The Hindutva factor, which helped make the BJP the main national political party of India replacing the Congress, is here to stay and an electoral loss here or there is not going to impact its future.
NEW DELHI: Even as Narendra Modi is at the fag-end of his first term as Prime Minister, people are still not sure whether he registered the historic victory in 2014 elections on the strength of his charisma or the anti-corruption campaign or the development agenda or a Hindutva wave. Five years down the line and with barely a month left for the next round of elections, the same question is being fiercely debated all over again: What is Modi’s unique selling point (USP)?
For the common man, Modi is the first “monk-Prime Minister” of the country after Independence, “renunciation” being one of the core values of India since ancient times—what has come to be known as “Hinduism” in modern days. What appeals to the people of this country the most is how much “material happiness” a person has sacrificed for the common good.
A ruler or a leader is judged here by his conduct and intent, and not only by the end result of his actions. And Modi has certainly emerged victorious on all these parameters. One can safely say that all the four factors mentioned above helped him romp home last time and, in all likelihood, will impact the voters the same way this time around too.
What is to be noted amid all these phenomena is that the people’s overwhelming attachment to the core values that this society has been nurturing for so long despites centuries of subjugation. As it seems, these values kept simmering in their hearts all through looking for expression and the BJP has, of late, succeeded in giving it a political connotation, christened as “Hindutva” by its opponents, around half a century after Independence.
Today, one can see a Hindutva undercurrent streaming across the country, surpassing all the social barriers afflicting society. The post-Independence Left-liberal narrative patronised by the Congress party has only aided in the growth of formidable Hindutva forces. Over the years, the forces, led by the much maligned Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have made considerable and lasting forays into all segments of our national life.
Whether it is about the long debated issues like Ram temple and Uniform Civil Code or the recent incidents like Sabarimala and cross-border terrorism, a vast majority of people can be seen expressing their opinion in unison. Never in the past have people across the country, particularly the younger generation, spoken on national issues in one voice so vociferously, taking pride in their cultural roots and fanning nationalistic fervour all around.
Talking of political issues like development, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy explains the best way how Hindutva or nationalism had its impact on successive governments in the recent years. “Narasimha Rao produced the most spectacular growth in any five-year period, but he lost badly. Atal Bihari Vajpayee played down the Ram Mandir issue and talked about ‘India Shining’. But the net result was that we were badly defeated because the cadres did not work,” he says.
“BJP is a cadre-based party and the cadre loves the ‘Virat Hindustan’ concept, with Ram Mandir, common code, cow protection etc., as its symbols. Therefore, judging by the past experience, pure economic development will not necessarily produce electoral success. I don’t think the economy is overpowering the other sentiments. Hence, there should be a policy that is harmonised with our age-old spiritual values,” Swamy adds.
Elaborating on the revival of Hindutva, he says, “Hindutva appeals to people as empowerment. Secularism has been taken to mean the dominance of English-educated people. That’s how it has filtered down. The question is, do we want a Jawaharlal Nehru-type of secularism sanitised to the point where any association with 83% of the population is considered infra dig, or do we work for a dynamic new model Hindu religion through the inculcation of Hindutva ideas?”
“Political correctness is dead. For BJP, the sentimental issue is Hindutva. And unless we articulate that, we will not be able to win with a comfortable majority. So Hindutva will guide the party’s future strategy and the coming elections will be fought on Hindutva issues apart from corruption and development,” asserts the economist-turned-MP.
HOW IT DEVELOPED
Any political analysis done without a proper understanding of the Hindutva mindset will always be incomplete and superficial. An insight into it will help us know better the fundamental reasons as to why India can never perpetually be governed by “pseudo-seculars” moving away from its original cultural moorings and religio-spiritual legacy of renunciation.
It all started with “Bharat Mata Yatra”, a brainchild of Vishwa Hindu Parishad veteran Morapant Pingle, in the 1980s, followed by the Ram Mandir movement led by BJP patriarch L.K. Advani in the 1990s. Advani’s “Rath Yatra” became extremely popular among the masses across the country, cutting through all social barriers. The saffron surge then started giving political dividends, with the BJP making considerable electoral gains and forming governments in many states.
Antagonists, however, kept denying the fact that Hindutva had become synonymous with nationalism over the years and symbolised an undercurrent of Indian nationalism in the backdrop of any social, cultural and political activity. It also turned into a socio-cultural comfort zone for common voters in the country, with BJP reaping rich electoral harvest out of it. The party also went on to form two governments at the Centre and is looking for another big win in a few months.
The rise of the “Cyber Hindu warriors” also gave the Hindutva phenomenon a major boost in the last decade. A band of educated and dedicated young professionals took the internet by storm and took over the political discourse on various social media platforms. They invaded the virtual intellectual space of the country, so far dominated by the Left-liberal side of the ideological spectrum, and mercilessly annexed the last citadel of the opponent gang and painted the internet saffron.
Not necessarily from among the Hindutva forces, the brigade consists of like-minded people drawn from different backgrounds desperately looking for a platform to voice their opinions and make themselves heard. Coming in different shades of saffron, their agenda has been a heady mix of post-modern and traditional values. As data analyst Dr Gaurav Pradhan puts it: “A high level of motivation, coupled with a superficial understanding of politics, seems to run across the online Hindusphere.”
Whatever may be the outcome of the upcoming elections, there cannot be any ambiguity anymore about the fact that the Hindutva factor is here to stay for all time to come. One should realise that it is this factor alone that has anointed the BJP as the main national political party of the country, replacing the Congress. An electoral loss here or there is not going to impact its long term prospects anymore.