In the crowded marketplace of Indian democracy, only the Bharatiya Janata Party has unique selling points. All other political formations, barring some regional players, have lost their steam and become a spent force. What the BJP has done is cleverly co-opt many of the development and social justice claims of other parties, but added the not-so-secret Hindutva ingredient to its dish. So, there is a clear ‘plus’ factor that the BJP brings to the table. Politics is all about creating a story. Today, BJP has a story. Others don’t anymore. You can say Mayawati, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Karunanidhi offered their own idea of India. Just like the Congress did.
But those ideas have been either discredited or appropriated by the BJP ecosystem. What the BJP brings today are three ‘M’s that differentiate it from others.
We have truly entered the era of the ‘BJP System’, where all political actions revolve around the BJP. Other political parties may win elections during this era, but the politics will still revolve around the BJP and its actions as the central axis.
This will be something similar to the ‘Congress System‘ (political scientist Rajni Kothari coined this term), which existed from the early 1900s to the 1970s.
Also read: How Modi’s BJP has become Nehru’s Congress
The Congress era
The Congress became the political party of India after M.K. Gandhi returned from South Africa and became the organisation’s supreme leader and icon. The Congress’ dominant position continued till 1977, when the Janata Party defeated it in the Lok Sabha election. Even after that, the Congress came to power many times, but we can’t call it the era of the ‘Congress system’. It started facing serious challenges at both the state and central level. The Congress had lost its invincibility at the altar of the JP movement.
Until then, the Congress was a party of hope and aspiration for crores of Indians. Just like the BJP is today. The hope was that it will usher in a new India. Indians thought that Jawaharlal Nehru, and later Indira Gandhi, would make the country a democratic, developed, educated and healthy republic. In the 1960s, the initial euphoria waned as the situation in India failed to improve drastically post-Independence.
The Indian nation, at the midnight hour of 14-15 August 1947, had made many promises to itself. But a nation that ranks 129th in the UN Human Development Index can’t claim to have fulfilled those promises. The Congress can claim that it defined the idea of India and it was Nehru who ensured that India remained united. It can also claim that it is a party of governance and knows how to rule. But Indians simply said – Ye dil maange more!
Despite the Congress’ claim to secularism, India witnessed the worst form of communal riots under its governments. Even the bogey of Muslim appeasement raised by the Jana Sangh and the BJP against the Congress was incorrect. We need to read the summary of the Sachar Committee Report to understand how the Congress kept the Muslims at the margins as far as jobs and bank credits were concerned. It played majoritarian politics by opening the gates of the Babri Masjid to Hindu worshippers in 1986, which led to a series of events that finally resulted in the marginalisation of the Congress and the ascent of the BJP.
Also read: Congress wore 1971 war trophy, but left an unfinished business. CAB came out of that
Copy, paste, improve
Three other political streams — Socialists, Communists and the Bahujan — have got stray opportunities, especially at the state level, to run the show.
Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) got an uninterrupted 15 years to deliver on their ideas and promises in Bihar. The Communist Party of India (CPI) got 34 years of continuous rule in West Bengal. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) got almost two-and-a-half decades to rule Uttar Pradesh and empower Dalits and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). But they all failed to deliver on the promises they had made to their voters.
This brings us to a question — did the BJP perform any better? On governance, economy, education, health and basic amenities for citizens, the BJP performed equally bad. Its performance in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh on these counts was actually worse than many other state governments.
The allure of the BJP for its core voters is neither development nor governance. The party’s faithful voters won’t abandon it for slow economic growth or mismanagement in governance or even its foreign policy debacles.
The Narendra Modi government has adopted many of the policies of other parties, especially the Congress, without even acknowledging it. It has adopted the MGNREGS in a big way to placate the rural poor and used Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to implement several schemes such as PM Kisan Yojana and Garib Kalyan Rojgar Yojana. These schemes translate into electoral dividends for the BJP. Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum should thank the BJP for working on their ‘capability’ approach and expanding it to provide subsidised LPG to millions of poor households and giving them cash subsidy to build toilets.
The BJP has made an OBC the prime minister and picked a Dalit as the country’s president. It has also developed five places of importance in the life of B.R. Ambedkar and transformed them into the magnificent Panchatirtha. By doing so, it has actually matched the parks made by Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh.
Also read: BJP’s politics summed up in three social binaries
The M factor
In a nutshell, the BJP can replicate almost every scheme and policy of other political parties. But the reverse is not true. So, the question is, what gives the BJP its unique identity? It’s the three ‘M’s.
