And Electoral Choices
By Ram Puniyani
18 April, 2004
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 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
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
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
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.
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 Ahmadabad 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
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
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.
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 Parisha, 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 Parisha,
for whom Gujarat was a resurgence of Hindus, for whom it was a model
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
People like Arif
Mohammad Khan are genuinly confused when they tend to compare BJP with
other electoral outfits. Undoubtedly Congress and for that matter may
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-flount all the rules and attack the masjid; Congress may
be fiddling rather than effectively controlling, during Shah Bano case
Muslim communalisyts 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 than 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 befriendthe wolf himself?