June 23, 2021
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The Lotus Turning A New Green Leaf?

Recently, after the UP elections, the All India Brahmin Federation (AIBF) decided to support the BSP in all future elections in its convention in Tirupati. Is this making the BJP reassess its approach to the Muslims? Is any such 'course correction' p

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The Lotus Turning A New Green Leaf?

The recent defeat of BJP in Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections has given it not only a great shock but has also made its leaders review its policies. The BJP in UP was deserted even by the Brahmins, its traditional vote bank. Generally, up to mid-1980s, the Brahmins were voting for the Congress. The Congress used to win elections by getting the votes of Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits. However, when the Muslims deserted the Congress in late 1980s on the question of laying the foundation stone of Ramjanambhoomi temple, the Congress lost power and the Brahmins also left the Congress as there seemed no chance of its coming back to power.

The Brahmins switched their loyalty to the BJP as it was raising the issue of Ramjanambhoomi and seemed to have a much better chance of coming to power. The Brahmins continued to vote for BJP as long as it had the potential to capture power either by itself or through suitable alliances. However, during the 2007 assembly elections in UP, Ms. Mayawati was the rising star for a number of reasons -- one of them was her alliance with both Brahmins and Muslims.

Ms. Mayawati was following the well-tested Congress formula of Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit alliance to win the elections. She has a solid Dalit base and had also convinced the Brahmins to vote for her. Not only this, she had wooed the Thakurs also and was assured to get support from a section of them as well. The Brahmins seemed to have weighed all this and then deserted the BJP who had any way never fulfilled its promise to build the Ram Temple. The BJP was, however, hoping against hope that Brahmins might vote for it but drew a blank.

The BJP also tried to woo Hindus by not only its Ramjanambhoomi rhetoric but also by circulating an anti-Muslim Video Compact Disc (VCD). It could not of course get away with its anti-Muslim CD. as the Election Commission stepped in. This was a moral as well as a legal blow to the BJP. Having lost elections in its own den was a serious set back to its senior leaders.

However, there seems to be no easy way out for the BJP. To revive itself in UP in the absence of any wave in its favour is a Herculean task. With 20 per cent Muslims of UP hostile to it and Brahmins also having deserted it, the party is under pressure to change its virulent anti-Muslim course. But that is also not an easy task. The BJP senior leaders in Delhi, nevertheless, are thinking on these lines. A mushaira (poetic gathering) also at the home of BJP leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain attended by many BJP leaders is only one such indication. Many moderate BJP leaders also feel that alienating the Muslims has resulted in the whole Muslim vote-share being offered to Congress and other parties on a platter, and so there is a desperate bid to woo them even at this stage.

Of course, this will not be easy -- from the viewpoint of either the Sangh Parivar or the Muslims. Sangh organizations such as VHP and Bajrang Dal who even otherwise accuse BJP leaders of soft pedaling the Hindutva agenda will vehemently oppose this change of course. Because it puts their very existence in danger. On the other hand, after years of anti-Muslim propaganda, it would not be easy for the BJP to carry conviction with Muslims, let alone aspire for any sizeable Muslim vote. The BJP, however, seems to want to convince the Muslims that it was Vajpayee who initiated the Indo-Pak friendship process and also took initiative for solving the Kashmir problem. How far it manages to convince Muslims about its intentions is anybody’s guess. The point to note is that even the Congress could not win Muslims back in UP despite all its efforts.

It is very interesting to note that Mayawati, encouraged by her success in UP in getting Brahmin votes, is trying to woo Brahmins in other states too. The Brahmins are also elated by the UP experiment in as much as supporting the BSP seems to have opened new doors for increasing their political influence. Recently, the All India Brahmin Federation (AIBF) decided to support the BSP in all future elections in its convention in Tirupati. It also wants to embark on a special mission to improve Brahmin-Dalit harmony. The Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peeth Swami Jayendra Saraswati is also scheduled to attend the convention.

Kotashankar Sharma, a Brahmin leader even commented that most of the communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims were due to the ignorance and inability of the common man to see through the intrigues of vested interests. The AIBF conference is seen as an important event for Brahmins to become politically active again.