Muslim factor: The BJP has a knack for turning all national issues into a Hindu-Muslim binary. In the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi, it found an opportunity to shift the blame for the spread of Covid-19 onto Muslims. Granting citizenship to the migrants of Southeast Asia could have been the most secular act for any other party or government. But the BJP successfully turned it into a communal potboiler by excluding only Muslims from the Citizenship (Amendment) Act’s ambit. Give the BJP any issue and the party will make it into its favourite dish. It seems that the core voters of the BJP are convinced that only this party can keep Muslims under control. They haven’t voted the BJP in to control the price of petrol or onions. For them, the BJP is actually fulfilling the promises it had made.
There’s a small but potent list on what the BJP has delivered: laying the ground for the construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, scrapping of Article 370 and reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the CAA and the National Register of Citizens, threatening to confiscate properties of Muslims for taking part in citizenship protest, and making triple talaq illegal.
Masculine nationalism: Pakistan is at the centre of the foreign and, to some extent, the domestic policy of the BJP. It’s a fact that from Kargil to Balakot, issues and skirmishes related to Pakistan have yielded electoral dividends for the BJP.
Apart from the initial bonhomie of Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, the BJP has defined Indian nationalism in the context of Pakistan. China does not fit well in this playbook because Indians don’t completely understand the Chinese and their game-plan.
Manuvadi appeasement: No other party in the political history of India has ever thought of giving 10 per cent reservation to the upper castes and amending the Constitution for it. The savarna Hindu core voters of the BJP should be indebted to the party for this ‘brave’ act.
Similarly, the BJP recruiting bureaucrats in higher levels through lateral entry bypasses the provisions of reservation. It has also tried to subvert the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 by arguing in the court that this Act is being misused, and later backtracking due to mounting pressure. It is also trying to scuttle OBC reservation by including salary income in the purview of the creamy layer criteria.
Do other political parties have any such differentiators? No, making roads, schools and bridges do not count. That is the task of every government and can’t be the core of any party’s politics. Political parties in India have to define their politics in a sharper way that makes them stand out.
Dilip Mandal is the former managing editor of India Today Hindi Magazine, and has authored books on media and sociology. Views are personal.
Dilip Mandal has a morbid obsession with caste, religion and politics. It’s extremely unhealthy, I suggest him to follow Professor Yogendra Yadav, who also writes critical articles, but he is factually correct and raises relevant points.
A very absurd article that tries to malign the good work of BJP by trying to project it all as Hindu centric. Muslim appeasement is a fact. That it did not improve the lot of Muslims only proves that it was tokenism to create a vote bank. The structural changes the BJP has brought about will surely help in the years ahead. More are required, but politicians play spoil sport. As they did in the land amendment Act. That SC ST Act is misused has been acknowledged even by Mayavati. The authors have chosen to be selectively blind to further their agenda.
“That it did not improve the lot of Muslims ”
The same can be said of other groups. So called upper caste domination did not help every upper caste person, Or SP, BSP rule helped every OBC or dalit.
Appeasement policy DID BENEFIT SOME MUSLIMS. just because not all Muslims benefited by it can not be used to claim that there was no appeasement
Less aware people can write such article which are far from reality; however, i would say that due to such people and their thoght process BJP is bouncing better
The author concluded the BJP performed bad in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh. Did he even visit these states? Onlythe people of undivided Madhya Pradesh know how worst the Congress under Digvijay Singh had drove the state. Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Dr Raman Singh and Nitish Kumar will be remembered in the history as the CM’s who drove out backwardness from the states. This armchair journalist should travel the states and ask the locals rather than living in lala land.
Why do you want to give clean chit to Tabligi people who actually were responsible for the spread? You should rethink political correctness.
And why the hell should Muslims of Islamic nations be given Indian citizenship when they had asked for a separate country, decades back?
This foolish author had once claimed that backwardness of Bihar made sure no communal riots took place in Bihar.
“Its performance in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh on these counts was actually worse than many other state governments.” — It is a very casual statement, as someone who has been living in MP for 30 years, the difference between Cong. vs BJP at state level was significant.
Infrastructure, Irrigation, Power, Roads, Urban Planning all aspects MP has improved. So has CG.
Top cleanest cities in India are in MP and CG.
Finally a well balanced article praising BJP.
We will be endlessly debating these “M” “D” “H” factors etc while our economy gets further degraded by lockdown/containment/curfew without the govt making any attempt to educate/test/treat people. Then we all be left with “P” factor – poverty will not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. The govt present actions are laying the foundations of ruin of Indian economy and pushing everyone (except Mukesh Ambani) into a disastrous path. Soon we will become another Pakistan – a cesspool of toxic religion based politics, wide-spread poverty and a criminal and ignorant population making the country unliveable.
