With very little to show on the ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ front, PM and BJP have no option but to fall back on their Hindutva base.
In his address to the World Hindu Congress in Chicago last week, RSS sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat once again urged that “Hindus of the world must unite”. He said Hindus are like “lions” and should not be afraid of the “wild hounds” invading their territory.
There was tremendous applause to his appeal, particularly when he referred to the “wild hounds” attacking Hindu lions. The audience at once understood the symbolism.
It is clear now that those who still believe that Narendra Modi or the BJP/RSS will not polarise voters on the Hindu-Muslim issue and concentrate only on “development” are living in a fool’s paradise.
Individual now greater than organisation
Two days after Bhagwat’s speech, the national executive of the BJP met in New Delhi to launch its 2019 propaganda blitz. Party president Amit Shah told BJP leaders gathered from all over the country that “Narendra Modi leads the party, whereas Dr Manmohan Singh follows the party”. This actually violates of the philosophy of the BJP and its mentor, the RSS, which believe that no individual is greater than the organisation.
But the reason they now place leader above party is because they have realised that the state is far more powerful and has control over all institutions. Indeed, the state, led by Modi, now controls the levers of the RSS in Nagpur.
Yet, there was Bhagwat, trying to assert the ideology of Hindutva over the idea of development, pointing to a conflict of sorts between the worldview of the RSS and that of the Modi-led BJP.
But Bhagwat and Modi operate in tandem, because they are dependent on each other. Amit Shah cannot run his electoral war machine without the ground support of the RSS cadre. And the BJP has become so servile to Modi and Shah that sitting MPs, MLAs and even corporators are financially dependent on them.
As a result, state power, financial muscle, and Hindutva ideology have formed a deadly triangle. The strategy is rather simple. Modi will keep quiet on lynchings, cow slaughter, beef, and talk about “development”. Bhagwat and others in the Sangh Parivar, meanwhile, will loudly or subtly campaign for Hindu mobilisation and Muslim bashing.
Towards the final phase of elections, even Modi gives up the facade of development and tries to divide the voters on communal lines, as we saw in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
With very little to show on the “sabka saath, sabka vikas” front, the PM and his party have no option but to fall back on their traditional base. It has been a long journey for the BJP, from Gandhian socialism in 1980-85 to Hindu Rashtra via the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule from 1998 to 2004.
True, the idea of a Hindu Rashtra is not yet the official plank, but it is constantly floated to keep it alive. Many hardliners in the party have begun to say that “when” it returns to power in 2019, the Hindu Rashtra process will start unfolding.
But there are others in the parivar who argue that it is not necessary to formally convert India into a Hindu Rashtra. That would alienate Kashmir as well as Mizoram and Nagaland. If all the institutions of governance are under the RSS’s control, then the system will effectively be run on those lines, without touching the Constitution. Bhagwat’s appeal in Chicago is aimed at that objective.
It is not just capturing the institutions and aggressive propaganda that can win elections. One requires an ideological framework. Hence, the need for Hindutva as the ideology.
The end of ideology and idealism
When Daniel Bell propounded his ‘End of Ideology’ thesis in the early 1950s, the context was World War II. Bell’s argument was that ideologies of the 19th century were based on the utopian ideas of universal good, the notion of liberty and equality. In future, he said, people will tend to support the collective identities in terms of culture, language, ethnicity and so on.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeat of socialism in Eastern Europe, the debate on ideology disappeared. Communist China adopting market-driven capitalism further emphasised this ‘End of Ideology’.
But the ideologies of religious fundamentalism had started taking shape before Bell proposed his theory. The birth of Israel was an assertion of Zionism. The Muslim Brotherhood too had started capturing the imagination of some. The Hindu Mahasabha (founded in 1915) and the RSS (founded in 1925) reflected that trend. India’s Partition and consequent holocaust were the ugly manifestations of the ideology of religious and cultural fundamentalism.
There is no debate today in the media, in the field of academics or in political circles about these ideologies that shaped the history of the 20th century. The current discourse is on brazen materialism, the idea of success, the necessity of “killer instinct”, the idea of profit, as against the ideas of liberty, equality, fraternity and so on. It is not just end of ideologies, but the end of idealism too.
Anarchy devours its children
In this philosophical vacuum, the RSS is baring its fangs. However, it is unlikely to have a long shelf life. Any divisive ideology will end in its own demise. The Aryan fundamentalism of the Nazis ended up destroying Hitler and dividing Germany. There are hundreds and thousands in the RSS who still harbour tremendous support for Hitler. The glorification of Nathuram Godse is a manifestation of that.
What Bhagwat and Modi do not comprehend is that their nemesis is not too far away. It is not a question of 2019 alone. History has a longer run. The more they take an aggressive posture, the bigger the backlash will be.
This aggression of Bhagwat, Modi and Shah is not because of their confidence in 2019, but because of their fear that the future does not belong to them. Anarchy devours all its children.