Ever since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, ‘Democracy is in danger,’ has become an oft-repeated phrase of Congress. Rahul Gandhi, the owner of ‘Mohabbat ki dukan’ even repeated it abroad.
This piece argues that if democracy is facing any danger in India, it’s not due to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or ‘Hindutva.’ Rather, it is the Congress’s attempt to side with the ideologies of a marginalised Left and ignore the sentiments of the majority that has deprived electoral democracy of much-needed competition.
The BJP returned to power in 2019 with a bigger mandate than in 2014, and in 2024, they may corner even more seats. The credit for that should be divided between Modi’s leadership and the Congress’ weakness
By refusing to attend the inauguration of Ram Temple in Ayodhya on January 22, the Congress has not only missed the chance to get back to the Indian nationalist mainstream, which was once their identity, they have also made the return that much more difficult.
This decision by Rahul’s Congress revived the memories of his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi, misusing his super-majority in the Parliament and overturning the Supreme Court verdict for maintenance of divorced Muslim women, in 1985.
The Supreme Court verdict was a golden opportunity to restore secularism by taking the country towards a uniform civil code, which the Hindu majority has been demanding for ages. Rajiv Gandhi denied that opportunity in favour of appeasing Islamists and then, to offset that, oversaw the opening of the locks of the Ram Temple inside the erstwhile Babri structure (the new temple was built at the same site following a Supreme Court order in 2019).
Both the decisions were driven by communal intent and were contrary to his carefully-crafted image of a reformist Prime Minister. But even on that front, and with 414 out of 525 seats in his pocket, he didn’t reform the Indian economy but left its coffers dry.
On the Congress’ refusal to attend the 22 January event in Ayodhya, noted columnist Shekhar Gupta said, “Congress missed a Ram given opportunity.” He blames it on ideological confusion in the party.
Here’s that confusion: to accept the national culture of India or to keep one’s loyalty towards what is described as ‘Nehruvian secularism’.
India belongs to its citizens irrespective of religion but, its core culture belongs to the ancient civilisation. When Britishers give citizenship to an Indian or Pakistani, do they expect Britain to be converted into a Pakistan? Shouldn’t British culture prevail? Then why blame Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for insisting on Indianness?
And if you blame RSS, why don’t you blame Jawaharlal Nehru for adopting the Indian Constitution back in 1949 with Article 48 which ended up putting restrictions on cow slaughter?
The original Constitution didn’t have the word “secular” in the preamble. It was included by Indira Gandhi during her dictatorial rule between 1975 and 1977. She did it to appease the communist Soviet Russia and its moles in the country.
If Rahul’s Congress promotes democracy, then why does his party not propose to take the Indian Constitution back to where it was before 1975 when democracy prevailed?
Does Congress mean that Nehru was less secular? Or, does it mean that the original Constitution valued the secular, democratic culture of the majority? If so, why keep teaching secularism to the majority?
In all of this, the most objectionable stance of the party is their repeated attempts to malign Indian democracy because Indians are electing and re-electing Modi’s BJP.
This is as good as labelling the majority as anti-democratic and religious bigots. Will this majority trust Congress hereafter? And Congress will not get the minority community either.
The existence of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh depends on Muslim votes. Congress allied with them. Both are treating Congress as a marginal player.
On the other hand, Modi’s BJP is delivering both politically and economically.
During its inception in the 1980s, BJP sold the dream of the Ram Temple, the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, and the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The first two were achieved in 2019. UCC might be a reality in Modi’s third term.
The court ruling on Ayodhya revived the hopes of removing the mosques—built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb by demolishing sacred Hindu temples—at the holy cities of Varanasi and Mathura.
There is enough indication that the BJP will not press Mandir-Masjid issues beyond that.
The newly built Ram Mandir has revived the lost pride of the majority who suffered cultural humiliation during the Islamic rule without any recourse to it, until recently.
The BJP is now keen to use the nationalist energy in economic growth. Modi’s call for making India a developed country in 2047, in the 100th year of Independence, indicates a shifting of gears.
Indians take his call seriously, because they have witnessed the unprecedented pace of reforms and infrastructure-building during the last 10 years.
The question is, what does Congress have on offer other than creating ruckus in the Parliament, blaming voters for electing Modi, recklessly undoing fiscal reforms in states, and proposing to divide Hindu votes in the name of caste census?
The padayatras did not and will not bring votes. Rahul Gandhi could have better spent his time on the road learning what Modi did right for India. Scholars from the Muslim-majority world are spending a great deal of energy on that.
A Bangladeshi scholar – who makes repeated trips to India - notes that the sentiments for ‘Hindutva’ are no more as strong, as it was before the 2019 Supreme Court verdict. He had last visited UP, the epicentre of the Mandir-Masjid debate, three months ago.
His observation is correct and confirms the sound reasoning behind Modi’s call for "India 2047". The majority of this country are no fools. They neither support religious bigotry nor do they accept the dilution of democratic values.
They don’t give a free pass to BJP in states, where there are alternatives. But when it comes to national elections, they have no alternative.
The more Congress maligns Indian democracy and neglects majority sentiments, the more it will suffer, and the more Indian democracy will turn into a one-player contest.
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