India’s foreign debt is rising day by day under BJP Govt., Now it is 558.5 billion dollars. In the lenders list Japan, German, France, GB, US, World Bank, IMF and there are great list except those. India is on the brink of bail out. Now Bangladesh is in a very position, Bangladesh is far above on many index comparison than India. Even Nepal is better than India. India is just above Pakistan.
Please understand economics, India is nowhere near bailouts. Debts aren’t an issue if we could do the loan servicing. IMF will be approached only when a bailout is required. The last time we approached the IMF was before 1991 economic reforms.
World Banks do not lend for countries, instead, it lends for projects. There are various projects across the world funded by world bank. The loans taken from countries are project-based for example, loans taken from Japan is for the high-speed rail project. Please quote an economist who said India needs a bailout now? Please check your facts. Bangladesh may have had a higher growth rate in 2019-20. But India was the fastest-growing economy for the previous 4 years. Nepal’s GDP growth was 2.3 % in the last financial year which is less than India.
563 billion Dollar external debt in absolute terms and the debt to GDP ratio is just 20% . The US holds 37% external debt to GDP ratio.
Total Debt to GDP ratio is 106% for the US, India is inching towards 88%, Japan has 238% total debt with 94% external debt. These debts mean nothing until the country could do the debt servicing. Per capita debt is among the lowest in the world.
Bjp has destroyed the credibility of indians in and out of the country with devide and rule policy with fascist approach to shun the voice of innocent citizens . This government failed at all fronts from econony to failed , unplanned lock downs, poor handling of migrants issue and coward foreign policy by just hacking the media. It saves its government by buying evm machines, MPs , MLAs, judges , Ips and IAS officers. it only favoured the business tycons like ambani and adani , looted banks , using money for buying MLAs from PM Cares , etc . The only thing which is very much exposed from the poor governance is the BJP and RSS combined do not have able brains to run the country which isevident from yhe fact that they couldn’t produce a single finance minister in last six years. This show will not last for long same people who are made to worship modi and others will show their right place.
Long live india . Mera bharat mahan !
Divide and rule was the hallmark of the Congress. Nothing much changed on the ground under their rule. Not even the plight of Muslims whom they nurtured with appeasement that was however lacking in action.
So, you are happy or unhappy?
The claim tat giving reservation to Upper Caste is Manuvadi is utter baseless and ignorant…
PV Narasimha Rao Govt was the first to give 10% reservation to Upper Caste but tat was struck down by SC …This author shud read more before giving his opinion on Communist Lines
The BJP and Modi will go down in history as the worst party and worst Prime Minister of any country in history! Their policies have done more harm to India than any other!
I really think otherwise. As an American, I can tell you that Mr. Modi and his brand of governance has really captured the imagination of the Americans. My European partner has the same view about how European countries view Mr. Modi. His policies have really improved the image of India as an emerging global super power
All said and done, Hindutva is an accepted philosophy of this country. No party can succeed opposing the Hindutva ideology. Hindus constitute 85% of our population and it is an accepted reality that they should occupy pride of place in our power structure. Appeasement of minorities will not succeed anymore. Every party in the opposition is realizing this hard truth, notwithstanding their earlier disposition towards Hindu religion. Look what Stalin has got to say about the outrageous desecration of Tamil God, Lord Murugan by a tiny, nondescript Karuppar Kootam. He condemned any form of desecration of Hindu God saying that DMK is not anti Hindu. Satan is forced to recite bible for its self survival. At the same time, BJP Govt has done incalculable harm to our economy through Demo, GST and unplanned lockdowns. It’s mindless pursuit of low interest regime is only helping the business tycoons who make money by using others money. Successive interest rate cuts since 2014 has only plummeted our economy – nor has it created any employment opportunities for our aspiring youth. It has added wealth to wealthy who thrive on depositors’ money. The Govt has become a govt of business tycoons, for business tycoons and by business tycoons, a k p
The last M Manuvadi is completely irrelavant, How are those points related to Manuvad, This is just a term used by communists who are confused lot about our culture.
I am sure Hindus too count for something in this country…..or are they some second rate people who should be given the go by…. Yes some Muslims do have political interests in opposition to Hindu interests and vice versa…. These legitimate interests of either sides have to be addressed…… Once parity is established between the two competing parties things will cool down…. Now Hindu interests is having an upturn as compared to the past….But one thing is clear…. From here onward Hindu interests cannot be ignored by any political party…. The parties have realized it and the best part Hindus have realized it…. I am sure the writer will realize this is what Democracy is all about…..
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