With the elevation of Narendra Modi to BJP’s top parliamentary board, along with his tainted aide Amit Shah, who’s been made a general secretary, the saffron party is clearly looking at refurbishing their old stance, that of hardcore Hindutva politics. Evidently, the once hardboiled LK Advani has been a poor replica of the moderate god of the Bharatiya Janata Party, former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, precisely because Advani’s attempt at softening his image did not yield any dividends to lift the sagging prospects of the opposition for about a decade now. It is for this reason that BJP has now decided to streamline its politics to cater to its core constituency, and revive the half-discarded, militant Hindutva to reignite the pre-election prospects. With Modi leading from the front, and Rajnath Singh at the helm of its affairs, BJP is busy rehabilitating the faces that it earlier considered to be liabilities. Along with Narendra Modi, the party has also promoted Varun Gandhi, whose virulent anti-Muslim proclamations have been embarrassing for the Nehru-Gandhi family, much to BJP’s advancement. Further, leaders like Uma Bharti have also been given a boost in the rejig orchestrated by Rajnath Singh, much to the credit of the party president. On the other hand, softer politicians within BJP, such as the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who are known for their capable governance, have been by-passed in order to remove roadblocks from Modi’s rise to the highest eminence, without clearly positioning him as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
BJP’s failed experiment to project a quasi-secular image can also be attributed to the middle of the road position taken up by the Congress-led UPA government itself, which has now distanced itself from a staunchly secular ideology, and has opted for fence-sitting on crucial issues of identity-based national security matters. UPA itself is on shaky grounds as its alliance from the pro-Muslim Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party is in doldrums, with DMK already severed ties riding the wave of Sri Lankan crisis. In the light of such shifty grounds, BJP is trying desperately to wash off Narendra Modi’s stigmatic stint in the 2002 Gujarat riots, because other than Modi, it has no larger-than-life leader who can take on the mantle of a prime minister, or even lead a successful election campaign. Despite Modi’s recalcitrant refusal to apologise for the pogrom, BJP is latching on to his pro-corporate bandwagon, even though it made a hue and cry on the issue during the FDI in multi-brand retail debate in August-September last year. And, while the VHP supremo Praveen Togadia has been relegated to complete irrelevance, and while Modi himself is, presently, unencumbered by communal politics and is enjoying the pro-development applause from all quarters, domestic and foreign, BJP still needs to fill in the gaps between Modi’s rhetoric of growth and clean, corruption-free governance with old but crumbs of Hindu right-wing speech acts.