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16 December, 2014

Development vs Hindutva

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

For many years the Bharatiya Janata Party relied solely on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Hindutva ideology to gather votes. When it first came to power at the Centre in the late 1990s it shelved the Hindutva agenda as it was anathema to most of its National Democratic Alliance partners.

The Hindutva agenda figured in the BJP’s manifesto for this year’s parliamentary elections, too, and Narendra Modi, as a lifelong member of the RSS, is committed to it. However, he steered the party to a spectacular victory without relying on it overly. Instead, he focused on development and attracted many young people with his promise of achche din (good days).

Since becoming the Prime Minister, Modi has coined new slogans like Make in India and Swachh Bharat (Clean India) to keep alive the theme of development. But a host of small, militant outfits under RSS activists appear determined to throw the spanner in the works.

The main items of the Hindutva agenda are enforcement of a uniform civil code, abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution which gives Jammu and Kashmir a special status and construction of a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which volunteers recruited and trained by the RSS had pulled down in 1992.

The Constitution enjoins upon the state to work towards a uniform civil code. But successive governments have done nothing in this regard in view of the sensibilities of the Muslims who have been following the Sharia personal law.

Under Article 370, conceived as a temporary measure, laws enacted by Parliament will apply to Jammu and Kashmir only if the President issues an order to that effect. The BJP and its predecessor, Jana Sangh, have been opposed to the provision as it puts J and K on a different footing from the other states.

Constitutional amendments are needed to implement the BJP’s poll promise on the two issues. The party and its NDA allies do not command the two-thirds majority needed to push the measures through the two houses of Parliament. It has, therefore, taken the position that there should be discussion on these issues. 

Since the ownership of the site of the demolished mosque is a matter pending before a court, the construction of a temple at Ayodhya must wait. Yet the BJP-appointed governor of UP, Ram Naik, has raked up the issue, saying construction of a temple there is “the wish of every Indian”. According to him, Modi is working on a plan to resolve the mosque-temple controversy during his government’s five-year term.

Meanwhile RSS affiliates led by saffron-robed BJP MPs have initiated activities with potential to divide the nation on religious lines. They want the minorities to convert to Hinduism or at least accept the Hindutva ideology, which the RSS and BJP equate with Indian nationalism.

Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, a minister of state in Modi’s government, in a campaign speech in Delhi, where State Assembly elections are due, said with utter lack of civility that there are two kinds of people in the country – ramzaade (children of Ram) and haraamzaade (b******s). When opposition members raised a storm in Parliament, Modi appealed to them to forgive her as she was a Dalit and a first-time MP. At the same time the BJP decided to retain her as star campaigner.

A little known RSS outfit surreptitiously converted to Hinduism 57 Muslim families of Bengali origin, eking out a measly living as rag-pickers at Agra, offering inducements like an identification card which will help them claim benefits under welfare schemes. Yogi Adityanath, BJP MP and head of a Gorakhpur temple trust, announced plans to convert 5,000 Muslims and 1,000 Christians to Hinduism at Aligarh on Christmas Day.

Another BJP MP, Sakshi Maharaj, embarrassed the party by stating in Parliament that Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, was a patriot. He later apologised for the statement, apparently at Modi’s instance.

Unlike the Sadhvi, who was recently inducted into the party to enhance its appeal to Dalits, Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj are experienced parliamentarians with an unsavoury record of fomenting communal tension.

Modi has not spoken a word against the two men in public. Nor has his lieutenant, Amit Shah, who is the President of the BJP. Their ominous silence suggests that the RSS is in command in both the party and the government.-- Gulf Today, Sharjah, December 16, 2014.

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