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Published in the 16-30 Sep 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

SPECIAL REPORT

BJP back on aggressive Hindutva track

By Asghar Ali Engineer

The BJP was so sure of its victory in the last Lok Sabha election that it feigned to have given up its Hindutva card and even tried to appeal (‘appease’) to minorities for votes. In Bihar the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee even promised in his speech at Kishenganj that he will appoint 200,000 Urdu teachers, if elected to power. However, the Indian electorate inflicted crushing defeat on the BJP-led NDA and elected the UPA Government instead.

However, the Sangh Parivar overconfident of BJP’s victory could not accept the defeat in true democratic spirit and is feeling highly frustrated. The NDA members, particularly those of BJP are even refusing to behave as a responsible opposition in the Parliament. They have been obstructing the procedure and refusing to allow the parliament to function on one pretext or the other. They raised the issue of ‘tainted ministers’ and stalled parliament for days. They did not even allow debate on budget and it had to be passed without any discussion. They thus made history of sorts. Thus the NDA leaders are responsible for waste of public money and answerable to the electorate. If they do not follow the norms of democratic behaviour they do not deserve to be elected. 

What is worse is that they are now adopting quite aggressively their old Hindutva course which, they had assured Indian people, they had abandoned. In 1980 also they had assured people of India that they have adopted ‘secularism and Gandhian socialism’ but abandoned it in favour of aggressive communalism the moment they faced crushing defeat in Parliamentary elections of 1984 when they got only two seats.

Again facing defeat in Lok Sabha elections of 2004 they have gone back to Hindutva politics with vengeance. Thus communal forces can hardly be relied. While in power and sure of their continued hold on it they feign to be secular and adopt aggressive communalism the moment they loose power. They have played the same game this time around. Now they are going back to aggressive Hindutva in view of state elections in Maharashtra and in Bihar after a few months.

One such issue is of Veer Savarkar. Mani Shankar Aiyer ordered removal of poems of Veer Savarkar from the cellular jail of Andaman. The BJP is raising hue and cry over the issue. In Maharashtra of course they have left it to Shiv Sena as Savarkar’s issue is highly emotive in Maharashtra. Thus the BJP who is part of alliance with Shiv Sena wants the Sena to provoke electorate on this issue while it would take up another issues. This itself shows that the BJP is not genuinely concerned with Savarkar issue but wants to exploit it for election purposes through Shiv Sena.

Veer Savarkar’s grand niece Uttara Sahasrabuddhe who teaches political science in the Bombay University, has alleged that both the Congress and BJP-Shiv Sena are trying to turn Veer Savarkar into an election issue. According to her this was hardly a good reason for the Sena and the BJP to boycott Parliament when the budget was being passed, she maintained.

She also said that if the Sangh Parivar was sincere in its protest against what the Congress had done, it should ask the lieutenant governor of the Andamans to put the plaque back. The lieutenant governor Mr. Ram Kapse, was a BJP appointee and belongs to that party. She also said in her statement to The Asian Age that Savarkar was a rationalist. He never thought cow was so sacred and not be killed. He specifically wrote in one of the articles, she noted that "the cow was a useful animal once upon a time when we were dependent on agriculture. But don’t make it a sacred animal. If you believe that God resides in a cow it’s foolish."

Savarkar also maintained, according to her that if you want to differentiate between Western civilisation and Indian civilisation, then you must know that after the Renaissance movement the West took to rationalism as its basis and made tremendous progress. We still stick to what is written in Vedas and Puranas, and because of this tendency we are stuck in the past. 

Of course she rightly points out that "The Sangh Parivar cannot eschew or digest these essays. The Sangh Parivar considers cow as sacred and VHP and Bajrang Dal harass even those who take old oxen or buffaloes for slaughter. One of the main agendas of the BJP is to ban cow slaughter throughout India. The BJP even justified killing of Dalits in Haryana who were skinning dead cows a few years ago?

Thus it is clear that the BJP wants to exploit Veer Savarkar's issue for its own political purposes while totally rejecting Savarkar’s rational thoughts. It would hardly convince anyone of its sincerity. 

Another issue BJP is preoccupied with is that of arrest of Uma Bharati, former Chief Minister of M.P. In fact there are indications that the BJP wanted to get rid of Uma Bharati as Chief Minister of M.P. and her arrest warrant came as a relief to the BJP central leadership. She may be an aggressive agitator but she was a failure as a chief minister and had created complex problems for the Party.

