The policy wonks may be frothing at the mouth but the Modi government’s decision to call off Indo-Pak talks has gone down very well with the BJPp’s domestic constituency. It enhances Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image as a tough leader who will brook no nonsense. It also delights the cadre who see him as an inspirational figure over and above the Sangh leadership that often shifts uneasily these days and periodically feels compelled to make statements to signify its own importance in the universe now ordered by Modi.
The move to act tough with a Pakistan (which a Sangh parivar strategist describes “as a country in a meltdown that is not worth talking to at this point”) is expected to have a direct electoral benefit in Jammu, where the BJP hopes to edge out the Congress when state elections take place in J&K later this year. BJP sources say they aim to be in a position where the party that does well in the Valley will have to come to an arrangement with it to form government. In Maharashtra too where state elections take place within two months, the BJP hopes to stay a nose ahead of the Shiv Sena and thereby have its own chief minister. With the Sena as partner, it makes sense for Modi to come across as the rational tough guy as opposed to the irrational hysterics the Sena indulges in at the mention of the P-word.
It is often said that the past offers clues to understanding the future. Pakistan has always been a volatile domestic card for the BJP. Former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee played both the dove and hawk in his policies towards Pakistan during his six-year tenure. A desire to go down in history as the humanist who went for peace in the subcontinent is what genuinely drove Vajpayee. But it was post the Kargil war, in 1999, that Vajpayee was at the peak of his popularity. It was also then that he acquired his “teflon man” image.
For the bottomline is this: the BJP and RSS sit uneasy with any peace move towards Pakistan. Here’s what happened in January 2004, just months before the general elections that the NDA would lose, when Vajpayee went to Islamabad for a SAARC summit and then insisted on meeting Musharraf and the Pakistani leadership on the sidelines. That ended the deep freeze post-Agra: Indo-Pak talks began the next month and in March 2004, India went to Pakistan for a cricket series between the two countries after 15 years.
At the time, this correspondent had written: “Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee may well be accused of thrusting ‘peace’ on a bewildered BJP and the Sangh parivar.” Then the BJP had reacted very cautiously to Vajpayee’s initiatives. The tradition of party functionaries gathering at his Race Course Road residence after a foreign visit was dispensed with as was the party’s daily press briefing. Instead, then party president Venkaiah Naidu issued a terse press statement: “The BJP is of the view that talks with Pakistan will only be meaningful if cross-border terrorism comes to an end.” What did come to an end was Vajpayee’s regime that lost in 2004 in spite of ‘India Shining’ and what the then PMO called the “harmony vote”.
Then and now, the majority view in the parivar is that “hugging Pakistanis is not an agenda that will naturally enthuse the rank and file”. A a decade ago, the VHP’s Giriraj Kishore told Outlook: “Vajpayee’s efforts are bakwaas (rubbish). Since the days of Mohammed Ghori, we have been trying to talk reason with these people. But it is of no use.” Ten years down, the stature of the Pakistani leadership is more diminished and the country in greater chaos. Seshadri Chari who headed the BJP’s foreign affairs cell says: “Relations will not improve but could talks have had any meaning with the chaos in Pakistan?”
Most BJP leaders say the reasons for Modi to engage with Pakistan are becoming fewer and fewer. Unlike Vajpayee, Modi does not need to look over his shoulder to watch his own colleagues or allies. He has also shown the capacity to ignore US pressure, as shown by the positions recently taken by India at the WTO. As long as Modi’s domestic popularity remains intact, he has declared publicly that he does not care about opinions of the Delhi establishment or about editorials written in the western press. Vladimir Modi is setting new rules of engagement.
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.
Poor Saba cannot maintain her assumed journalistic neutrality for writing anything on Modi.
After comparing him to Hitler now she is comparing him to Vladimir Putin.
Old habits die hard.
Long live Indian journalism!
For the bottomline is this: the BJP and RSS sit uneasy with any peace move towards Pakistan.... Saba
Terrorism and peace are opposite to each other. Pakistan army and their government has opposite targets towards India and hence it is useless to talk to them. After all, BJP does not have any compulsion like Congress, the minority vote bank. It is India's way, or the Highway, as one Pakistani columnist suggested.
''Vladimir Modi is setting new rules of engagement.'' Saba
'' Today, 18 May 2014, may well go down in history as the day when Britain finally left India. Narendra Modi's victory in the elections marks the end of a long era in which the structures of power did not differ greatly from those through which Britain ruled the subcontinent. India under the Congress party was in many ways a continuation of the British Raj by other means. The last of midnight's children are now a dwindling handful of almost 70-year-olds, but it is not the passing of the independence generation that makes the difference.
The India those men and women lived in was one that, like its predecessor, was centralised, garrisoned, culturally constricted, and ruled by a relatively small English-speaking elite whose attitude toward the masses was alternately benevolent and exploitative but never inclusive. Universal suffrage gave Indians a vote but not, at least for much of the time, a voice. When that voice was occasionally heard, as it was in 1977 in the elections that followed the disastrously unpopular Emergency declared by prime minister Indira Gandhi, there could be a sudden sense of its almost volcanic capacity to remake the political landscape, but such moments were rare.
Now that voice has been heard again. It has endorsed a new kind of leader in the shape of Mr Modi. He is from the lower castes. He is not a natural English speaker. He has no truck with the secular and socialist traditions that shaped Congress. But, more important, that voice has announced a new kind of India. In the old India the poor were there to be helped, when the elite remembered to do so or when they needed to seek or, in effect, to buy votes. The middling classes were taken for granted and sometimes snubbed. The new India, most observers agree, is not interested in handouts, and refuses to be snubbed. ''
GUARDIAN EDITORIAL 18th May, 2014
"I wonder if Modi will meet Saba Naqvi next. What will she tweet if that meeting happens? That Modi is not a Brahmin?"
"I wonder if Modi will meet Saba Naqvi next. What will she tweet if that meeting happens? That Modi is not a Brahmin?"
She might tweet that Modi's first name is Narendra and not Vladimir."
Modi reached out to Pakistan today by meeting Malini Parthasarathy of the Hindu. And she tweeted that Modi is very fluent in English. Very touching.
I wonder if Modi will meet Saba Naqvi next. What will she tweet if that meeting happens? That Modi is not a Brahmin?
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