The Strategy of Action

Just before assembly polls in five states and the parliamentary elections next year the saffron club seems to be talking in multiple voices, ostensibly in a calculated move to confuse voters. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is trying to distance itself from the hard hindutva agenda, RSS, however, is showing more aggressive postures by reviving the Ram temple issue. Politics of temple is a nice device to keep people bogged down in the quagmire of ignorance and irrationality. In the south it is Sabarimala and in the north Lord Ram is back in business again. Religious prejudices are so strong in this land of blind believers that even leftist parties think twice before implementing a rational court judgement. In truth they are hesitant, if not reluctant, to take position on all contending religious disputes that affect contemporary Indian society. With Kerala on boil over the entry of women into Sabarimala temple, the massive destruction caused by unprecedented floods is already a secondary issue though people of Kerala are yet to recover from the shock. All political parties are playing it safe by not antagonising the Sabarimala protesters though they know it well how orthodox hindu fanatics with their upper caste bias are pulling the strings from behind the scene. It remains to be seen whether they translate it into vote. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, however, downplayed their role in the recent flare-up in Kerala over temple entry. But Bhagawat dwelt at length on varied topics starting from barbaric Babar to 'urban maoism' in his customary annual Dussera speech. In his all important Nagpur deliberation that lasted 90 minutes, Bhagawat mentioned Ram 15 times to be followed by 'urban maoism' 9 times and Babar 6 times. They are now asking the Centre controlled by the BJP to enact a 'proper law' (or an Ordinance) so that they could build Ram temple without any legal hassle. The demand for Ordinance was vociferously raised after the apex court fixed the Ayodhya hearing for the first week of January. This is a good staple for electioneering. By repeatedly dubbing Babar as the destroyer of Ram temple the RSS chief sent a clear message to saffron foot soldiers that election this time would be fought on the demand of early construction of Ram temple. It was also a message to the minority community that they would have to reconcile themselves with the RSS reality.

Rumour has it that they have a plan to launch agitation to change the name of Faizabad with a view to making the Temple a total game changer in the coming polls. With economic decline showing no sign of reversal Temple seems to be the only option before BJP to face aggrieved voters and divert public attention. To defend their temple crusade the killers of Gandhi now find virtue in Gandhi's experiment on truth and spirituality. Gandhi apart, Mohan Bhagawat pinned too much hope on Netaji as he would narrate elaborately how Subhas Chandra Bose went out of the country and awakened self-respect among imprisoned Indian soldiers in South East Asia and founded independent India's first government working in exile. It was not a mere coincidence that after Bhagwat prime minister Modi went a step further seeking to claim the legacy of Netaji by unfurling the Tricolour at Red Fort on October 21 to mark the 75th anniversary of 'Azad Hind Government' while attacking the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty for their deliberate policy to ignore contribution of Subhas Bose and see the country through 'British glasses'. Modi's sudden love for Netaji and his INA is in line with the Nagpur script of Bhagwat—they are out to assimilate as many icons as possible to make them look nationalist which they were not at no point of time. Whether Nataji can help them win a few seats in Bengal is a different matter but Bengal electoral calculus behind their praise for Netaji at this juncture cannot be dismissed so lightly. Their tactical move is too clever by half—it won't work. Bose's provisional government and INA truly reflected diversity and plurality of India and the Modis will be in trouble if they are asked to hold high the banner of unity in diversity. Not for nothing Ambedkar featured in Bhagwat's speech 7 times. It's a sheer hypocrisy that they are eulogising Ambedkar while allowing their vigilante groups to lynch dalits and deny them right to life. And Bhagwat had something for Sikhs as well as he would invoke Nanak 4 times in his speech. He didn't however explain why Nanak's liberalism is pole apart from their orthodox hindutva.

He came down heavily on 'urban maoism', for obvious reasons. He specially targeted intellectuals: 'One writes a book, another publishes, third praises it, fourth researches further and so on—a network of thousands of such people created'. The Centre has already started a witch hunt to stifle any voice of dissent in the name of combating urban naxals(or maoists). An Indian variant of McCarthyism is very much in operation in today's India and Bhagwat's reminder about urban maoists is actually a threat to whatever remains of democratic space. Writers, artists, poets, professionals, students, teachers, lawyers---nobody is safe in Modi's authoritarian regime. Pakistan was lucky in the sense that Bhagwat's Pakistan-bashing didn't get priority, it was routine. Price rise is not an issue but 'urban maoism' is. The Opposition has lost the edge they once had because of Modi's notorious policy of demonetisation and digitisation, including the job-eating GST.

Vol. 51, No.18, Nov 4 - 10, 2018