Wednesday, 10 August, 2022
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Hindutva to Hindutva-plus

Mr Modi has changed the politics of Hindu grievance to that of Hindu resurgence, from soft secularism to hard nationalism.

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If political history could be divided into epochs, Indira Gandhi’s began in 1969, when she split the Congress, and ended in 1989, when Rajiv Gandhi lost power. Two rising, political forces made this happen: Mandir and Mandal. The Congress never quite recovered its elan, despite 15 years of power subsequently (one term under P V Narasimha Rao and two under Sonia Gandhi/Manmohan Singh). The real power was shared in different phases by children of Mandir and Mandal, much in the fashion of rival teams sharing sessions in a cricket Test match. That epoch has now ended.

That post-1989 politics is over with the BJP’s 325-seat victory in Uttar Pradesh and anointment of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister. It isn’t just one of those swings of the pendulum, and old rivals taking turns. This change is fundamental. It sets new rules in politics. Old rules made the BJP give you Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh. The most diehard Left-liberals would have been greatly relieved to see one of their type in Lucknow than the Yogi. New rules will end up giving you more of the Yogis.

The old formula of aligning one or two dominant backward/scheduled castes with Muslims has been demolished by the Narendra Modi/Amit Shah electoral machine. The Hindutva that fuels this rise is neither limited, nor symbolised by the Ram Mandir. If anything, the temple is now taken en passant: A done deal, or what will become a reality soon enough with no effective — political — opposition and the Chief Justice of India offering mediation. This is as good an indication you could have of the institutions conceding that a decisive political victory is won.

The suggestions that many Muslims, particularly women, voted for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh this time is a touching myth. The fact is, SP, BSP and Congress divided 50 per cent of all vote among them against BJP’s 39.7 per cent. There is no way that number could be achieved unless Muslims still voted overwhelmingly against the BJP. It is the Hindus among middle, backward and some scheduled castes who broke away from old battle lines and moved to the BJP instead. They did not do it just because they want the temple built, cows protected, or more money for shamshan ghats (crematoria) than for kabristans (Muslim graveyards). Mr Modi wouldn’t need Yogi Adityanath for any of these. Any conventional BJP leaders would have done so.

All talk that Yogi wasn’t Mr Modi’s choice, that it was forced on him by the RSS etc is just talk. Poppycock. If you buy any of these convenient New Delhi mythologies, you cannot understand this move. For seven decades, the Congress, or Congress-like Left-Centre politics was the dominant pole of our politics. Now, the BJP has replaced it. Just as in the past all challenge was built as a counterpoint to this pole, the roles have now decisively reversed in the manner they hadn’t with Mr Modi’s win in 2014 and the Vajpayee-Advani reign earlier. That is because all past contest was between “secular” forces representing India’s minorities and some caste vote banks and the BJP trying to rouse an insecure majority while claiming to be truly secular. Today, it leads an unprecedented Hindu vote bank that is no longer driven by old insecurities, but a resurgent new confidence, even arrogance.

Also read: Indian liberals have no strategy to counter RSS’ own brand of ‘Hindutva constitutionalism’

In a 1995 monograph for London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (Adelphi Paper Series) anticipating the BJP’s ascent to power, I had argued that India is entering a unique phase where the vastly numerous majority has acquired a minority complex. Mr Advani and the RSS then built their campaign on these. Ayodhya symbolised these. The Hindus were persuaded to believe that minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, were given privileged treatment in Congress-style secularism. Haj subsidy, ministers’ lavish iftaar parties, immunity from laws (including the Right to Education Act) for minority institutions, rising Pakistani terror and its pan-Islamisation all added to it. A couple of times, it all came together for the BJP and it enjoyed power in the six years during 1998-2004 although most of the “secular” forces still remained united against it. But there were limitations to this strategy. Two decades of post-reform growth had created greater opportunity for all in the private sector, particularly the Hindu urban and rural elites.

Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani in 2004 sought re-election on the slogan of “India Shining”. The contradiction of the claim of a shining India and still hoping to ride Hindu anti-minorityism was obvious. That upbeat, growth-fuelled mood made its marginal, including many upper caste, Hindu voters comfortable enough to go back to their old dugouts of caste or vote for a calmer alternative. That’s why the UPA succeeded in pushing through the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and BJP protests were wasted. The same, optimistic sense of growth and opportunity gave the UPA its second term.

Probably sitting far from New Delhi, Mr Modi was able to understand that the BJP’s old formula of the majority’s minority complex had run its course. In any case, victimhood didn’t go with his muscular political style. He was seen increasingly not complaining about minorityism but taking on “terror” in his own way — an encounter would do just fine if POTA wasn’t available. If you analyse from 2007 onwards (when his second full term began), every move he made, everything he said, was directed single-mindedly at the idea of changing Hindu grievance to Hindu resurgence. It’s also a reasonable presumption that 2007 onwards he became confident that growth and development under a strong, nationalist Hindu leader made for more relevant politics now.

He hasn’t been rude to the minorities since. Nor has he been apologetic. That is why his new actions, refusing a skull-cap, cancelling the old annual tradition of iftaar at the prime minister’s house, not bringing a Muslim or Christian in any more than a marginal position in his Cabinet and now not fielding one Muslim candidate among his 403 in Uttar Pradesh were all deliberate. These were drawn not by cussedness or prejudice but a conscious redefining of political secularism and Hindu-ised Indian nationalism. Yogi’s appointment fits the same pattern. The Modi-Shah definition of secularism is, India is a confident, resurgent Hindu, and therefore secular, country. Minorities will be safe if they know their place. They won’t henceforth be allowed to have a veto on who does, or doesn’t govern India. The Hindu majority has taken over, feels more dominant than ever, and realises that this is how it should have always been. The days of being apologetic are over. Yogi Adityanath is a choice as deliberate as declining the skull-cap.

No opposition, least of all the Congress, can counter this with old slogans or formulae. In Uttar Pradesh this time, they strung the Muslims along as the flag-bearers of their idea of secularism, and were defeated. Not so much because they were up against Hindu bigotry, but because Mr Modi employed a much stronger weapon, macho nationalism rather than grievances and insecurity to rally the majority. Until now, Congress-Left secularism determined the political debate. Mr Modi has now shifted the debate to nationalism, helped along by JNU-style ultra-Left distortion of liberalism. This India has no place in its heart for the kind of border-less, nation-less world John Lennon imagined. Nor does the rest of the world, as seen in the rise of nationalism. Until opposition throws up a leader willing to accept this and fight nationalism with nationalism, Mr Modi will be unassailable.

Also read: Hindutva, Swadeshi, family values — RSS’ roadmap for future


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