Millennium Post

Just walk the secular talk

General Election for 16th Lok Sabha will be known for many firsts. This is the first election, in which the centre point of attack and counter attack is a person, who is not in power at the centre. A leader occupying the central place in campaign of all parties during elections is not new to India. In 1977 Lok Sabha election, Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India was the main talking point of almost all parties contesting the election. In 1989, Rajeev Gandhi commanded the same place.

But both of them were sitting prime ministers at that time. In Lok Sabha election of 1980, the main slogan of Congress (I) was, Indira Lao, Desh Bachao. Mrs Gandhi was the main focus of the Congress campaign, but her opponents were not obsessed with her in 1980 in a way which had been seen during 1977 elections.

In the 16th Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi has become not only the main talking point of almost all parties, but he himself has become an election issue. There may be a number of reasons for it, but the main reason is the collapse of party system in India. This system has collapsed and the parties are in existence only technically for contesting the elections. There is hardly any internal democracy in most of the parties and their decisions are taken primarily by their leaders, who are now not known as the President or general secretary, rather known as ‘supremo’, a term used for a gang leader in Bollywood. The lack of internal democracy has been followed by the collapse of ideologies. The alliance politics has ensured its death. When Janata Dal split in 1999 and one of its factions joined hands with BJP, one of its spokesman Mohan Prakash, who is now a general secretary in Congress pleaded. vichardhara ko bachane ke lie dhara me bane rahna jaroori hai meaning, if you want to protect your ideology, you have to maintain yourself in mainstream (of politics). Such people think that you cannot remain in politics, if you are not in power. That is why you have to join hands with those, who are even against your ideology only to share power.

The politics to join power at any cost has proved fatal for the ideologies and Indian politics is firmly in the grip of this era, where not only ideology, but even parties have become meaningless and the personality cult has taken their space. This is the reason, why a person has become the centre of election campaign of almost all parties of India. Narendra Modi has been demonised by his opponents as a person dangerous to the secularism of India. They are trying their best to make secularism an issue and hence corner the prime ministerial candidate of BJP, but this does not seem to click. In earlier elections, the politics of secularism used to pay high dividends to the parties and their leaders, but in the present political scenario, there are few takers of this politics.

The reason why this politics has failed to click and attract the masses is the misuse of this politics. In fact, the term ‘secularism’ has been misused and even abused by politicians in big way during elections. Politicians have their own notion of who are secularists and who are not, which is quite different from the literal meaning of this term. Literally speaking, secularism is an ideology of a state, in which the government is not run by religious considerations. Secularism is just opposed to theocracy, where a religious belief decides the direction of a state and its government.

Constitutionally India is a secular state and hence our government has to work independent of the religious beliefs of people and no religious dictum can be binding on the state. Secularism in India is functioning well so far and anyone who contests election has to take oath to act according to the Constitution of India and hence take oath to be secularist.

But in India secularism has yet another meaning. In Indian tradition there is a term, sarva dharma sam bhav and we define our secularism by this term. Politicians or political parties should have respect for all religions and faiths according to this definition of secularism. Almost all politicians and parties claim to have equal respect for all faiths at least publically. So there is no problem, but the problem arises when politicians talk about secularism having meanings differing from the above two. One example will make it clear. When Sonia Gandhi met Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid of Delhi, she appealed him to ensure that secular votes were not divided among various parties. When she was talking of secular votes, she meant the voters of Muslim community. Sonia Gandhi is not alone to use this word in this manner. In fact almost all the leaders, who claim to be champions of secularism, mean Muslim voters, when talk of secular votes. When anyone asks any community to vote united to one party having interests of their own community in mind, this is in fact the communal voting. The secularists are promoting communal voting and yet claim to be championing the cause of secularism.

This has given the third definition to secularism in India and that is if you are pro minorities, you are secular and if you are against minorities, you are communal. This creates strange situation, where rank communalist appears appealing to people to promote secularism.


Next Story
Share it