The Sunday Leader

Hindutva Takes Modi To Victory

  • While the RSS purports to be an organisation for uniting Hindus and promoting Hindu culture it is also considered a paramilitary organisation
  • The young cadet continued to climb the rungs of the RSS and was recommended to the BJP by the RSS, became the Chief Minister Of Gujarat, led the BJP to an unprecedented victory in elections to theLok Sabha in 2014

BJPs stunning win in Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s most populous state, with a near 200 million people, has been attributed by many Indian political analysts mostly to the party leader’s charisma and popularity. The victory is also attributed to the powerful ‘unparalleled’ election machinery he had set up as well as to the Hindu Nationalism- Hindutva- a concept which no other Indian has successfully exploited as Narendra Modi.

Undoubtedly all three factors would have been in play to bring about the UP victory but the nationalist factor that brought Modi into political prominence from obscurity appears to have been underplayed by many recognised Indian analysts.

 

Tea boy to PM

The boy who sold tea for a living with his father at a Gujarat railway station joined the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh at the age of eight years as a ‘Balaswayam Sevak’ (Junior Cadet).While the RSS purports to be an organisation for uniting Hindus and promoting Hindu culture it is also considered a paramilitary organisation that was the parent body of the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

A member of the RSS assassinated Mahatma Gandhi and it has been banned thrice, once by the British government, and later by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency she declared and after incidents following the destruction of the Babri Masjid Mosque in Ayodhya.

The young cadet continued to climb the rungs of the RSS and was recommended to the BJP by the RSS, became the Chief Minister Of Gujarat, led the BJP to an unprecedented victory in elections to the Lok Sabha in 2014 and last week scored spectacular victories in UP and the North Indian State of Uttrakhand while losing Punjab to the Congress and gaining control of the states of Goa and Manipur by Kautiliyan manipulations although it ran second to Congress.   The BJPs deft political moves resulted in Independents and minority members joining it providing the majorities in two state assemblies’ for governance. Rahul Gandhi the Congress leader called it ‘buying up of states which the Congress can’t afford to do’.

 

Unabashed nationalists 

The BJP it will be recalled as early as the 1990s and the first years of this century was a political party that unabashedly pushed for nationalism-Hindu nationalism or Hindutva, while the so called civilised world viewed any form of nationalism with abhorrence. Secularism was the political creed recommended, particularly to developing nations.

However Hindu nationalism through the BJP continued to widen its grip on secular India and Narendra Modi was its rising star. The burning of a train of Hindu pilgrims in February 2002, returning from Ayodhya, the site of the demolished Babri Masjid Mosque at Godra in Gujarat resulted in widespread  riots in the state where the official count was 790 Muslims and  254 Hindus killed with 150,000 refugees. It brought in Narendra Modi the Chief Minister of the state to national and international focus. He and His administration were accused of being complicit in the riots and even though Modi was held of not being involved by the courts, liberal and international opinion held him to be guilty. Modi was barred from entering the United States, UK and the European Union for what they considered to be his role in the riots but as Modi and the BJP grew in prominence and importance the bans were soon relaxed by the West and Modi was invited to Washington after his 2014 sweeping victory in the Lok Sabha elections.

 

Genuine Hindutva

All this has given a stamp of Modi being a Hindu nationalist leader.  An Indian commentator Pradeep Chhibber writing in The Hindu states: ‘The BJP’s ideology has taken more than before because the party forms the main issues for elections. Its long standing association with nationalism renders nationalism an issue on which it has a huge advantage over other parties. By placing emphasis on nationalism the party has clearly tailored its ideological message to be able to capture the imagination of the largest section of the public. ‘It has opened up ideological battle grounds in many different spheres—universities to movie theatres and promoted conflicts across the board such as national security, terrorism and now corruption.

‘For a long time the Jan Sangh and the BJP relied on hardline Hindu Nationalists who have faith in the RSS. It is no longer the case. Hindu traditionalists who are drawn to a conservative Hindu way of life are largely opposed to the hardline Hindutva doctrine, intolerance to other religions have now shifted over to their support from Congress to the BJP. ‘This allows the BJP to win elections without nominating a single Muslim candidate as it did recently in UP.’ Indeed Narendra Modi had the gumption of contesting the polls in this 199.5 million populous state with 80 per cent Hindus and 18 per cent Muslims without a single Muslim candidate on the BJP list.  He swept the polls winning 312 seats of a total number of 403 seats!

 

BJP strategies

But this was not solely due to Modi charisma or Hindutva. Some reports said that even the traditional Muslim areas of UP,  went Saffron because Modi’s electoral machine split up the Muslim vote and also the confusion in the coalition opposed to the BJP—Samajwadi Party(SP), Congress and the Bahujana Samaj Party (BSP) on the choice of candidates too contributed to their debacle.

However it was not a clean sweep for the BJP led by Modi. The Sikh dominated state of Punjab went to Congress 77 seats to BJPs 23. Goa and Manipur too were won by Congress although the BJP wrested control by ‘buying up states’ as Rahul Gandhi claimed. Nonetheless it was a great victory considering the demonetisation exercise where Indian masses were made to stand in queues for days on end to legalize their own money.

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