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Signalling a wide

The saffron party's problem is not the Muslims or Christians whom it scorns, but it is the Hindus it woos, writes AG Noorani.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2007 02:31 IST
AG Noorani

The BJP’s problem is not the Muslims or Christians whom it scorns; it is the Hindus it woos. India is not shining, but is very much on the move. The modern Hindu rejects the BJP’s stale mumbo-jumbo of ‘pseudo-secularism’, ‘minorityism’ or ‘minority-appeasement’ and refuses to acquire the complex of a besieged minority. Not for him a national security state with its intolerance of dissent and distrust of NGOs; deep commitment to the faith does not obscure his vision as an Indian; neither blinds him to the fact that the Sangh parivar’s revivalism and obscurantism will only retard the country’s progress.

By shutting its eyes to realities, the BJP has made itself all but unelectable as a ruling party. It has never won more than 25 per cent of the national vote even at the best of times. Even stronger than the message of the stunning defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha, is the drubbing the party got in the UP assembly polls. Fifty-one seats is the BJP’s lowest gain since 1985. Analysts say that the issues that counted were price rise, development, unemployment, corruption, law and order and the like; Ayodhya mattered the least.

In its May 27 issue, the Sangh parivar’s mouthpiece, Organiser, lamented, “Globalisation has diluted the ideological purity of all political parties. This is an era of political churning.” But will the BJP and, indeed, its mentor, the RSS, also undergo the ‘churning’? Unlikely, perhaps impossible. The BJP can’t rethink its ideology in the manner that RA Butler revised the Conservative Party’s ideology after the 1945 debacle and made the party electable.

The BJP is not an ordinary political party. It is a political front of the RSS, which floated the Jan Sangh on October 21, 1951. On January 5, 1952, Jawaharlal Nehru called it the “illegitimate child of the RSS”. In 1980, the Jan Sangh members left the Janata Party rather than spoil their links with the RSS. They revived the Jan Sangh under the false label of the Bharatiya Janata Party on April 5, 1980, in order to claim the legacy of Jayaprakash Narayan and masquerade as the ‘real’ Janata Party.

For sometime, the BJP dithered: now donning one mantle, now another. In 1985, a working group was set up. Its 47-page report recommended that “Gandhian socialism” be replaced by the Jan Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s “integral humanism”, whatever it might mean. AB Vajpayee denied that there was an identity crisis. He asked: “When did we get away from the Jan Sangh?” The BJP clung consistently to the RSS’s credo. Which is why it could not widen its appeal.

LK Advani was acutely conscious of this limitation. In an interview to the RSS organ Panchjanya (Deepavali 1980), he realistically noted: “In India a party based on ideology can at the most come to power in a small area. It cannot win the confidence of the entire country — neither the Communist Party nor the Jan Sangh in its original form.” He explained that the Jan Sangh’s “appeal increased to the extent, the ideology got diluted. Whenever the ideology was strong, its appeal diminished”.

Advani sinned against the light when he opportunistically jumped on the Hindutva bandwagon and raced towards Ayodhya. The debacle in 2004 prompted some to suggest a rethinking of the ideology. The RSS would have none of it. Advani was not the first party president whom it succeeded in ousting from the post. The honour goes to Mauli Chandra Sharma. Raghu Vira’s death saved him. In Rajnath Singh, the RSS has its own man as BJP president. “Since I come from that family, I will seek

its direction,” he said on January 6, 2006, shortly after his election. Two days later the Organiser ridiculed “pundits prescribing the BJP to become a Right-wing tool for power, discarding all ideological baggage”.

Vajpayee’s discerned at the National Council that month a “new beginning” with change (“parivartan”) as the new flavour. Events have belied his prophecy. Rajnath Singh’s appointments to party posts only riveted the RSS control over the BJP. On December 23, 2006, even its constitution was amended to stipulate that only “wholetime workers” (read: RSS pracharaks) should hold certain posts.

And what is the RSS’s message — as well as BJP’s — to modern India? KS Sudarshan, the RSS supremo, predicted at the Shabari Kumbh site at The Dangs on February 12, 2006: “2011 will mark the end of Sankraman Kal for Bharat. We have to prepare ourselves for leadership and because we can’t throw out Muslims and Christians into the sea, we have to Indianise them.” Predictions of the dawn of a golden era in 2011 were repeated in New Delhi on September 18 with a dire warning: “Hindus should awaken and search for their true identity to defeat the asuras (evil forces) who are trying to annihilate their culture.”

None, bar the lunatic fringe, accepts such advice; still less the one he doled out against family planning last December 10: Muslim population is growing faster. India might become a Muslim majority country. “The only way to counter this is to increase the Hindu population.” What inspiration can Hindus draw from such rubbish?

These are not occasional indiscretions but expressions of a coherent antediluvian outlook. Small wonder that Sudarshan lauds the caste system as well. “Everybody has a role,” he said in Bhopal on July 10, 2006. The staying power of the system alone enabled it to withstand the forays made by 700 years of Muslim and English rule. Historically, the caste system had been the most effective guarantor of jobs. The orator went on to attack the growing westernisation of Indian culture. A nuclear holocaust in the next four to five years was imminent. The West and Islam would fight it out and India would emerge as an island of peace and a world power.

Not one BJP leader has ever voiced his disagreement with any of the RSS supremo’s utterances. This paper reported on February 19, 2007, that “a senior Sangh parivar leader” said: “Our aim is to develop a solid Hindu vote-bank by the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. No political party will be able to ignore Hindus’ concerns if it wants to do well in the elections.” This is the real implication of the complaints about “a Muslim vote-bank” — ignore the Muslim vote; keep it an intra-Hindu debate. Else you will have to address Muslims’ grievances, just as, with the enfranchisement of the Blacks in the 1960s, racist candidates in the southern States of the US had to moderate their positions.

The snag here is that the RSS’s notions of “Hindus’ concerns” do not reflect the realities. The modern Hindus’ concerns, for that matter those of all Indians, are about progress in all spheres of national endeavour. The nation will assuredly forge ahead, leaving the backwoodsman of the Sangh parivar to declaim their stale mantras before captive audiences.

But, the BJP is itself a captive of the RSS. It depends on the RSS’s muscle and fared badly in the 1984 elections when the RSS withheld its support. The RSS can survive without the BJP but the party cannot survive without the RSS. And the RSS will not allow the BJP to moderate its plank to make itself electable as a ruling party in its own right.