So the score line read 3 – 0 in favour of Congress in the recently concluded Assembly elections in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Though the contests were close in MP and Rajasthan, BJP was comprehensively trounced in Chhattisgarh. Different political experts have diligently dwelt into the reasons that lay behind the defeat of BJP but to me, it was the unconscientious BJP politics that proved to be its nemesis. During the last four and half years of its rule at the Centre and in several states, the party has simply been not true to its conscience; its politics has been devoid of its very soul.
Development, welfare and subsidies are no doubt important vote catching policy prescriptions for any political party in a democracy but nothing appeals to the voters more than an ideology that establishes a connect with them. At a time when the forces of globalization, urbanisation and automation are threatening to rip the society apart and engendering social inequality, unemployment, environmental degradation and social turmoil due to issues like immigration and cultural pollution, individuals are feeling disempowered and hopeless; they yearn to return to their roots where they can find solace and emotional support.
The defining trait of BJP has been Hindutva; it has been the political unification of the Hindus despite immense diversity that has catapulted the party to power. Why are issues like Ram Temple, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code, not withstanding Government’s proactive interference in Triple Talaq, being held in abeyance? Why is the ruling party so averse to bringing Ram Temple legislation in the Parliament and waiting for the court verdict? If the government can bring in ordinance to nullify the changes brought in the SC/ST Act by the verdict of the apex court with alacrity, I see no reason it can’t do the same in case of Ram Temple?
The government must bring forth legislation in the Parliament to facilitate the construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya. Even if it fails to muster enough numbers in the Rajya Sabha for the passage of this bill, at least, it will have the consolation of exposing the opposition leaders who did not support its move before the Hindu masses. What is preventing BJP from bringing in Uniform Civil Code? There may be hues and cries over this but don’t forget that even the Supreme Court has asked governments in India to go ahead over this as it is mentioned in Article 44 of the constitution. The same is the case with Article 370. Why is the BJP government dithering over all these issues that brought it into limelight in Indian polity?
JNU, Hyderabad University and Jadavpur University were citadels of left organised protests that shaped the narrative of an intolerant Manuwadi India under the BJP rule. National Anthem, National Flag, Rise of Fascism & Monochromatic Nationalism and Atrocities against Dalits screamed as headlines on national newspapers but rather than adopting a well oiled counter narrative, the party appeared defensive. The party should have taken up the gauntlet and gone for a constitutional amendment making Constitutional Duties under Article 51 legally enforceable just like Fundamental Rights. This would have compelled people into showing respect to National Anthem, National Flag and prevented Break India brigade from indulging in plebiscite demands in Kashmir as upholding the unity, sovereignty and integrity is a part and parcel of our Fundamental Duties.
BJP cried hoarse over secularism, cow and love jihad, it expressed fears at the changing demography in states like West Bengal, Assam and Kerala in favour of Muslims, it supported National Citizen Register in Assam but did it take any concrete step in allaying the Hindu fears of being subjugated in their own homelands and being reduced to a minority in certain states? No, it was just rhetoric that BJP felt would help it in getting votes. If the intentions would have been genuine, the government would have certainly legislated a two child norm for every family. This would have been a better step than indulging in exaggerated fears of a possible Muslim domination. If the BJP feels that Hindus are discriminated against in their country, it should have taken a bold step and gone for changes in the constitution.
Why should Muslims be treated as a minority community when they comprise 16 to 18 percent of the population and can influence electoral outcomes in around 100 Lok Sabha constituencies or Why not give the same rights to the majority community as the minorities are getting under Articles 25 to 30 of the constitution? Why are the majority Hindus not been given the rights to run their own temples and shrines without any government interference just like minorities? The Indian constitution has erred by treating Hindu religion in the same way as Abhramic religions like Islam and Christianity. It is the Dharma of the Indian state to preserve our rich culture, traditions and civilization and protect Hinduism from being wiped out.
Just imagine how Hinduism and Indic cultures evaporated from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and several other countries when faced with the onslaught of Islam. If the BJP was really interested in espousing the cause of Hindutva or Hinduism, it should have made the teaching of Vedas, Upanishads, Yoga and Gita as a compulsory part of school curriculum. But it seems BJP only wants to raise the decibel levels for petty vote bank politics. It just went for half baked measures, unconvinced and lacking the moral fibre to take the opposition head on.
