The BJP, it would seem, does not lack for unsolicited advice or self-styled well-wishers. With the Ved Pratap Vaidik-Hafiz Saeed row still unresolved, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s chief patron, Ashok Singhal, has waded into a new controversy with his remarks on Muslims among other things. He is exultant that the BJP has won without the support of Muslims and sees in this a signal to the minority community to respect Hindu sentiment. Mr Singhal, preoccupied as he is with ushering in a golden Hindu Rashtra, seems to have missed the fact that the BJP got just above 30% of the vote share. This means that a sizeable number of Hindus did not vote for the party. He speaks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an ‘ideal swayamsevak’ who will deliver on the Hindutva agenda. This can only be of embarrassment to Mr Modi if he at all takes Mr Singhal seriously. Gratuitous comments that Muslims should give up claims to Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura in return for love from the Hindus can only give the party a bad name, since he claims to speak on behalf of it.
Both the prime minister and then party president Rajnath Singh made efforts to reach out to the Muslim community during the elections and did not make any distinction between the minority and majority community. Now, Mr Singhal, and his outfit, may want to interpret the election results as some sort of consolidation of the Hindu vote. But he forgets that the BJP’s main plank was development, something the prime minister has reiterated time and again after assuming office. These fringe elements seem to have taken the BJP’s coming to power as a licence to express their retrograde agendas. The BJP must make it very clear that such views don’t enjoy any legitimacy in its eyes and urge the likes of Mr Singhal to keep their opinions to themselves.
The ‘acche din’ that the prime minister speaks of is not based on exclusion of any Indian citizen. It is inclusive and based on ushering in a better quality of life. But the BJP cannot allow Mr Singhal’s views to go unchallenged as it will open the Pandora’s box for other Right-wing fringe elements to contribute their two-penny worth to this divisive discourse. The Constitution, not sentiment, can be the only guide to ruling India, much as Mr Singhal may not want this to be so. The BJP’s win is not a blow to Muslims, it is a triumph of the will of the people. If Mr Singhal’s views were held by the majority of Indians, the VHP would be a force to reckon with in Indian politics. It is not.