The emergence of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the
single window of power brokering in New Delhi has given birth to a new
moment for the Congress Party of Sonia Gandhi. Dramatic disaffection among the rank and file in the Gandhi establishment is not due only to humiliating defeat in parliamentary polls held about eight months ago. It is more so because they simply do not know how to transform a defeated reality into a reality of victory. So the pragmatists in the party are in search of ideas that could make their existence relevant in the changed context of political scenario. Once bitten twice shy Congress is now doing the BJP in the state of Karnataka, hopefully to woo the majority community voters. Much to the amusement of the saffron club, the Gandhians claiming the sole selling agency of secularism in India, have launched a frontal organisation called Bharatiya Hindu Parishad (BHP) in the line of BJP’s Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP). They would like to make it an all India exercise anytime soon if the Karnataka experiment succeeds in gaining their lost political ground. VHP doesn’t really represent the sentiments of majority Hindus of India, not to speak of the world. Nor does BHP reflect the agony of all sections of Hindu community across the country.
The Congress Party has all along been championing their secular credentials by loudly shouting against the BJP’s hindutva culture without really attacking the roots of communal polarisation which threatens social integrity and stability. At no point of time they seriously tried to stop recurring communal riots and politics of inequality and discrimination that led to the growth of communal passion in the first place. In a sense they just react to the agenda set by the BJP only to bite dust at the end. The launching scenario of BHP was itself a mirror image of any VHP function as they would offer prayers to Lord Ganesh while chanting ritualistic Sanskrit slokas. With an eye to the State Assembly Election of Karnataka in 2018, they announced their timetable with a lot of fanfare to celebrate the 1000th birth anniversary of the Seer Ramanujacharya by convening a global conference of Iyengar Brahmins in January 2017.
Losing political space continually to BJP, Congress is in a fix as to how to regain what they have lost—credibility to voters—both majority community voters and minority community voters. They have realised with pains that Rahul Gandhi is no answer to saffron aggression. So they want to take on BJP on the latter’s own beaten track. Whether they could succeed or not is altogether a different matter but it is going to complicate further their very survival as a national outfit. The feeling in the Congress is growing that they have been wooing the minority community, rather vainly, at the expense of Hindu votes, thanks to BJP’s relentless minority appeasement propaganda when they were not in power. So it is now BHP vs VHP.
The so-called secular parties, including left parties, in reality, talk of secularism in terms of winning or losing minority community votes. Why BJP is winning election after election, even in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, despite its communal face, remains unanswered. Modi’s development myth is not all that explains the saffron phenomenon. It is not that easy to wipe out age-old social and racial discrimination and mistrust—a legacy left by history—simply by criticising BJP on this issue or that. Appeal of religious orthodoxy in all communities, majority and minority alike, is so overwhelming and deep-rooted that a single spark can always spread like wild communal fire. While the minority community people are tired of hearing their secular rhetoric all the time, majority community people feel no compulsions, moral or otherwise, to subscribe to their vague notion of plurality.
BJP prospered more than ever as inequality surged through the Indian economy. And minorities are the worst victims, both politically and economically of this surge. They face official discrimination everywhere in every field of life—in all South Asian countries. India is no exception. If Indian events get currency and prominence all the time, it is because of its size. In all South Asian countries religion is an added factor to keep minorities in a perpetual state of anxiety. Secularists, particularly the Gandhian variety, present themselves as benevolent feudals who would endlessly talk about equal opportunities and equal rights for all, without any sincere desire to apply the same yardstick to judge equality in practice.
Communalism cannot be fought by continually harping harsh words on the hindutva brigade. Only mass action, rather mass awareness campaign, against a common enemy, domestic or global, has the power to destroy communal virus at the roots. Even elementary education, not to speak of equal economic opportunities, is not provided to all sectors of the society, albeit there is a right to education in place. The parties with secular tag or communal mascot, never raise the question of how to ensure proper implementation of the right to education. Most private and government aided schools, instead of being run with a missionary zeal, have notoriously become centres of profit-earning and corruption. The shortage of various paraphernalia, including lack of proper housing, tables, chairs, toilet and drinking water facilities in schools attended mostly by the children from the minority and underprivileged communities, is a burning issue throughout the country. No, it is not an issue for secularists, they are more interested in debating over the secular-communal divide, preferably in air-conditioned halls or in the corporate media. But secularism without elementary education in this biggest showpiece of democracy is hypocrisy without limitation. There are many issues on the rights front which need to be addressed on a sustained basis. But they don’t bother about them. Having failed to combat BJP on the easy route of secular-communal question, Congress is now trying to ape BJP, to expose its political bankruptcy further by floating Bharatiya Hindu Parishad.
Vol. 47, No. 29, Jan 25 - 31, 2015