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The BJP has to be watchful of Mamata’s recalibrated secularism

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G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer

The West Bengal election result dampened the spirits of Hindutva proponents, as it was an expected-win, after the terrific performance of the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha (as the party bagged 18-MPs from that state). However, all is not lost. The fight was bitter between the BJP and Mamata Banerjee throughout the campaign. Mamata is a died-in-the-wool secularist, as the definition of “secularism” in India is: appeasing minorities. This appeasement has been witnessed right from the days of independence and prior to that. Only the BJP with the help of the RSS could highlight how distorted Indian secularism is, to the people, raising the issues of Shah Bano and Ayodhya Ram Temple. Besides, the UPA-II corruption helped, the party- BJP to come to power in full strength, under the able and energetic campaign of prime minister Narendra Modi in 2014. In 2019, it was the victory of Modi’s charisma and opposition disunity.

With the Lok Sabha loss in 2019, Mamata Banerjee was crestfallen. She had put up a brave face before the Lok Sabha election saying that the BJP was an irrelevant force in the state. In any case, she had to concede later that the BJP was a force to reckon with in her state. Both the Congress and the Left were minor players then, now they are wiped out from the W. Bengal map. It indicates that Mamata Banerjee, Chief of Trinamool Congress (TMC) has usurped ‘whole and sole’ secularism-space vacated by the Left and the Congress. The 30% Muslim voters of the state felt that she was the better choice. In any case, Mamata Banerjee surpassed the Congress and the Left in appeasing Muslims. Hers was an outright—glaring and staring type.

Many secularists keep asking what is “appeasement of minorities”? For which Sitaram Goel in his thin book of “Perversions of India’s Political Parlance”- a Voice of India publication (1995) enumerated some examples (in Pp 12-13).  Now, of course, the scene has changed to an extent. But it is worth-mentioning. In those days, for anyone to qualify as “secular” in India he/she has to have faith in the following:

  • ‘Muslims in independent-India have become poor and persecuted minority, being deprived of their fair share in the fruits of development and not being given employment in public and private sectors in proportion to their population etc.,
  • During that time (when secularism was at its height), every Hindu politician or writer, to be labelled “secular” have to proclaim that: ‘Islam stands for social equality and human brotherhood, throw iftar parties at the end of Ramzan, attend Urdu mushairas, support Urdu to be the second state language where Muslims are in a minority (now a reality, of course), admire Islamic art and literature, relish Muslim cooking and appreciate Muslim dress, abuse Israel and applaud Arab countries’.
  • He also writes, ‘A “secular-Hindu”, should look the other way when Muslims do not practise family planning, refuse to give modern education to their children, push their women into purdah, practise polygamy, make street-riots on a slightest pretext, rejoicing over Pakistan victory in sports (cricket), protect infiltrators and terrorists from across the borders’. 

The above points cited by Shri Goel even now resonate in secular-circles. However, in the present BJP Government much emphasis is given to Hindu culture. In stead of Iftar parties, Diwali celebrations, prominence to language Hindi, bringing the Muslim community to mainstream, in the place of madrasa education—secular education have become the order. Mamata Banerjee is still an old-school vintage secularist and appeased Muslim community in the manner Shri Goel described. She went an extra mile to please the Mullahs/Maulvis’ with her dole out of tax-payers money as salary. Her giving importance to Moharram procession over Durga Puja (in 2017 when both festivals coincided, she restricted Durga idol immersion for a day to allow Moharram procession) was used by the BJP to their advantage in 2019. The result shocked Mamata.

In this state-election, she was tutored by Prashant Kishor, as to how to go about to win over the BJP. She went to Kali Temples, recited the verses on Ma Kali. She said her gotra to be Shandilya etc., To counter the BJP’s Jai shri Ram chanting, she argued that Lord Ram also worshipped Ma Kali. She proclaimed herself to be a Hindu many times during the campaign. That was odd, because secularists never wear religion on their sleeve. All in all, she reformulated and recalibrated her strategies to get her victory. The BJP could not effectively counter her recalibration.

Anyway, as business-management gurus say: in stead of seeing a glass half-empty, it is better to see half-full. Now, in the field of W. Bengal there are only two players: one- the ruling TMC, the other- the opposition BJP. The BJP without wasting the opportunity, has to check where Mamata Banerjee goes wrong. Already riots have taken place and some BJP-cadre was killed by TMC goons. So, the BJP has to protect its cadre as well as pseudo-secular designs of Mamata Banerjee and her aspirations of coming to power at the Centre. Those Chief Ministers who worked well in Covid-19 Pandemic situation were rewarded with another term in Assam and Kerala.

Even E. Palani Swami of AIADMK won many seats in the state assembly (though not a full mandate) because of his hard-work. Last but not the least, the win of Vanathi Srinivasan, BJP candidate over Kamal Hasan, is purely an ideological victory. Now, the P.M, Home Minister and Chief Ministers of various states should have to have their attention on the lethal second wave of Covid-19 that is causing panic in the country. For, people’s lives precede over politics. Now, the people need these leaders more than at any point of time in the past.   

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G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer

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