When the BJP lost the 15th Lok Sabha polls, many suggested that rather than "RSS-style Hindutva", the party should embrace a "liberal, modernist" outlook.
A year under Nitin Gadkari has seen the party attempt a combination of what was wrongly seen as an "either-or" choice. The recent BJP youth wing yatra to hoist the tricolour in Srinagar exhumed a core ideological agenda of the party – an aggressive integration of Kashmir — but articulated it as the citizen’s "right" to hoist the tricolour.
Clearly, the BJP is resurrecting its Hindutva agendas while couching them in a language of constitutionalism and national pride.
The party has under Gadkari routinely employed broader, inclusive discourses of Antyodaya (welfare of the last man) and "development", and led an "anti-corruption" campaign.
But it has simultaneously articulated its core issues of Ram temple, abrogation of Article 370, and Uniform Civil Code as "constitutional", "nationalist" and "gender-equality" issues. This makes it simultaneously appeal to a wider political constituency while energising the core Hindutva constituency. For, the ‘Muslim’ happens to be an implied impediment to secular, nationalist politics in all these issues.
When required, the party momentarily let the guard down, and Gadkari countered Hindutva terror charges.
The Ekta yatra and the Ayodhya verdict make the party's two-pronged approach clear.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said days back, "The National Flag of India is an assertion of India's national pride and nationalism." Rajnath Singh, too, wrote to President Pratibha Patil: "It is the constitutional right of every individual to celebrate our Republic Day by hoisting our tricolour anywhere on Indian soil."
But when the BJP's youth activists marched across the Ravi bridge from Punjab into Jammu on January 25, the slogan "Jai Shri Ram" was freely employed, making the coexistence of Hindutva and constitutionalism clear. Rather, "pseudo-secularist" Left scholars' opinion was shown to be in conflict with the law.
Similarly, BJP leaders celebrated the Ayodhya verdict as a victory of constitutionalism as also Hindutva, thus arguing that the two did not conflict.