Mainstreaming Hindutva over victories in states

By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal. Dated: 2/16/2020 1:47:59 AM


Delhi assembly election verdict makes one sit up and think - not only about what it can be interpreted as but what purpose the BJP's aggressive, Islamophobic and vitriolic campaign was aimed to achieve. Has the BJP gone insane? After a drubbing in Jharkhand and Maharashtra or having been saved by a whisker in Haryana, the Delhi results show that the party which romped home a massive victory in May 2019 has lost the plot. That may be only on the surface.
In these four assembly elections, two of which were held simultaneously in November last, BJP under Narendra Modi has been consistent in pivoting its election strategy around high-pitched jingoism, Pakistan bashing and Islamophobia. Clearly, these have not worked to the advantage of the BJP electorally. However, election after election, the feverish pitch has only increased. In fact, in the Delhi elections, an exhortation to violence with high-pitched calls for "Goli maaro…." and discourse of all opponents being traitors and pro-terrorism struck a new low in the brazenly communal political discourse in the country. Certainly, BJP cannot be blind to the fact that its venomous Hindutva rhetoric reached its saturation point in May 2019 and has no selling potential thereafter. It is unlikely that the party in power is simply in a denial mode.
In most likelihood, as the dust of Delhi polls settles, the BJP will be back in business further sharpening its divisive politics and lacing it with high-pitched and jarring fury of hatred. There is indeed some calculated method in this, the outcome of which may take a while to become apparent.
From the 2014-pretence of development, economy and 'sabka saath sabka vikaas', BJP has moved a long way - a pathway littered with mob lynchings, creating war frenzy, building perceptions about vilified Muslims and encouraging attacks on Kashmiri Muslims in the wake of Pulwama attack. The tone and tenor of such rhetoric that seeks inspiration from the core ideology of the RSS to establish a Hindu rashtra was accelerated during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls campaigning. The pace has been on the rise since then and so are the actions taken in consonance with BJP's deep-rooted Islamophobia - abrogation of Article 370, Citizen Amendment Act and National Population Register, which is said to be a prelude to the National Register of Citizens. The slew of assembly elections since 2019 show that there are limits to the appeal of this brazen form of Hindutva, though it is also true that assembly polls and parliamentary polls are guided by different sets of issues. The sustained and impressive campaign against CAA in various parts of the country, not only by Muslims but also joined in by other liberal and secular thinking people including activists, academics, politicians, students and ordinary people, further corroborates to the fact that an aggressive Hindutva jargon with venomous injections of hatred cannot ride rough shod over the secular values that a vast chunk of Indian society still holds on to.
It would then seem suicidal to view the rash manner in which BJP is rolling its Hindutva juggernaut with no brakes or stops. The only plausible explanation then is: Winning elections may have been BJP's prime goal during Modi's first tenure as prime minister. In Modi 2.0, the priority has now shifted from winning the states to retaining the hold of Hindutva and mainstreaming it, broad-basing it and making it more acceptable through a process of normalization. Like the Goebbelian truth, according to which by repeating a lie a hundred times would make it convincingly sound the truth, the BJP hopes to make its jarring hatred look like an epitome of politeness and piety by continuously injecting the poisoned rhetoric of hate again and again in successively stronger doses. The marketing strategy this time is less pivoted around polls but more on selling the Hindu rashtra idea.
Enjoying a brute majority in the parliament, for the BJP the significance of winning state elections has already lost some relevance. At the centre, the party has the power, which it is brutally exercising, to bring in slew of amendments that are gradually hollowing out the Indian constitution along with a policy of intolerance that is weakening all institutions. The existing lacunae in the constitutional structure provided by Article 356, which renders Indian federalism weak, has been used to give greater sinew to the centralist control. The actions in Jammu and Kashmir of robbing its special status, statehood and its bifurcation into two union territories have not only destroyed India's asymmetric federalism but have also set a dangerous precedent that could restrain the autonomy of other states. Security and national interest can be so easily turned into weapons to replicate the Jammu and Kashmir model anywhere else in the country in pursuance of centralised control and the ultimate fulfilment of the complete Hindutva agenda.
That goal can be defeated by the opposition by not only eying the states in the battle of hustings but also by providing an alternate national vision - one that is unapologetic about liberal and secular values.



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