How BJP is becoming its own dangerous enemy

The social media is alive with hate messages and Hindutva’s inflexible adherents are forcing its politics into difficult terrain. If the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ materialises, would India not then be perceived as having the same stature as Afghanistan?

BJP
For a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ to be taken seriously, it cannot house the conflict and social disturbances that have become the order of the day

There have been rumblings of dissent within the ruling party after the suspension/expulsion of its spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal and also Mohan Bhagwat’s remark that there was no need to look for a shivling under every Indian mosque. There is a general feeling in the rank and file that the party is yielding ground as far as its ‘ideology’ is concerned and bowing to outside pressure.

The resounding triumph of the BJP in 2014 under Narendra Modi obscured a truth about the party that still seems elusive to its opponents, which is that it is not monolithic. As a contrast, regardless of the internal dissent that has surfaced within the Congress, that party has been, since the advent of the Gandhis, evidently controlled from above. With Modi appearing the party’s strongman due to his determined sidelining of seniors, one expected that his writ would prevail in all party decisions and that its ’developmental’ plank would be stable.

Many of the economic decisions taken after 2014 – like demonetization – were apparently on the Prime Minister’s initiative; but since then, his ‘implacable’ image has faltered and he is perhaps perceived only as the first among equals, given his willingness to yield ground in the face of electoral disadvantage. One could propose that the agenda of coming to power – or remaining there – is the single one unchanged since 2014; so fickle has the party’s rhetoric been. More importantly, there are multiple voices being heard – some of them quite grating – that has made the rhetoric seem a discordant medley rather than point to a viable purpose.

The party’s strategy to gain political control has been to encourage and make use of every willing Hindu agency in propagating its ideology, and in the process, it has empowered dubious entities. Some views being heard today were hardly audible around 2015-16, when the party’s ‘fringe’ was more subdued. The party has tried hard to win elections but pursuing that end is gradually becoming counterproductive. For the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ plan of the party to make headway, it also needs to govern and make the country itself gain stature globally, but with the ‘fringe’ running loose the opposite has been happening.

Also read: Hindutva politics of hate, manipulation of history now India’s cross to bear

India under the party’s stewardship, for instance, must not be vulnerable to sanctions, and human-rights abuses could cause that. Only those living in countries like Iran know what it is to live under economic sanctions.

The tumult from the Muslim world – which even called for a boycott of Indian goods – at Sharma and Jindal’s remarks, forcing the party to take action, implies that the threat of being sidelined in the global order is a very real one – that India cannot overlook. ‘Pan-Islamic solidarity’ may be a myth but an attack on the religion itself is evidently enough to bring Shia and Sunni together. But what has happened in India is that so much religious animosity has been unleashed as a means of acquiring political power that it cannot be easily subdued.

The social media is alive with hate messages and Hindutva’s inflexible adherents are forcing its politics into difficult terrain. A ‘sant’ recently made a ‘conciliatory’ gesture: if the mosques at Mathura and Varanasi became Hindu temples, he would not insist on the Hindu antecedents of the Taj Mahal and the Qutub Minar being excavated. But what about other ‘sants’ who could demand that as well? Imagine India’s standing in the world if the Taj Mahal were dismantled because of a supposed Hindu temple under it! If the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ materialises, would it not then be perceived as having the same stature as Afghanistan?

For a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ to be taken seriously, it cannot house the conflict and social disturbances that have become the order of the day. It cannot be so preoccupied with righting ‘the wrongs of the past’ if it has to have a future. A lesson can perhaps be learned from Israel – which many Hindus regard as India’s natural ally – and its political dealings with the Sunni world where it has attempted to establish cordial relations. Israel has allies much more powerful than India’s but it still understands that the hostility of the strong is best defused.

Liberals in India see the central government as authoritarian but the irony is that within the ruling party the leadership is hardly able to assert its authority, as it arguably should. It has global ambitions for India but its followers scarcely look beyond their own backyard. Indians have not invaded their neighbors, but they have also had fewer ambitions outside.

Also read: Was it aimed at reining in hardliners? Decoding Mohan Bhagwat’s speech

The term ‘Hindu’ pertains to a space rather than a belief and Hindus have been traditionally content to remain inside it. They have been studied by outsiders but they do not study other cultures. That may be why, when Hinduism gets negative attention (in the academia) outside, it does not try to correct such impressions. The India of today needs to be presented to the world as worthy of esteem but when leaders travel abroad, they are more taken up with wooing the Indians there!

But the immediate issue is whether in the global order India should not reorient itself as a ‘modern’ power by striving towards an equilibrium between opposing religious forces instead of generating excitement and promoting conflict. Notwithstanding the charges of ‘fascism’ levelled against the Hindu right, it is hardly in a position to lead India towards world domination, and the energies of its fervent followers are only directed into endless hostilities within the country. That the BJP is here to stay cannot be doubted but if it is to succeed at any viable purpose it needs to realize that it is gradually becoming its own most dangerous enemy.

(MK Raghavendra is a writer on culture and politics)

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal)

CATCH US ON: