Like an actor who becomes the part, repeat something often enough, they say, and it starts wearing the look of truth. But all year, there’s one statement I heard repeated over and over in our TV studios that confused more than clarified; that seemed to belong neither to fact nor fiction. The 2004 election, it was said, was the victory of "secularism over communalism".
True, the political irony of the BJP being jostled out from the so-called seats of saffron—Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi—was inescapable. True also that without an extreme event, Indian voters seemed to be saying, these are not the issues we care about. The result’s post-mortem is a work in progress—fractured mandate, alliances, anti-incumbency, and the possibility that Hindutva had bounced at the bank.