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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Congress-BJP and electoral choices
By Ram Puniyani

The debate on the nature of BJP is always accompanied by the political practices of other parties, in particular Congress. While assessing the communal nature of BJP, examples galore of the original sins committed by the Congress and other secular parties, which are used as a justification of the BJP politics and its ideology. These days not much is being talked about the Hindutva ideology of BJP. The notion that India is a Hindu Rashtra and Hindutva is our way of life, the concepts which, came to be asserted in no uncertain terms a decade ago, remins in the backdrop. People of the ilk of Arif Mohammad Khan who are the latest in the series of politicians to join the BJP (Feb 2004) have with vehemence and vigor showed the weaknesses of the secular practice of Congress and this has also been given the justification for joining BJP.

Of course Mr Khan’s joining of BJP also shows his deep melancholy at the state of Muslims in India, at the failure of the state and secular parties to protect the Muslim minorities. He hopes that by joining the BJP he can build the bridge between BJP and Muslims. Also he thinks that his new party is for reconciliation and for healing the past wounds. His passionate defense of his new party will surely take him high on the political ladder, but is it a correct move on the part of an ex-Congressman who resigned from the ministry on the issue of Congress surrendering to the pressure of Muslim communalists in the case of Shah Bano judgement?

One can see that there are enough skeletons in the cupboards of Congress practice of secularism, which can put off most of the serious elements upholding the secular values. Congress has ruled long enough (and opportunistically enough, in later years), to show its chinks on the secular armor. There were riots all through from 1962, more so in the decades of 80s, Shah Bano judgement was reversed, and Babri Mosque was demolished when Congress was in power. So how can one trust it for secular practice in the future? Many a points in these accusations are correct without doubt. Congress did show its resolve to curb the communal forces in Nehru regime. But later it sometimes capitulated and sometimes it did accommodate the communal elements within its folds.

What are these communal forces? In pre-partition times the communal forces were Muslim League (Muslim Communalism) on one side and Hindu Mahasabha and RSS (Hindu Communalism) on the other. The Muslim League stream presented the view of a Muslim Nation, and the Hindu Mahasabha, RSS argued for Hindu Nation. Partition tragedy was a product of British policy of divide and rule and the machinations of Muslim and Hindu Communalisms, which spread hatred amongst the communities leading to the communal bloodshed. Both communalisms were on par in spreading hatred, the root cause of violence. With partition, the major forces representing the Muslim Communalism left for Pakistan, leaving small sections of Muslim communalists in this part of the subcontinent. This Muslim communalism was deflated but did survive. It also became more defensive in the light of the regular anti-Muslim violence.

Hindu communalism threw up Bhartiya Jansangh, a blend of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS in the electoral arena in early fifties. The social pressures of the communal politics started getting manifested. The communal violence first erupted in Jabalpore in 1961. Later Ahmedabad witnessed the same in 1969. Various scholars and social activists have analyzed the violence and riots in detail. It so emerges that the social tensions were intensified by systematic ‘Hate minority’ propaganda by various conduits developed by RSS, its shakhas, its infiltration in the media, bureaucracy and various arms of the state apparatus. Also every communal riot led to strengthening of Bhartiya Jansangh earlier and BJP later, in that area. While Congress as the ruling party sometimes could control it, sometimes encouraged it, sometimes resorted to it and so on. Most of the inquiry commission reports have put there finger on the RSS and its affiliates as the major players in the game. Congress was the weak and opportunist observer (even promoter, sometimes) in this. Congress itself was the central vehicle of communalism in the anti- Sikh pogrom of 1984. Barring that it is the RSS and its affiliates who have played the role of promoting hate ideology. and polarized the society on communal lines.
RSS has a purpose and ideology while doing all this. For it, India is a Hindu Rashtra, where Muslims and Christians have to adopt Hindu way of life or to live at the mercy of Hindu nation deprived of its citizenship. This core thinking of RSS has been refined and given more attractive presentations. The likes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee have specialized in presenting this ideology laced in the sugar coating. BJP is not the only player of this game. There is a clever division of labor amongst different progenies of RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajarang Dal, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram being the few who have spewed poison against minorities most furiously during last two decades in particular. In that sense what separates Vajpayee from a Togadia or Modi is just the sophistication of the language and not any difference in the ideology.

