MR Narayan Swamy

Hindu pushback has derailed Modi and Hindutva

Hindu pushback has derailed Modi and Hindutva
With newly-acquired saintly looks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi could provide the perfect cover for a Hindu Rashtra project; ironically, an overconfident PM himself has become the main cause to derail the Hindutva experiment. File photo

Hindu symbols may enthral ordinary Hindus for a while, but beyond a point, it is economics and good governance that count; the RSS is indeed worried

It was towards the end of last year when Hindi-speaking astrologers began predicting on social media that the “bad time” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi would begin from December 2023.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in Vedic astrology or in the power of the planets to influence human life. It also doesn’t make a difference if you are among those who think that astrology is nothing but mumbo-jumbo.

The fact is that millions in this country, dominantly Hindus, believe in astrology.

Astrological warnings

Ever since he became the Prime Minister in 2014, almost all the astrologers in this country, irrespective of their linguistic divide, have remained sympathetic to Modi.

Almost all the astrologers had also predicted a grand Modi-led victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 and also five years later. When their predictions came true, they forecast a long and happy innings for the BJP star.

This is why the astrological warnings late last year made many sit up.

It is not that the astrologers did not know that Modi was going to be at the heart of a high-profile, carefully-orchestrated Ram temple opening in Ayodhya in January – an event that everyone felt would make him unassailable in the general elections ahead. But a small group of astrologers insisted that Modi would find the going tough from December 2023 onwards.

Modi looks deflated

If Modi did look invincible as he did a sashtanga namaskaram (a genuflection where the entire frontal body touches the ground) to Lord Ram in the Ayodhya temple on January 22 this year, developments one after the other have rapidly eroded the aura that the Prime Minister had enjoyed even before he shifted from Gujarat to Delhi.

Even a cursory glance at Modi’s election rallies show that he looks deflated and devoid of the magnetic appeal he wielded until recently. But my intention of writing this piece is not to convert people into embracing astrological predictions.

While it is politically incorrect to divide people on religious lines, Modi’s ardent supporters were never bothered about the country’s minorities notwithstanding the occasional placatory words the Prime Minister himself uttered.

Hindutva factory

The Hindutva factory’s aim was simple: keep consolidating the Hindu society, brick by brick, in such a manner that India becomes a de facto Hindu Rashtra even without formally jettisoning the principles of secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

With this newly-acquired saintly looks, Modi would provide the perfect cover for such a project. But in the strangest twists of irony, an overconfident Prime Minister himself has become the main cause to derail the Hindutva experiment.

It is the definite and visible pushback from substantial sections of the Hindu society that must be deeply worrying the Sangh Parivar.

Although those now engaged in actively or passively opposing Modi and the BJP may not view themselves as Hindus as their primary identity, the saffron brotherhood that counts the BJP as its most important constituent is aghast that more and more Hindus have turned against a prime minister who had been projected as a Hindu mascot, one who would restore Hindu glory and put the minorities in their place.

Anti-incumbency taking a toll

Most political leaders today ranged against Modi are Hindus by birth even if they adhere to secular values. Most political activists campaigning against Modi and the BJP are Hindus too.

One may argue that this was the case even in 2014 and 2019, when Modi fashioned thumping election victories. But what is significantly different now that is that after a full decade of Modi’s governance, the number of Hindus across the country who have turned against him, compared to the last two general elections, is unprecedented.

The primary reason for this is economic: more and more people from the middle class and the underprivileged are angry that their day-to-day lives have become a struggle. Growing unemployment and unrelenting price rise have fuelled mass anger.

Ram mandir to theek hai, but isse hamara pet bharega kya ('Ram temple is fine but will that feed our stomachs')?" This is a common refrain from those attending election rallies, more so in northern India. There cannot be a more telling pushback to a temple event that was expected to be an electoral game changer.

What's in it for Hindus?

Modi’s political opponents are driving this point well as they expose the game of Hindu consolidation.

Questions that were not raised during earlier elections are now openly asked: Are Hindus getting cheaper petrol and diesel? Are Hindu children getting special school admission? Are Hindu farmers getting a better deal? Are roads in predominantly Hindu areas better maintained? Will Hindu young men be exempt from Agniveer scheme? Are Hindus given extra ration? Are Hindus assured of employment?

The obvious answers to the questions have made many who had been converted to the idea of Modi over the past few years to rethink.

Common man, YouTubers

Hindus interviewed at election rallies no more hesitate to say that they are sick and tired of the unending Muslim bashing. On the streets, Hindu auto-rickshaw drivers, small-time vendors, shopkeepers and other service providers say almost in one voice: “Yeh Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Muslim bahut ho gaya ('We are sick and tired of this Hindu-Muslim stuff')."

Significantly, most of the increasingly influential YouTube journalists, particularly in Hindi, who have aggressively turned against Modi, are Hindus too. And they are making a huge impact on people’s minds.

All this does not mean that Modi and the BJP have lost it all. On the contrary, thanks in part to the BJP-influenced mainstream media, millions still support the Prime Minister and will vote for him.

“If Modi goes, then Muslims will stand up again,” said a computer engineer I know, when asked why he backed the BJP.

Sangh Parivar unnerved

But the undeniable fact is that the visible and growing pushback from members of the Hindu community has unnerved the Sangh Parivar.

The conclusion is inescapable: Hindutva will elicit a strong counter if it is pushed forcibly down the throats of people.

Hindu symbols may enthral ordinary Hindus for a while; beyond a point, it is economics and good governance that count. A country seeped in multi-religious values and a religion whose ancient sages never preached hatred cannot be wished away.

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