Millennium Post

In 2015, Modi must resolve inner contradictions

The year ended with the confirmation of BJP’s upward mobility, when its alliance secured a majority in the Jharkhand assembly and put up its best ever show in Jammu and Kashmir. But there is a hint in both elections that the party’s ascent may not continue on the same trajectory, as it did in 2014.

In Jharkhand, for instance, the BJP could cross the half-way mark in the 81-member legislature only with the help of its ally, the All Jharkhand Students Union, which added five seats to the BJP’s tally of 37. The saffron party’s tally was way below the 58 assembly segments it won in the general election six months ago.

The BJP’s victory chariot came to a halt outside the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, showing its dependence upon the Hindu vote bank in Jammu. The BJP could secure only 2.2 percent of the votes in the Valley, which is a Muslim-dominated region.

The reason behind the rebuff by religious minorities is clear enough. They have been angered and disheartened by the aggressive anti-Muslim and anti-Christian campaigns of the Hindu supremacist RSS and its rabid affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal. These fundamentalist outfits have seen the BJP’s rise to power at the centre as the most opportune time to push their fascist ideas of converting secular India into a theocratic Hindu rashtra (nation). There is little doubt that if Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unable to rein in members of the Hindutva Gestapo, then his memorable and unexpected victory in the general election will begin to unravel.

It is worth recalling that the BJP’s success in May was the culmination of a series of political victories, which saw the party win assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan and emerge as the first party in Delhi at the end of 2013.

The Congress, meanwhile, is going downhill. The reason behind such a downfall is its inept leadership, comprising the mother-and-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, both of whom palpably lack political charisma (an erstwhile forte of the Nehru-Gandhi family), intellectual acuity and an economic vision in sync with the modern world, which has lost patience with socialism.

As a result, the Congress has lost virtually all the major elections for more than a year, while the BJP has forged ahead. Only in several by-elections, notably in Rajasthan and, surprisingly, in Gujarat has the Congress fared well. Success, however, has been too few and far between to rejuvenate the party.

In contrast, Modi has all the requisites of a winner - charisma, oratorical skill, a forward-looking economic agenda and administrative acumen with a hands-on approach. However, his Achilles heel is the RSS, VHP and other Hindu militant groups like the Dharma Jagran Samiti, which have been organising  reconversion campaigns to woo religious minorities back into the Hindu fold.

It is not that Modi is unaware of what’s hobbling him. Having spent all his life as a pracharak (preacher) in the fundamentalist environment of the RSS shakhas and among its karyakartas (workers), it must be very difficult for him to turn against them, even though they’ve harmed his development plans.

Although he has partially succeeded in taming the hardliners by persuading them to put off the issue of constructing the Ram temple by a year, in keeping with his Independence Day call for a moratorium on sectarian animosity, he does not seem to have reckoned with the penchant of the extremists to conceive of one divisive idea after another - love jehad, ghar wapsi, bahu lao-beti bachao and so on.

As a result of the xenophobia propagated by the votaries of Hindutva, India is passing through a surreal atmosphere where a pro-market economy, reflected through the glittering malls and multiplexes, coexists with articulations redolent of an unscientific and unsophisticated worldview. This contrast is also evident in the government-forming negotiations between the BJP and Muslim-majority parties of the Kashmir valley like the People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference, which the saffron hawks regard as pro-separatist and, therefore, anti-national.

Unless Modi can resolve the contradiction between a pursuing a government emblematic of the 21st century and allowing the free passage revisionist venom articulated by Hindutva radicals, the earlier optimism associated with him will disappear.

The only winner from these tactics will be the Congress and the other opposition parties, who have stalled Parliament over the antics of saffron activists. Such a move has compelled Modi to take the ordinance route to pass crucial pro-reforms laws. But such bulldozing tactics are a sign of the prime minister’s failure. If Modi nevertheless opted for them, it is to divert attention from the antics of the Hindutva fanatics. He will have to pursue economic reforms (the road to middle class hearts) even more energetically if the BJP fails to stave off the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) challenge in the Delhi elections, which are likely to be held in February.

In 2013, the BJP came first in Delhi. But coming first will not do this time, for it will show that the Modi wave is petering out. Even securing a majority may not satisfy the BJP top brass if the AAP comes anywhere near the 28 seats it won last time. In that case, Modi will have to confront the saffron brigade head-on in a face-off reminiscent of Hitler’s night of the knives. IANS
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