We have two scenarios unfolding simultaneously today. In one, Narendra Modi declares, “I will be [the] Prime Minister of all Indians, including those who did not vote for me”, and invites the neighbouring countries’ leaders to his swearing-in; President Pranab Mukherjee in his Parliamentary address pledges a commitment to the welfare of religious minorities; and home minister Rajnath Singh condemns the barbaric rape and hanging of two Dalit girls in Badaun.
In the second scenario, over a dozen communal incidents break out across India; a young Muslim IT professional is hacked to death by the Hindu Rashtra Sena in Pune in an outburst of Sangh triumphalism; Hindutva hawk Ajit Doval of the Vivekananda International Foundation becomes national security adviser; and singer Shubha Mudgal is bullied by Modi supporters in the US.
Which of the two scenarios is of true, lasting importance? Contrary to what some self-professed “liberals” claim, the honest answer is, the second. Not only did Modi win the election in India’s most polarising campaign ever along class, caste and religious lines; even the seemingly “secular” appeal of the “Gujarat model of development” was strongly rooted in majoritarianism and the long-standing subjugation of Muslims there to second-class citizenship.
The “model”, marked by middling-to-poor social indicators and highly unbalanced growth without equity, was sold so hard that 64 per cent of the 22,000 people polled over India identified Gujarat as our “most developed state” in a CSDS-Lokniti survey, in contrast to 4 per cent for Maharashtra.
The swearing-in invitation to SAARC leaders was a purely symbolic, empty, gesture, which sits uneasily with the BJP’s unreconstructed, deeply militarist, domineering orientation towards the neighbours. A minister’s pronouncement on repealing Article 370 proves this. As does Doval’s well-known antipathy to the neighbours, in whom he sees a menace to India’s security.
The BJP manifesto is clear on Article 370, the Ram temple and Uniform Civil Code, demands since reiterated by senior RSS leader MG Vaidya. One only has to glance at the Modi cabinet’s composition to note the impress of Hindutva-style neoliberalism, the presence of people who instigated the Muzaffarnagar violence, and preponderance of those who lace casteism with communal venom. This totally belies the idea that the BJP has turned “moderate” under a re-branded “Modi 2.00”.
There is no “Modi 2.00” and there won’t be one unless he expresses genuine regret for the 2002 butchery of Muslims and brings its culprits to book instead of shielding and rewarding them. That would be contrary to his image and substantive role as Hindutva’s mascot and brazen perpetrator-defender of communal extremism.
There is a deeper reason why holding national power won’t lead the BJP to moderation — unlike many extremist parties elsewhere. That reason is the RSS, which selected Modi as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate and planned and executed his campaign with singular determination. The RSS might discard Swadeshi economics for neoliberalism. But it won’t budge from its core commitment to Hindutva when it has put the BJP into power with a majority for the first time.
Even when the BJP lacked a majority in 1998-2004, the RSS pushed it hard on Presidential government, saffronising education and culture, making key appointments in the bureaucracy, reviving the VHP, and launching Hindutva’s Long March through the institutions. It has since captured all critical organisational positions in the BJP and become its total hegemon. The RSS now craves to fulfil the dream it has dreamt right since 1925 — of establishing Hindu-supremacism. It’s not about to give up, no matter what our “liberals” say.
The author is a writer, columnist, and a professor at the Council for Social Development, Delhi
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