The beauty of democracy is that it offers multiple options to the electorate to make its choice from a plethora of parties, ideologies and programmes/policies. Every party has its ideology, icons and core committed vote bank that stands with the party even during crisis moments. But look at what BJP did. As the party began to expand and increase its catchment areas, it forgot its ideology at the altar of vote bank politics. Hindutva was now not about conviction, it was not about the soul of the party but it had become a matter of political convenience. It forgot beef and cows when it ran elections in the North east. Since the party had very few icons of its own, it contemplated to appropriate numerous icons – Ambedkar, Sardar Patel, Subash Chandra Bose and Lohia – forgetting that these very icons had drastically different ideologies from the Hindu Right and they belonged to parties with which BJP can’t even compromise.
Just look how shamelessly BJP is appropriating Ambedkar and thinking dalits will be impressed with its overture. Even a layman today understands that Ambedkar was a complete antithesis to Hindu Right. Hindutva with its ethos rooted in Hindu cultural nationalism will always be at odds with the autonomous independent Dalit identity of Ambedkar. Mandal drove a wedge into the efforts of Hindu Right by legitimising reservation and giving fillip to rabid caste politics. It has done much more harm to BJP by hindering the process of political unification of Hindus and yet I can see the spectacle of BJP leaders claiming to be the true inheritors of Lohia legacy.
Today BJP is mandalising itself and indulging in all sorts of caste politics that no one could have ever imagined the party with a difference would do. Whether it was Bose or Patel, both were quite never enamoured of Nehru but that does not mean they were fond of RSS or Hindu Mahasabha. BJP would do well to stay clear of these icons and their ideologies; it needs to counter an Ambedkar or a Lohia. It needs to develop its own narrative and try to forge Hindu unity. By assimilating Ambedkarism or Lohia-ism, it can only encourage caste politics and cultural centrifugality. Hindu right will always be susceptible to caste disruptions. Moreover, public is not naive and can understand the true intentions behind such symbolic acts.
Identity politics has penetrated so deep into our polity that you can always associate a caste/religion/language with a party. Yadavs will vote for RJD, Brahmins will vote for BJP, Dalits will vote for BSP and the list goes on with no ending. It is a sad reflection of the Indian polity. Every party thinks about its caste votes first before thinking about the nation. For long, the BJP rode its electoral fortunes on the overwhelming support of upper castes and the trader communities who were convinced that only BJP can only solve the reservation conundrum & take care of upper caste angst but what did the core BJP supporters get in return?
They saw the Modi Govt going all out to woo the dalit community by reversing the Supreme Court verdict in SC/ST act and frantically making efforts to give reservation in promotions to SC/ST communities. They were shocked. Similar was the case with the trading communities. They had to bear the brunt of Demonetization and GST. In trying to broaden its social base, the BJP ended up antagonising its core supporters. This holds an important lesson for any political player in Indian democracy —- enlarge your social base but not at the cost of your core social base otherwise your situation will be akin to a cat on a hot tin roof.
The strength of democracy lies in its institutions. These institutions safeguard public interests; any step that is seen to be aimed at weakening these institutions in public perception will always be troublesome for any government. The recent incidents related to the Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank of India was unfortunate. The attacks on Election Commission by sections of political leadership and media were simply uncalled for.
In a country where more than 50 percent of the population is below the age of 25 years, it is jobs and employment opportunities that can shore up the political trajectory of any party. You cannot simply have jobless growth or growth fueled by services sector; you need to put your stakes on manufacturing sector which despite Govt’s proactive “Make in India’ programme failed to take off. Government servants and middle class were neglected; they felt cheated because they felt their taxes were too high and the collected tax amounts were wasted by the government on subsidies and populist measures. Demonetization and GST broke the backbone of informal sector where more than 80 percent of the working people are employed. Govt needs to get its priorities right in the economy.
These assembly election outcomes can’t be termed as the indicator of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Lok Sabha elections are all together a different ball game. The opposition has a long way to go before it catches up with the BJP. It need not gloat over its victory in the recent Assembly elections.