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BJP’s romance with Secularism

BJP had tested power for the first time at the Centre in 1977 after it had merged itself with the Janata Party on the call of JP Narayan. Of course, the BJP had then existed as a political arm of RSS and by the name of Jansangh. Once Congress returned to power, BJP had to wait a good seventeen years to be able to come to power for a short time in 1996 and then again in 1999 till 2004 led by towering Atal Bihari Vajpayee. However, once it tasted success, it simply forgot that it was a Hindu Nationalist party and tried to project itself as much as possible as a secular party.

Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi may be respected across the globe and the entire political spectrum in India and I see no harm in this, but the fact remains that no “true” Gandhian has ever supported or voted for BJP. It is those who remain concerned about the blatant minority appeasement in name of secularism who have voted for and supported the BJP. Vajpayee Government had given reasonable governance but lost the support of its ideological supporters and lost the 2004 elections and power for the next ten years. During this time, Gujarat BJP leader Narendra Modi was becoming popular among the supporters of Hindutva ideology across the country and among the Hindus across the globe. He carried an image of being non-compromising on Hindutva ideology. His slogan, “Development of All, Appeasement of None” carried a lot of respect among the Hindutva followers. It was this support that propelled him to become the topmost popular BJP face at the national level. Even though Congress led by Sonia Gandhi and the entire liberal secular parties and the secular-liberal media spared no effort towards demonising him, they failed badly to prevent him from becoming the Prime Minister of India in 2014. He left no effort to be fair to the minorities and focus on some pro-poor schemes to strengthen his popularity and even attempted his best to gain acceptance amongst the minorities especially the Muslims. However, in reality, this did not earn him any significant support from the minorities which more or less continued to despise him. However, during the entire first five years tenure of the BJP led NDA Government, support of the Hindu ideological supporters remained almost intact. Some policies like demonetisation and the decision to bring Yogi Adityanath as UP CM further boosted his popularity among the Hindus for whom Hindutva remained an important issue. This was also the reason why he comfortably managed to retain power in the 2019 general elections. The first few months of his second tenure despite some economic setbacks for the country seemed like a dream run for his government for the ideological Hindus. Abrogation of Article 370 and Clause 5A further boosted his popularity among this class of Hindus despite very strong and blind criticism of all secular parties and the entire secular media. This was not the only thing to happen during the first year of his second tenure as PM. The Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement to bring the CAA bill and getting it passed further boosted not only Modi’s image among the Hindutva supporters but also established an image of a tough home minister for Amit Shah. Not only this, the opposition parties were left startled and they indulged in misinformation and protests against the CAA as well as against the abrogation of Article 370!

 

However, a strong protest by the so-called minorities somehow seemed to have weakened the resolve of the Modi-Shah duo to continue being tough. Some bad international press further weakened the resolve of the PM and HM and they appeared to suddenly bend backwards towards appeasement of the minorities. Despite fighting a tough battle on Hindutva lines in West Bengal, the resolve had gone weak somewhere and half-hearted but the full steam poll campaign in West Bengal left the prospective supporters in the state somehow suspect of the BJP and its chances to gain power and hence the BJP failed to get a majority. It could not ensure the consolidation of Hindus as Mamata managed to ensure the consolidation of Muslim votes. She managed to consolidate even traditional Congress and Left supporters from the Muslims in her favour. Thus it became an unequal battle. 35 percent of consolidated votes easily defeated, 70 percent of the divided votes. This should worry a lot of people about what they might have to face in the future across many states. One more factor played its role. In the 2019 general elections, BJP had managed to secure more than 40 percent of the popular votes in West Bengal. However, in the state assembly elections, this voting percentage has come down to 38 percent, whereas almost the entire political support base of the Congress and the Left shifted towards TMC which managed to secure almost 48 percent of the votes cast. Almost a nine percent difference. Why? Also because the BJP despite being in power at the Centre failed to protect its cadre in the run-up to the State Assembly polls. More than 139 party workers were killed in the run-up and the BJP failed to take any tough action against the Mamata Government. This weakness led many prospective BJP supporters to be scared of similar consequences and vote for TMC instead. This weakness of the BJP and its inability to protect its cadres in West Bengal is evident in the ongoing post-poll violence too. Despite large scale violence unleashed by TMC cadres, BJP Government at the Centre has failed to take any strict action against the Mamata Government.

 

Secret ambition of the top BJP leadership to gain acceptance and appreciation of White Intelligentsia in the West and to gain acceptance among the minorities, especially the Muslims will remain a pipedream. Continued efforts of the BJP leadership towards achieving this unachievable goal will only alienate its cadres and supporters in the long run. The party needs to remember that somewhat aggressive Hindutva political sentiment arising out of the Ram Mandir issue and promise of abrogation of Article 370 had propelled the BJP towards retaining power in the secret 2019 general elections. While the Opposition continues to be weak, overturn of political fortunes can happen very quickly. Few political pandits had given any chance of Congress to wrest power in 2004 general elections but it happened. BJP better be wary of any such possibility. Gandhigiri is not going to win any electoral battle for it in the future too!

Author: Arun Pratap Singh

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