Thus the coming together of Brahmins from the entire country to support Dalit leadership is a matter of great worry for the BJP. If this patterns of Brahmin-Dalit-Muslim alliance emerges on all India basis, BJP will lose ground in other places too. After UP, it should be underlined that the BJP lost election in Goa as well.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, media advisor to former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has been writing a series of articles in the Indian Express suggesting that the BJP should woo Muslims to the mutual benefit of both [It should be noted that this is a familiar 'manthan' in the BJP, even the defeat of 2004 elections had resulted in a similar debate initiated by Mr Kulkarni, who had also played an active role as an aide of Sri Lal Krishna Advani and after Sri Advani's passage to Pakistan had resigned from his position as BJP's national secretary -- Ed). Mr. Kulkarni is even trying to prove that RSS has never been anti-Muslim and has been quoting from the writings of Shri M.S.Golwalkar. In his column in the Indian Express on 10th June 2007 he quotes Golwalkar from an interview he had given to Dr.Saifuddin Jeelani, an Arabic Scholar (Bunch of Thoughts, p-639): "According to our religious belief and philosophy, a Muslim is as good as a Hindu, it is not the Hindu alone who will reach the ultimate Godhead. Everyone has right to his path according to his own persuasion."

Mr Kulkarni further informs us that specifically refuting the charge that the Sangh’s concept of Indianisation meant Hinduisation of Muslims, Golwalkar observed, "Follow your own religion. The God of Islam, Christianity and Hinduism is the same and we are all His devotees. Give the people true knowledge of Islam. Give people true knowledge of Hinduism. Educate them to know that all religions teach men to be selfless, holy and pious…"

Mr Kulkarni also quotes from Golwalkar to prove that Golwalkar did not support Uniform Civil Code; and was in favour of allowing Muslims to follow their Shari’ah law. He (Golwalkar) also maintained that "it is better that Muslims themselves reform their outdated laws and customs. I will be pleased if they come to the conclusion that polygamy is not good for them. But I would not like to impose my views on them."

Significantly, Mr.Kulkarni says, in the same interview, Golwalkar warned: "Uniformity is a pointer to the downfall of nations. I am in favour of preservation of diverse ways of life. At the same time, we should pay attention to ensure that these diversities nurture unity of the nation."

Mr. Kulkarni therefore, is attempting to explore ways in which a fruitful BJP-Muslim and RSS-Muslim dialogue might start. One wishes Mr. Kulkarni all success. But he himself has been in journalism and a political analyst. Politics is not all about piety and noble sentiments, even if what Golwalkar said is true. Otherwise the RSS and BJP would not have been what they have been doing in their political propaganda.

I would like to ask Mr. Kulkarni that if M.S.Golwalkar was against Uniform Civil Code in early 1970s, they why did the BJP adopt it as its Hindutva agenda and continues to keep it on their agenda? Did Mr. Advani not preach Hindutva agenda at his aggressive best throughout late 1980s and 1990s? Were RSS leaders not aware of this? Or was the Hindutva agenda formulated without RSS consent?

How about the textbooks taught in RSS run schools? Do they not spit venom against Muslims and grossly distort medieval history? If Golwalkar wanted people to be good Muslims and good Hindus, why was Babri masjid demolished and the event celebrated? Was it part of being good Hindus? Did the RSS approve of it or not? Does the RSS insist on Hindutva agenda or not? What are we to make of it when the RSS often chides the BJP for not doing enough for fulfilling the Hindutva agenda?

How can one then have a constructive dialogue between RSS and Muslims or BJP and Muslims? Did RSS leadership say a word in condemnation of what happened in Gujarat in 2002? A word opposing the Gujarat carnage from RSS leadership would have won over the hearts of millions of Muslims. On the contrary, Narendra Modi became an apple of the RSS eyes. He has always been considered as an RSS man first and a BJP man later.

All this is not to suggest that there should be no dialogue between the Muslims and the BJP, or with the RSS for that matter. But if Shri Kulkarni is suggesting a dialogue at the BJP leadership’s instance in the changed circumstances, let him suggest where and how to begin. He must know that there is a deep distrust between the Muslims and the Sangh Parivar and even in the best of conditions it will take a great deal of efforts to create even a semblance of trust. In any case, even if there is a possibility of any dialogue, it is for the Sangh Parivar to take the initiative and convince the Muslims for a need for a dialogue. Writing such articles might be an exploratory process but much more substantial will have to be done.

A good beginning could be an apology for demolition of Babri Masjid and then an appeal to the Muslims to come forward for a reasonable solution of the problem without hurting religious sentiments on either side. But such an eventuality seems nothing more than a distant dream for the present.

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