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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

BJP allies failed completely

Nobel Laureate Amartya SenNobel Laureate Amartya Sen alleged the "complete failure" of BJP allies to resist the "extremism of Hindutva" contributed to NDA's defeat in Lok Sabha elections and flayed secular parties'' temptation to use "soft" Hindutva in response. "The total or near total demise of the secular parties in alliance with the BJP, it is difficult to miss a general sense of grievance about the neglect of secular concerns by parties which were not formally signed up for the Hindutva agenda," Sen said here. "The violence in Gujarat did seem to tarnish the image of BJP and its allies, in addition to the issue of economic inequality and the back-firing of the boast about India shining, he said. "The 2002 riots in the state of Gujarat, following the Godhra incident, in which possibly 2000 Muslims died, were not prevented by the state government", Sen said. According to him, "there are reasons to entertain the hypothesis that the secular support that the BJP allies delivered to the BJP-led alliance was particularly imperilled by the Hindutvas movements aggressive, and sometimes violent, undermining of a secular India and the complete failure of BJP allies to resist the extremism of Hindutva." He came down on secular parties for using "soft Hindutva" to counter "hard Hindutva" and said it was "foundationally mistaken" and has not given any dividend so far to anti-BJP parties. Sen said that despite the bloody history of riots in India, the tolerance of heterodoxy and acceptance of variations of religious beliefs and customs were deep-rooted in the country.

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