Hindu Nationalist vs Nationalist Hindu
The new idiom of secular vs communal fight
It is Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s self-perceived Prime Ministerial hopeful Mr Narendra Modi’s “Hindu Nationalist” versus Congress Communication wing head Mr Ajay Maken’s “Nationalist Hindu”. These may look to be mere semantics. But semantics do matter particularly during an election year and that too in a diverse country such as India.
The two descriptions reflect the two ideologies and two mindsets which have been in a constant tussle over the past few decades. The “Nationalist Hindu” thought always had the better of the other view. It has been amply manifested in the continuous failure of certain fringe elements to make any headway with political parties floated in the name of Hindus or Muslims.
But Mr Modi’s overzealousness to portray himself as his party’s Prime Ministerial nominee threatens to make the debate sharper this time than ever before. In the context of India’s religious and cultural diversities, his remark,” I am a Hindu nationalist” is more dangerous and needs to be read with contempt. There is nothing wrong to be a devout Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or a Christian and still believe in the basic principles of plurality which is the hallmark of Indian democracy. But not in the case of Mr Modi and his ilk who have their plans well crafted and designs well cut.
It is unbelievable that Mr Modi’s is motley unaware of the political fall-out of his remark. But fact of the matter remains that he is proverbially sailing in the two boats: His hardcore Hindutava agenda on the one side and burning political ambition to climb to the top on the other hand.
In the context of the Indian democracy this is nothing short of a dichotomous situation. But in Mr Modi’s case the dichotomy is manifold. It has some more connotations than a visible clash between his ideological beliefs and political ambitions. His utterances have caused as much consternation within the BJP as glee for his political rivals (read other parties).
Mr Modi is aware that his attempts to polarise majority community will not have an overwhelming affect on the BJP’s electoral prospects to ensure Prime Ministerial berth for him. But his move to harp on the Hindu Nationalist agenda is meant more to address the RSS top bosses. Perhaps, he has realised that to have an upper hand in the star-studded BJP led by old warhorse Mr L K Advani, he has no option but to speak in the tone and tenor dear to the Sangh if he has to have a firm grip on the party network.
Nevertheless, it is going to be a long haul for Mr Modi. The diktats from Nagpur, the RSS headquarters, can help him in having an upper hand within the BJP and silence his critics opposed to his style of functioning. But given the waning influence of RSS across the country, the outfit has a very limited role to ensure their new found icons success in the general elections.
Modi’s remark – ‘I am a Hindu nationalist’ – is more dangerous in the context of India’s unified and democratic consciousness. It is squarely meant to get closer to the RSS and in turn the latter views it as an opportunity to take control of BJP’s affairs which had been slipping out of their hand even in the post-Vajpayee era with Mr Advani, the champion of Ram Janam Bhoomi movement, repeatedly questioning the saffron outfits tendency at backseat driving the BJP.
It is a do or die battle even for the RSS. It is now or never for them also. With Vajpayee era in the backdrop when the RSS influence was curtailed to a large extent and growing tendency of the other BJP leaders to question the hegemonies tendencies of the Sangh, Nagpur will never like the BJP to follow the path shown by Mr Vajpayee and later Advani’s attempts to tread on the same route to dilute the party’s Hindutva image.
Mr Modi’s “I am a Hindu nationalist” remark needs to be read in this context. The BJP national executive at Goa endorsed the need to revert to Hindutva agenda though publicly it is still shying away to talk in clear terms. These developments have definitely satisfied the RSS which wants the party, to follow a policy which is synonymous with its Hindu identity.
Mr Maken’s “Nationalist Hindu” counter is a clever attempt to take on Mr Modi without antagonizing the majority community and at the same time hold on to the Congress’ secular thought process. In fact, the attempt is to drawn battle lines between a Mr Modi the Right Wing Hindu hardliner and Congress the champion of secularism.
The debate is poised to become sharper and shriller in the days to come. It is more so after the Congress has suddenly decided to come out of its shell and selectively take on the Gujarat Chief Minister. The more Mr Modi and his close aide Mr Amit Shah play themselves as the champions of Hindutava, they will provide more opportunities for the Congress to hit back. Mr Modi’s unwarranted puppy and burqa references have already done the trick for Congress.
He has unknowingly fallen in the Congress trap after these utterences. But such situations might not occur again as Mr Modi is an astute politician who has no qualms in using every letter in the dictionary to hit at his rivals. Buoyed by their new found media strategy, the Congress leaders will still have to tread cautiously as the onus to checkmate Mr Modi and ensure that slanging match does not lead to a communal situation will squarely lie on the grand old party.
In this season of elections, it is but natural for the political parties and their leaders to score brownie points. But in doing so they should not lose sight of the fact that it should in no way affect the unity and diversity of the country. The political ambitions should not override the broader national interests. And nothing, at all, should be done that disturbs the communal harmony.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 21 Jul 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 21 Jul 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 22 Jul 2013 00:00:00 IST
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