A spectre is haunting India. Like the ghost of the variety that Karl Marx once wrote about, this spectre, too, is born of a crisis: that of encountering a UPA-made wreckage. And the need of the hour being pitched is to borrow from the ‘spirits of the past’, of the sleeves-rolled-up optimism of post-Independence years. This 2014 spectre harks forward to a post-Nehruvian nation-building project.
The comparisons—between a Narendra Modi manifesto and a Communist one, as well as Modi’s vision with Nehru’s original one—are understandably odious for all. The nostalgia-driven votaries of the Congress and the Left see a ‘Modi sarkar’ as apocalypse, while those praying for a golden age see this ‘older lot’ as a paranoid roadblock driven by class scorn. But the hyper-nationalism that BJP strews around is invested with the same radical energy that homespun socialism once was.
The BJP’s attempt to create a kind of post-globalisation zeitgeist has been successful. The latest spectre rides on the engine of ‘strength’, pitted against the ‘weakness’ that the UPA government radiates. As ‘coalition compulsions’, ‘global slowdown’ and ‘policy paralysis’ became buzz-words for the current dispensation, a Modi-led NDA as the builder of unfinished ‘temples of industry’ gained ground.
But in this latest invocation of the need to release ‘animal spirits’, the collective is, once again, set to subsume every other entity perceived to stand in its way. Like Marx’s original “Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police spies” ganging up to exorcise the spectre of Communism, liberals and intellectuals, Sonia and Third Frontists, Muslim appeasers and AAP anarchists are all seen to be conspiring against the inevitable greatness of India.
Last week, the BJP reprimanded Giriraj Singh, its Lok Sabha nominee from Bihar’s Nawada, for telling a crowd, “Those who have united...to stop Narendra Modi from becoming prime minister are pro-Pakistan. They have no right to live in India.” Rajnath Singh was quick to reiterate that the BJP believes in the politics of “justice and humanity” and reportedly asked Singh to “refrain” from making such remarks. One wonders what voters are to make of the BJP leadership’s assurances even as people like Giriraj and his colleagues remain near polling booths on election day.
Such ‘vote for us or else’ manoeuvres tell us as much about the newly-recovered radicalism in the BJP, as it does about how ground-level politics works in India. In the same week, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav threatened contractual government teachers in UP to either vote for his party or risk losing their jobs. But what marks the BJP out from parties issuing threats—or from corporations like Reliance who counter criticism with lawsuits and media gags—is its quiet dependence on the numerically and vocally impressive Modi fanbase.
‘Mad, bad and dangerous’ reactions to the polarising issues of ‘Muslim appeasement’, the Uniform Civil Code, Article 370, Ayodhya, ‘Hindu pride’ and the Gujarat riots have now become applicable to counterviews to—or even queries into—any of Modi’s grand schemes for a ‘strong’ India. This broadening of interest from sectarian and national security matters to issues like infrastructure, economy and employment is a good thing. But in all this push, there is one constant: the conflation of ‘being decisive’ with ‘being right’.
India is used to intellectual arguments being hijacked by knife-fights. But the brazen way in which critics of Modi are being intimidated is an aspect of any future NDA government that Modi and his enforcers must address. Tut-tutting these voices away as fringe nutcases may work as electoral strategy-cum-damage control, but it makes bad sense in a political landscape bound to be less unipolar. Regardless of whether Pravin Togadia rallied people in Bhavnagar to “evict Muslims from Hindu neighbourhoods” to make Modi’s ‘development for all’ agenda look like a Trojan horse, many Modi-worshippers haven’t found anything heretical in the VHP leader’s intervention.
The BJP doesn’t have a monopoly over zealotry. Dogma afflicts AAP supporters and Congress ‘loyalists’. But it is precisely because Modi’s BJP is no longer confined to nutter projects like ‘Hindutva’ that one wonders what will happen when the Gujarat CM makes a bad call in his new avatar. Will criticism become seditious? Will the media sacrifice better judgement at the altar of nation-building?
One must be forgiven for thinking that the ghost of Communism, now rid of its junk bonds, is approaching the dinner table in a more muscular and post-modernist form. For it will be truly wonderful to be proved wrong.
Indrajit Hazra is a New Delhi-based writer and journalist
What’s the idea behind this blathering article (Scene I: Enter Ghost). Is Indrajit Hazra saying India is headed for disaster? Where, pray, are the alternatives in terms of models of governance, economic growth and secularism? The Congress looks gone, the aap isn’t strong enough at the moment. Let Modi and BJP have a chance.
Varun Shekhar, Toronto
I live in the UK and even from this distance I can spot a secular fascist when I see one.
Pradip Singh, Stafford, UK
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
In your secular view, particularly if he is a lowly Teli in which case he should be showered with the filthiest galis such as the one you mentioned very recently in another post.
I bow to your civil secularism.
every nar pishach is bad news for humanity!
>>>> Anti-Muslim venom has become legit!
>> But it cannot even hold a candle to ......
Idiotic comparisions! I suppose that's all that you are capable of.
Anwaar >> Anti-Muslim venom has become legit!
But it cannot even hold a candle to the massive project of hate against the idol worshipping polytheists sponsored by the theocracies of Pakistan and Bangladesh. What the CAIR Fascists will never allow us to see is - the roadto communal peace and tolerance begins with a Pakistan and Bangladesh that are secularised, cleansed of theocracies and empowered to provide complete freedom of faith to its kaffir minorities.
Mr Hazra. I live in UK but that does not stop me from spotting a secular fascist in Inida even from this distance.
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