Mr Vajpayee is capable of exuding different auras according to the situation. In Gujarat he will be ashamed of Modi’s Hindutva and a week later he will defend him. In US he will declare his unflinching loyalty to RSS and a place further he will shed tears (! crocodile) for the plight of Muslim victims in Gujarat. To assess BJP by a single act will be suicidal fallacy. BJP has to be assessed first of all as the political child of RSS, wedded to bring in Hindu rashtra, determined to throw away the democratic constitution to bring in rigid hierarchical society as laid down in various scriptures. It has also to be assessed by the company it keeps. The company of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, for whom Gujarat was a resurgence of Hindus, for whom it was a model to be replicated all over the country, is to be kept in mind. It has to be assessed by Narenadra Modi who was the one who opened the floodgates of carnage in Gujarat and even at the peak of violence refused to help the victims in any serious way, and is doing his best to ensure that justice is denied to the riot victims.

Having won the state elections in MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, BJP has created a make believe world of India Shining and has pushed forward the ‘development’ agenda. Again it is a tactical addition. It has nothing to do with breaking the loyalty to RSS or severing links with VHP and Bajarang Dal. One concedes that the past cannot and should not rule the present and future. The point is; is there introspection in Sangh Parivar that they no longer subscribe to Hindutva agenda? Is it that Modi is apologising for Gujarat sins and calling for reconciliation? Is it that realising his mistakes in Gujarat carnge he is giving justice to the victims of Gujarat violence? Same Gujarat was presented by him as the glory of Gujarat.

There may be hundred sins, which other parties, including Congress, have committed, but most of these parties are not dictated by the ideology of another organization, which is a supra electoral one and which does not believe in democracy. In that sense for BJP, democracy is a mere vehicle to come to power to bring in the rule of an ideology which is equivalent of Taliban or of Ayatullah Khoemeni or of Christian Fundamentalism of 1930 America.
People like Arif Mohammad Khan are genuinly confused when they tend to compare BJP with other electoral outfits. Undoubtedly Congress and for that matter many other parties have compromised on the issue. They have failed to check the rising communalism in the society. During communal violence, RSS affilates spread hatred and are behind the riots; Congress may not control the same effectively, during Babri demolition RSS affiliates will assmble-flout all the rules and attack the masjid; Congress may be fiddling rather than effectively controlling, during Shah Bano case Muslim com -munalists protest and Congress yields, during Ram Shila Pujan-RSS affiliates put pressure and Congress capitulates. So just to blame Congress like parties while turning a blind eye to the culprits is a grave error.

The electoral parties have a task to curb, check and eliminate communalism. BJP itself like many Muslim communal outfits who are vehicles of communalism, is the vehicle of RSS ideology. It in no way can be equated or compared with other electoral outfits. Can we have democracy if we strengthen the communal ideology of one or the other type? For those concerned with welfare of society as a whole, minorities included, the task is to look at the core ruling ideology of the electoral parties their extra electoral allies and controllers and then to come at the conclusion about the nature of particular party. By being extra harsh at Congress type potentially democratic and secular outfits, one is subtly giving legitimacy to the communalism of RSS in a deep sense.
Is it that people like Khan are too depressed to stand up as democratic citizens and are succumbing to the tormentor-in-chief of secular values, the RSS and its affiliates? What ever be his stated motives the likes of Arif Mohammad Khan are joining BJP, is it that a sheep, outraged by the inefficiency of the shepherd is deciding to befriend the wolf himself?  ¤

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