No, Hindutva alone is not enough for the BJP to win elections.
Religious fundamentalists tend to define and judge people by their religious denomination, inevitably leading to stereotyping. Muslims are like this, Hindus are like that, Christians don’t do this, Sikhs don’t do that.
The trouble with such stereotyping is that it picks up only one of the many identities a person has. A Muslim may also be a musician, a Sikh may also be a doctor, and a Hindu may also be a Nepali, besides other markers of identity such as caste, language, gender or class. Then, there are classifications like rural or urban, English or Hindi-speaking, married or unmarried.
Most people understand this. On a train journey, strangers will want to know all your identities. They will ask you not just your religion but your caste too. How many children do you have, and are they all married yet?
In India, there are two sets of people who don’t understand the diversity of identities: Hindutva nationalists and liberals.
Hindutva nationalists judge Muslims and Christians by their religion alone. For our liberals, people are either communal or secular. Nobody has any other identity. This dogma of Indian left-liberals has led them to believe that the BJP wins through communalism alone. Brand Modi? Hindutva. Modi’s political capital? Nothing but Hindutva. Modi narrative is faltering? He will take to Hindutva, of course.
The plus vote
Nothing could be farther from the truth. If Hindutva alone was enough to make the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win, why is the Modi government bothered about rolling out a health insurance scheme in a jiffy? If the Ram Mandir issue can make the BJP sweep Uttar Pradesh, why is it going all out to woo the OBCs? Why does he need to give a speech every other day defending his government’s rather poor handling of the economy?
It may even be the case that the Hindutvawaadi is more understanding of the multiplicity of identities than the Indian liberal is. Look at how the Hindutva upper castes are silent on the Modi government’s decision to count OBCs in the census. It’s not something that pleases them, yet they know the BJP needs caste to win elections.
When the BJP has done poorly in national elections, it has won about 18-20 per cent of the national vote. That, therefore, is said to be the core Hindutva vote. Our dogmatic liberals tend to believe, with no evidence, that Modi has expanded it to 31 per cent – that is, everybody who votes for the BJP is voting to make India a Hindu rashtra. People who vote for the BJP, the poorest of them, are not voting for governance but religion, they seem to suggest.
The Congress party’s worst Lok Sabha performance in 2014 saw it reduced to less than one-tenth of the number of seats in the Lok Sabha. Even then, the Congress vote share was over 19 per cent – similar to the core Hindutva vote base.
If we were to add the vote share of all non-Hindutva parties, we’ll obviously see that “secular” parties are way ahead of the BJP – they’re just divided in a first past the post system.
If Hindutva alone is enough to make the BJP win elections in a country with 79 per cent Hindus, how has the coming together of the ‘secular’ vote in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh resulted in the BJP losing elections? How is it that the BJP lost a bypoll in its Hindutva bastion of Gorakhpur? Why did the BJP’s vote share in Delhi fall from 46 per cent in 2014 Lok Sabha elections to 32 per cent in the 2015 Delhi assembly elections? Did some of the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan voters of Delhi suddenly become secular? Our dogmatic left-liberals believe that Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party are soft Hindutva, of course.
Dog ate the Congress homework
Which is where the penny drops. The reason why our left-liberals don’t see beyond Hindutva is because doing so would need them to acknowledge the failure of their beloved People Like Us (PLU) party, the Congress. Liberals have attached their wagon to their fellow babalogs in the Congress party.
Since the Congress party can do no wrong, let us blame its failure on the people. The good, angelic Congress doesn’t do communal politics while the masses have become bigoted, they complain. If only we could elect a new people.
If the Congress can’t be a party of governance anymore, blame Hindutva. If Rahul Gandhi thinks frequent flier miles are votes, blame Hindutva. If the Congress can’t engage with caste, blame Hindutva. If the Congress can’t do agitational politics, blame Hindutva. The politics of communalism, while being a real threatening force, has become the ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse for the Congress and the Congressi liberal.
Any other narrative would have to admit that the Congress has failed to engage with caste, has been failing at mass politics, or that it is, by its own admission, unable to communicate with the people of India.
In truth, if the Congress party gets 19 per cent of the total votes in its worst election, it can rise like the phoenix as the BJP has under Modi. Doing so would mean the Congress will have to work hard on the ground, an art it has forgotten.
In the absence of the PLU party’s inability to reach out to the masses, our wine and cheese liberals wring their hands, say Rahul Gandhi ki jai, and compete with each other to copy American idioms to curse the “basket of deplorables”, the fanatical masses who have no identity except bloodthirsty Hindutva.