However, now the BJP is making her arrest as a national issue and flying tricolour is being projected as a national mission. Of course tricolour is our national flag and we are all proud of that but one cannot take pride by making it as an anti-Muslim measure. Uma Bharati went to hoist tricolour on an Idgah, which is a disputed site. The Sangh Parivar had planned to convert the Hubli Idgah issue as a Babri Masjid of the South at that time though the matter was resolved amicably by persuading the Hubli Muslims to hoist the national flag on the Idgah.

Now the Sangh Parivar is thinking of taking out her Yatra flying tricolour. It is an old trick, which the Parivar plays repeatedly. In fact the RSS refuses to fly tricolour in its own Shakhas and flies Bhagwa flag. Let Uma Bharati fly tricolour on the RSS offices if she is so enthusiastic about flying tricolour. Let her fly it on temples as well. She is trying to earn electoral advantage in coming elections by raising these controversies. But now there is news that the Government of Karnataka may petition the Court to withdraw all cases against her thus depriving her the opportunity to be a martyr. The Congress is trying to defeat her game. The BJP has never been comfortable with secular issues or issues of development. It adopted Sadak-Bijli-Pani issue in M.P. election as it was agitating the minds of electorate in the state then. But as it was not sure whether this will click Uma Bharati was repeatedly raising the issue of Saraswati temple and Kamal Maula Masjid in Dhar, M.P. The other members of Sangh Parivar were playing up this issue to entice the voters for Sangh Parivar.

And now since the BJP is not in power at the Centre it has no compulsions or restraints of being in power and can try to go whole hog with Hindutva politics. BJP can never be secularised as long as it is tied firmly to the communal apron of the RSS. The RSS keeps on pressurising it to adopt aggressive Hindutva. And the BJP has to repeatedly assure the RSS that it will never offload the ideology of Hindutva without which it cannot get help of dedicated RSS cadre in the elections.

When the Jan Sangh had merged with the Janata Party and had taken pledge for secularism at the Gandhi Samadhi under the leadership of Jai Prakash Narain in 1977, it had refused to resign from the RSS membership though the dual membership controversy (both membership of the Janta Party and the RSS) had brought down the Morarji Desai Government in 1979. Thus it will be seen that it is firmly tied to the apron strings of RSS and its strident anti-minorities stance will never be diluted. Those so called NDA secular partners are deceiving themselves or fooling the people, if they pretend that the BJP will ever give up its Hindutva plank.

Also, in view of the upcoming elections in Maharashtra in October the Shiv Sena-BJP are trying to stir communal passions. The bombs thrown by unknown motor cycle riders at the mosques during Friday prayers in Prabhani and Jalna is an obvious attempt in that direction. The winning of election in Maharashtra by the Sangh Parivar is of great significance. It thinks it is an opportunity to shake the UPA Government at the Centre. Defeat of the Congress NCP alliance in Maharashtra can have long term consequences. If the BJP-Shiv Sena combination can win in Maharashtra they can try to win over Sharad Pawar and persuade him to join NDA. Sharad Pawar is known to have soft corner for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Also, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation under Shiv Sena has passed a resolution making singing Vande Mataram compulsory in municipal schools. They remember Vande Mataram at the time of elections only. 

The Sena is also very eager to come back to power and will go to any extent in playing up Hindutva card. It is very unfortunate that the Election Commission is satisfied with these parties signing pledge of secularism although their propaganda machinery aggressively works to propagate communal issues during the elections. What a contradiction. How can a party taking pledge for secularism as required by the election commission openly and aggressively propagate Hindutva? Can they not be disqualified on grounds of breaking their secular pledge? Is it not against the Constitution to propagate Hindutva during the election campaign? It is for the authorities to decide.

It seems secularism is becoming a distant dream in view of increasing communalisation of our politics. Forget about Nehruvian secularism even Gandhian concept of religious harmony is becoming a dream rather than reality. Every religious group, every religious community, wants to bring in sectarian issues in political arena. Those who strive for inter-religious harmony will have to face increasing challenges in coming days. And yet inter-religious harmony is so vital for our multi-religious society.
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