Despite 22 years of incumbency, and GST and demonetisation, among other factors, that the BJP has pulled off a victory shows that this win is one for the social harmony experiment of Hindutva over the divisive Nehruvian politics.
The establishment media has always referred to Gujarat as “the experiment lab” of Hindutva – particularly after the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots which followed the burning of 52 Hindu pilgrims, mostly women and children, by a Muslim mob in Godhra. It was a calculated attempt to create an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fear psychosis in the minds of religious minorities.
The truth is the other way around. One of the reasons why Gujarat became a BJP fortress is because of the Nehruvian experiment carried out by the Congress. In a way, the experiment itself was an older one. It had been one of the favoured British strategies employed against the Indian freedom movement – creating a caste- or religion-based division in society that would wear the social justice mask and also serve the British interest. The larger narrative that the British created was that the national movement for independence was that of ‘caste Hindus’.
Consider the quote below. See how it could have been taken from any of the mainstream-media opinion-editorials on Modi and BJP, which have been published from the hallowed pages of the New York Times to any of the opinion-editorials from the “intellectuals” of the establishment variety.
BJP is the only 100 percent, full blooded, uncompromising example of undiluted Fascism in the modern world. ... Just as every Nazi is a superman, so every Brahmin is ‘Bhudeva’, which means ‘God on earth’. And BJP and RSS are of course, predominantly Brahmin organizations. Secondly it is Fascist in practice. It is a Modi dictatorship ... German ‘Heil Hitler’ has a striking equivalent in Indian Modiji. ... The resemblance between Modi and Hitler are of course legion.
Only the quote was not about Modi and is not from after 2014. The original quote was from a book published in London in 1944 and none other than Churchill recommended the book to his near and dear ones if they wanted to understand India. Nevertheless, the quote was about another national figure of Gujarati origin. Here is the real quote, unedited:
Congress is the only 100 percent, full blooded, uncompromising example of undiluted Fascism in the modern world. ... Just as every Nazi is a superman, so every Brahmin is ‘Bhudeva’, which means ‘God on earth’. And Congress is of course, predominantly Brahmin organization. Secondly it is Fascist in practice. It is a Gandhi dictatorship ... German ‘Heil Hitler’ has a striking equivalent in Indian Gandhiji. ... The resemblance between Gandhi and Hitler are of course legion.
Soon after independence, just as the Congress inherited the British colonial infrastructure for administration, it also inherited the deeply anti-Hindu strategy of ‘divide and rule’ of the British and reinvented it as vote-bank politics. The notorious KHAM (Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim) formula was invented by the Congress and implemented through policies which kept society fractured and fragmented so that it could be easily managed as a specific vote bank through communal middlemen. The middlemen did get rich and powerful while the community was kept under the victimhood mentality so that whenever an election came, they would vote as a community for the Congress. This blatantly communal approach to politics resulted in massive riots which began in February 1985 and lasted till October that year.
That started the downfall of the Congress. After the 2002 riots, the academic-activist cottage industry started fabricating the discourse that the anti-reservation riots were engineered by the Sangh and the BJP. However, a closer look at those times not only shows this to be untrue but provides a remarkable insight into how the Sangh approached the problem.
The most curious aspect is that the Sangh and its affiliates were for reservations, or the affirmative programme. The crucial difference had to do with their mindset. While for the Congress and other Nehruvian parties, reservations were a tool for creating vote banks and stoking fear and insecurity, for the Sangh it was the overall empowerment of Hindu society. Here is an eyewitness account of how the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) approached the reservation problem then, when the issue was a burning problem in Gujarat:
The problem of reservations had became a delicate and sensitive issue. Gujarat, a Western state of India witnessed a big agitation against the Reservation policy in 1981. A meeting of the ‘All India Delegates’ of the RSS took place in March that year. The issue of agitations in Gujarat inevitably came up in the meeting. The workers from Gujarat had become high strung on the issue. When Resolution justifying reservations came up for discussion at the meeting, every word of it was subjected to minute scrutiny. Many representatives opined that the Resolution was hasty, and likely to evoke adverse reaction in a large section of the people. Swayamsevaks from Gujarat understandably were naturally were unhappy. I was intently listening to the discussions. In view of so much opposition from workers, I was worried and felt the resolution would not go through. But it did. Sarsanghachalak Balasaheb Deoras was calm but attentive at the meeting. After debate was over, the meeting broke for tea. When the meeting resumed, Balasaheb Deoras said, “I have heard the discussion in the meeting. I have understood that Many amongst us are not in favour the of Resolution. I request you all to imagine yourself in the place of those for whom the Reservations are meant. Try to enter their minds and see the present condition of those of our brethren, who have been neglected for hundreds of years. Understand their feelings. Then only take your decision.” After his speech, there was hardly any discussion and the Resolution was passed. The Sangh had officially endorsed the Reservations.Ramesh Patange, ‘Manu, Sangh and I’, 1994
So here is what seems like a paradox. The people of Gujarat, who were dismayed with the Congress for their vote-bank politics, started siding with the Sangh and the BJP, who also supported reservations. The answer is that Sangh organisations over decades have worked with various marginalised communities, bringing to them medical and educational services. Unlike the vote-bank politics and missionary proselytising, which in exchange for the so-called empowerment also alienated them from the rest of society as a price for vested interests, the Sangh’s work integrated them with the rest of society with dignity and respect.
