terror, rather than sending a message to Muslims.
hurry to label BJP, what some have chosen to overlook is that it is Hindus who
have been at the receiving end over the last five years. Ever since the rise of
Modi, virtually from the first day he assumed office, a group – daresay a lobby
– has droned on about his allegedly corrosive impact on the secular fabric of
the nation. Its rasping denunciation of Modi’s RSS background and lazy linking
of it with a mean-spirited Hindu chauvinism meant that all his supporters too
were branded bigots: The vanguard of a new kind of “bhakti” movement. The
difference being that this avatar is not unifying, but divisive.
have gone so far as to liken Modi supporters to the Ku Klux Klan; they are
hooded, apparently, by blinding hatred towards Muslims, Dalits, LGBTQI,
liberals, democrats and anything that stands in the way of a Hindu Rashtra. But
just like every liberal is not an urban Naxal, not every Modi supporter is a
prejudiced sicko. On the contrary, most Modi supporters have been anguished
when BJP has given a podium to Muslim baiters, they have felt their stomachs
churn when horrid crimes were visited upon Muslims in the name of Gau Raksha;
they have been disappointed when he has been reticent to publicly endorse
progressive social legislation.
It is true;
Modi’s phenomenal success has a lot to do with his ability to tap into this
latent Hindu hurt at being stigmatised. There are some who suggest that Modi
has convinced a vast number of Hindus that the version of secularism championed
by the opposition today has come to represent a contempt of Hinduism. But
instead of giving bruised Hindus shelter under the rock of a hardline Hindutva,
Modi has emphasised ‘Hinduness’.
Hinduness that has drawn the multitudes – beyond upper castes – to BJP. In its
purest form, Hinduness is a dharma different from religion. RSS chief Mohan
Bhagwat had, in his September 2018 lecture series in Delhi, emphasised that all
those who live in ‘Bharat’, irrespective of their caste or creed, subscribe to
Hinduness or the ‘Hindu view of life’, which is incapable of seeing diversity
as difference. Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ is, as he has time and again
reminded us, his new dharma for inclusive governance. Hinduness doesn’t deny
minorities a stake in society, but seeks to empower all on merit, and delink
social justice from identity.
Parliament in the first flush of victory, Modi has expanded his slogan ‘Sabka
Saath, Sabka Vikas’ to include ‘Sabka Vishwas’. The new slogan is meant to
signal to Muslims that their future is not in peril, and that Modi government
will work hard to win their trust.
results of the Lok Sabha elections tell us something, it is this: Modi
supporters don’t want to be divided by self-serving politics, but want to be
united by hope. The hope that they too will someday, wear without guilt a
‘suit-boot’ accessorised by perhaps even a ‘tilak’. The hope that they won’t
have to flash their caste certificate to apply for the next job or scheme. The
hope that saying ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ would not be construed as an indignity,
but as a privilege available to anyone who decides to delight in the
celebration of patriotism.
Views expressed above are the author's own.