After Article 370 And Ram Mandir: Why The BJP Needs An Updated Hindutva Agenda, And Needs It Now
The opposition is out and out antithetical to Hindutva so people are willing to give the BJP room.
However, after delivering on Kashmir and Ram Mandir, the party already finds itself trying to catch up with the other cultural issues that agitate its core support base.
As per Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Hindutva is ‘Sarv Dharma Sambhav’. “Hindutva says ‘Ekam sat, vipra bahudha vadanti’ - truth is one, different people say it differently whether they believe in Quran, Gita, Mahabharata or Ramayan. Who opposes it?”, he said in an interview. Of course, one is not sure whose Hindutva says this.
Some people rightly point out that politicians can’t afford to be philosophers and shouldn’t be criticised for mouthing politically correct platitudes. Unfortunately, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is also not seen as separate from the BJP and they too have to sing the same tune to ‘protect‘ the party, lest it risks entangling it into controversy, like RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat‘s comments on reservations did a few years back.
It’s not my case that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and RSS shouldn’t be excused for verbal confusion to spread the electoral net as far and wide as possible. But the problem arises when that confusion starts to show up in policy making. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what is happening with the BJP. And there is a reason for that.
The BJP kept Hindutva limited to the ’Ram Mandir, Article 370 removal, Uniform Civil Code‘ trio of demands for decades. It was all good and sundry. Until recently. Article 370 has been amended. Ram Mandir is being built. UCC already exists for Hindus. The question now is how to end Sharia raj in civil matters and bring the Muslim community to the twenty-first century. Criminalising instant triple talaq was a step in that direction but a lot more needs to be done.
Nonetheless, the core Hindutva agenda that the party invested in in the past is no longer relevant now. Its ambit needed to be expanded.
The historic victory in the 2019 general elections presented the BJP with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do just that but it seems that the top BJP leadership has been chastened by anti-CAA protests to an extent that it hasn’t even formed the rules for the act after almost two years. The other side has achieved a sort of ideological deterrence.
Even on matters where the party can afford to have a clear stand, it is found dithering and stumbling. If there is no course correction soon, it could well reach that stage where its pronunciations on Hindu interests are not taken seriously.
It can’t miss the signs. Last week itself presented us with two such events that the party must seriously ponder over. First, the way firecracker bans were flouted this Diwali in every village, town and city was a sight to behold. Hindus were not lighting fire to the crackers but also to all the preaching by courts and activists and bans by governments (including the BJP ones).
The second event was the heckling of the former Uttarakhand chief minister in Kedarnath Dham by priests who forced him to leave without having darshan at the temple. Except the party faithful, few felt bad for the man responsible for passing the Char Dham Devasthanam Management act in 2019, intended to control scores of temples in the hill state including the Kedarnath Dham.
The opportunism in promising to free temples in southern states while passing acts to take over temples in the north is not lost on anyone. People understand very well how enthusiastically BJP ruled states ban crackers. The Hindu assertiveness in the Sabarimala temple case should’ve sounded the warning bugle for the party.
Even the Lingayat card played by the Congress to divide the Hindus in Karnataka (giving the community coveted status of ‘minority’) didn’t wake the BJP up to the reality and dangers of minority-majority classification done by the UPA government in its first term.
What Swarajya editorial director R Jagannathan wrote in 2018 rings as true now as it then. “Unfortunately, despite being labelled a Hindu party – a label owed more to its opponents than itself – the BJP does not seem to understand what a Hindu agenda should include beyond periodic assertions about building a Ram temple in Ayodhya.”
Of late, one gets the feeling that it’s the outrage from the Hindu base that is driving the BJP to take some political positions whether it’s the temple control issue or the firecracker ban. Their initial response is often what one would expect from the Congress or regional parties.
The BJP needs to get serious about Hindutva post Ram Mandir and Article 370 and not fumble on every issue. Surely, a party which is in power for the past seven years should have enough intellectual firepower at its disposal to come out with a clear response on issues of civilisational import.
PM Modi called minority-only schemes of the centre as ‘communal budgeting’ when he was Gujarat chief minister but he has been faithfully implementing the same schemes since 2014. That’s disingenuous.
Despite repeated complaints from the base about the toxicity in school textbooks, a former minister boasted of not changing a single sentence. The party wants to free temples in one state where it’s not in power, perhaps to win elections, while it takes over temples in those states where it’s in the government.
The party base believes what happened in Sabarimala is nothing short of sacrilege and is constantly irritated by the way Indian state (and courts have a big blame to take here) treats Hindu festivals (remember how it stopped Kanwar Yatra due to Covid-19 but didn’t put such restrictions on Bakrid), and by the constant meddling in other customs, whether it’s raising animal rights concern over Jallikattu or deciding heights of pyramids during Dahi Handi and on and on it goes.
Still, the BJP doesn’t take an official stand, let alone devise policies or come up with constitutional solutions to put an end to these cultural assaults.
What is the party’s stand on Halal economy, for example? Even European countries have brought laws to put a leash on the way slaughterhouse industry works. But this issue apparently doesn’t concern the lone Hindutva party.
Some states have put in place strict anti-cow slaughter, anti-conversion laws but conviction rates therein are almost non existent, as if the idea is to just tick some items off the chart. Nonetheless, at least on these issues, one must credit the party for taking a stand. On the rest, the BJP has left the field open. It does not even appear interested in taking them up.
By the time of the seventy-fifth anniversary of independence next year, one fervently hopes for a change and expects that the party will invest resources in coming up with a credible response that eventually translates into effective policies and laws. The opposition is out and out antithetical to Hindutva so people are willing to give the BJP room. But it mustn’t keep treating the problem itself as inconsequential.
If it can create one of the greatest election winning machines, it can surely setup an institutional framework within the party (even if unofficially) involving senior as well as young leaders, ministers, policy and law experts, Sangh representatives so that it doesn’t get blindsided all the time.
Thanks to the opposition which is antithetical to Hindutva, the party has time and people are willing to give it the benefit of doubt. But it must act. Otherwise, there is a serious threat to the idea of Hindutva itself.
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