It’s not a grand religious edifice, a flower, a colour, a sacred beast or any other piece of symbolism it has patented over the years. Instead, a single, bearded face has become the icon of its extreme right-wing version that goes by the name of Hindutva. The face derives its original appeal to the Hindutva brigade from Gujarat 2002, although over 12 years, there has been an attempt to project it as the face of decisive development. As Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial face of the BJP, pumps his fists, wags a finger, thunders his nasalised jingoism, the message is clear and loud as only he can get: with me or against me.
This is how Hinduism, liberal and inclusive in spirit, is being distorted by those who claim most vehemently to protect it. “The biggest drawback of our recent history is that Hindutva, which is not a religion but a way of life, has lost the image that was an ideal for the world. We have shifted to a society where Hinduism is a religion—one which has fear from other religions. That’s why we have taken to hardline Hindutva,” says a senior right-wing ideologue. And of the communal-secular binary that the forthcoming election is being seen as, RSS spokesman Ram Madhav says, “I don’t agree. Modi and the BJP are going for this election on development, terrorism, security and corruption. The communal versus secular (idea) has been imposed by some so-called secular parties.” Modi himself has declared that “secularism is an ineffective jadibooti in the hands of non-performing fronts that claim to be secular”, and that he offers “development, decisiveness, deliverability”. He downplays the Hindutva a bit, knowing that he must have wider appeal, but there’s no doubt about the Molotov cocktail on offer: development, hardline Hindutva and statist security.