The programmes of the BJP like the Ram Rath Yatra from Somnath (1990) and Ekta Yatra (1991) further consolidated Hindu society across caste divides. While Advani’s Rath Yatra started from Gujarat, a youth leader from the state prominently accompanied Dr Joshi in his Ekta Yatra to hoist the national flag in Sri Nagar Lal Chowk – Narendra Modi. Gujarat under Modi had to face intense negative campaigns after 2002. The people of the state were collectively stereotyped in negative ways in the media. Modi responded to the slanderous campaign with an emphasis on development, which he positioned as all-inclusive development. However, the Nehruvian campaign always took the negative line, like ‘merchant of death’, which Modi eventually turned in his favour. His ability to deliver on development and the political acumen to detect and expose the elitist dynasty chauvinism of Nehruvian politics always helped him immensely in elections, and he became invincible and unstoppable, ultimately becoming the prime minister.
After becoming the prime minister, Modi’s bold steps to cleanse the system – demonetisation, GST, and so on – definitely would not have been very comfortable to a highly business-centric society like Gujarat. Meanwhile, the Congress and the old establishment media started cultivating a broad alliance of casteist leaders from various segments of society. The Patels and Dalits were the obvious targets. It is interesting how similar the tactics of the Nehruvians are to those of the British. The British too often appealed to both the ‘Dalit’ and the ‘orthodox’ leaderships against the movement for freedom.
The Congress, deciding to play the caste card against Hindu unity in Gujarat, started soon after the 2002 elections. For example, a reporter for Rediff.com wrote about 2007 Gujarat elections, admiring “the confusion created by the Congress’s smart move to play the caste card against the Modi card”. By 2017, the Congress and pro-Nehruvian media cultivated a group of young leaders who could cater to the caste elements in their communities against overall Hindu social harmony.
The old media “pundits” who always speak disdainfully of ‘caste Hindus’, now spoke of these casteist leaders as ‘caste cowboys’. Overnight, casteists became ‘social activists’. The Congress entering into an alliance with them was projected as “one of the astute moves” by Rahul Gandhi. The Congress did not hesitate to play the so-called ‘soft Hindutva’ card as well, calling themselves Shiv bhakt. Like the alien invader Mihirakula before him, who tried to win over Indians by proclaiming himself to be a Shiva bhakt, the princeling of the Maino Reich visited temples while also signing the visitors’ book meant for non-Hindus. The Congress simultaneously called their prince to be crowned as a ‘twice-born Hindu’ while Mani Shankar Iyer, a Tamil Brahmin and Nehruvian, called Modi ‘neech’ – a subtle hint at the humble origins of Modi.
Earlier, Iyer had said Modi could never become a prime minister and that he could be invited to serve tea in the Congress conventions. This is not an exception in Nehruvian discourse. Nehru himself had a distaste for ordinary Indians. Then journalists interestingly admired Nehru for this aristocratic behaviour. One Tamil journalist covering the Tripura Congress conference where Nehru was challenged by Bose, wrote that when he saw Nehru threatening a journalist, he became Nehru’s admirer for a lifetime! So it is not puzzling when the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee leader handpicked by Sonia, recently abused Modi of lacking the personality and skin tone of Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi.
Overall, Nehruvian politics is similar to British politics. The “enlightened” British race ruled over “barbaric” Hindus, making them civilised and, in the process, extracting their wealth back into England. For the “good” of Indians themselves, they used the ‘divide and rule’ policy. The “enlightened” Nehruvian dynasty similarly rules over the yet-to-be civilised Hindus, preparing them eternally for a real democracy. Meanwhile, to keep them subdued for their own good, they use caste vote banks. Corruption is, of course, the price Indians pay for a dynasty which is working through generations to civilise and convert Hindus.
And a chaiwala dares to challenge the dynasty?
So, they want to see this as best as an aberration. They believe Hindutva is only emotional and hence temporary and ephemeral. Soft Hindutva is to pose as ceremonially Hindu to appeal to the communal Hindu so that the political Hindu and hence real Hindutva can be defeated. Nehruvian politics, like British politics, is to highlight the caste divides while at the same time utilise them for vote-bank politics and deepen them as much as possible – till Hindus either get converted or choose to forego the Hindu identity.
On the other hand, Hindutva in Gujarat seems to have outgrown the emotional unity phase. While the caste rhetoric definitely has had an effect, Hindutva politics in the state seems to have brought in the Scheduled Communities and Tribes into the BJP fold. This is the greatest achievement of Hindutva in Gujarat. Despite 22 years of incumbency, and GST and demonetisation – very unpopular moves for the business community, at least in the short term – and with caste-based fracturing, that the BJP has pulled off a victory shows that this win is one for the social harmony experiment of Hindutva over the divisive Nehruvian politics.
But then, this is only the beginning. One can expect more caste-based atrocity stories from Gujarat in the media. While ‘caste Hindu’ leaders like Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor, who have no love lost for the Scheduled Communities, will be aggressively promoted in Gujarat, the same media and political forces would market Jignesh Mevani as the international Dalit poster boy against Modi. One need not be surprised if he becomes invited across India in academic-activist circles and even to international seminars, to defame India. It is precisely this onslaught that Hindutva, and Modi, will have to face in the future, particularly en route to 2019.