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BJP’s counterfeit rashtravad vs AAP’s copycat deshbhakti — India needs to be saved from both

The nationalism promoted by BJP-RSS, and mimicked by AAP, is the opposite of Indian nationalism. This version has no interest in healing wounds that affect national unity.

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So, here is the new model of deshbhakti. Actually, ‘kattar deshbhakti’, as Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal has decreed recently. And it is so dangerously familiar. Take off the fig leaf and this AAP model of deshbhakti is an imitation of the BJP’s rashtravad that we have been fed for some time.

One of the first acts of the newly elected AAP government in Punjab was to call for a special one-day session of the state assembly. The assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Centre’s encroachment on the Bhakra-Beas Management Board (BBMB). Now, in a federal arrangement, the Punjab government is well within its rights, actually duty-bound, to guard its sphere of power from encroachment by the central government. The Narendra Modi government at the Centre did violate an established convention of appointing members from Punjab and Haryana to the BBMB. Both states had reasons to be concerned and to ledge protest. Fair enough.

But the Punjab assembly went a step further. It used the Centre’s decision to bring the employees serving in the Union Territory of Chandigarh under the Central Service Rules to rake up the issue of Punjab’s claims over Chandigarh city and to demand its complete transfer to the state.

The reaction was swift and expected. Haryana assembly unanimously passed a retaliatory resolution. It reiterated Haryana’s claims over Hindi-speaking areas in Punjab. And it raked up the issue of river water dispute, urging the central government to “take measures for the construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal” in compliance with the directions of the Supreme Court.


Also read: Meet the 10 men Kejriwal is counting on to boost AAP’s national expansion after Punjab win


Punjab vs Haryana

There you have it. A kattar deshbhakt party comes to power with a massive majority and immediately sets on an eminently avoidable course of collision with a neighbouring state. The AAP government in Punjab was under no pressure from the public. It has just won an unprecedented mandate and enjoys a honeymoon period. Chandigarh was not an issue in the election. Nor was there any provocation from the government of Haryana. The provocation from the Centre could have been responded to by taking the Haryana government into confidence. Indeed, the Haryana assembly resolution also took a stand against the Centre’s decision on BBMB. A joint or coordinated statement from Punjab and Haryana would have strengthened federalism as well as nationalism. Instead, the AAP opted for a path of confrontation.

AAP sympathisers may argue that there is nothing wrong with the Punjab assembly resolution. The fact is that Chandigarh was awarded to Punjab first by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1970 and then by the Rajiv-Longowal accord of 1985. The Punjab assembly has only reiterated, for the seventh time, the long-standing and unfulfilled claim. If so, you would also have to agree that there is nothing wrong with the Haryana assembly resolution, eighth reiteration of its claim. The fact is that the Supreme Court had repeatedly upheld Haryana’s claims for immediate construction of SYL canal and has held unconstitutional Punjab’s attempt to abrogate its previous commitments.

There is no escaping the plain truth that the newly elected AAP government in Punjab has stoked a dormant dispute with Haryana for no good reason, except to score some emotional brownie points and prove its Punjabi credentials.


Also read: In Punjab, there was space for a third player to emerge. Why only AAP and Kejriwal succeeded


BJP vs BJP, AAP vs AAP

The real question is: how does this square up with AAP’s deshbhakti? From what we know, there seems to be no unease within the party. We have not heard any voices of dissent, not even from the Haryana unit of AAP that seeks political expansion in the state. Clearly, kattar deshbhakti goes well with being a kattar Punjabi at loggerheads with Haryana. When Haryana elections arrive, we should expect Kejriwal to claim he is kattar Haryanvi.

To be fair, AAP is not the first party to practice this duplicity. For a long time, national parties have stopped pretending to be national in this elementary sense. The Congress party in Punjab and Haryana took diametrically opposite view on the river water dispute and the national leadership did nothing about it. The same game was played during the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu dispute over sharing the Cauvery river water. Then came the BJP with its pronounced nationalist rhetoric. Between November 2014 and February 2017, the BJP was in power at the Centre as well as in Haryana and shared power in Punjab. This was an ideal opportunity to resolve all the outstanding disputes between Punjab and Haryana. Nothing of that sort happened. There is no report of the ‘rashtravadi’ PM making even an effort to heal this festering wound.

On the contrary, the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal joined hands to “neither allow anyone to dig SYL canal nor give a single drop of water” to Haryana and de-notified the land acquired for the canal in defiance of the Supreme Court order. BJP legislators in Haryana appealed to the Governor of Punjab not to sign the law made by their own party government next door. The BJP’s nationalism did not come in the way of this brazen attempt at fracturing national unity. The same story was repeated in Karnataka as the BJP stoked emotions against Tamil Nadu on the Cauvery water dispute and in Manipur in the stir over the border dispute with Nagaland.


Also read: After decimating traditional parties to emerge as Punjab’s new No.1, AAP now eyes national role


Nationalism vs rashtravad/deshbhakti

This version of nationalism is an inversion of the nationalism fostered by our freedom struggle. Indian nationalism was resolutely anti-colonial, but not racist, supremacist or chauvinist. Indian nationalism was never hostile to our neighbours. It promoted unity of all oppressed people and actively sought friendship with all our neighbours. In the domestic arena, Indian nationalism was a peoples’ movement for forging national unity, by ironing out all possible disputes and conflicts. Thus, Hindu-Muslim unity and elimination of untouchability were on top of the agenda of our nationalism. It forged unity by acknowledging diversity.

The nationalism promoted by the BJP-RSS, and mimicked by the AAP, is the opposite of Indian nationalism. This imitative nationalism is happy to kowtow to the United States and turn a blind eye to Russia’s misdeeds, but turns its aggression towards India’s neighbours, especially the weaker ones. Within the country, this brand of nationalism has no interest in resolving disputes or healing wounds that affect national unity. It is not averse to using these cracks for political gains and is invested in inventing internal enemies. Instead of unity, it wants symbolic uniformity. This is what united BJP’s rashtravad and AAP’s kattar deshbhakti.

India needs to be saved from both this copycat deshbhakti as well as the counterfeit rashtravad.

The author is among the founders of Jai Kisan Andolan and Swaraj India. He tweets @_YogendraYadav. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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