Will the real Hinduism stand up?

Will the real Hinduism stand up?

Even as the jury is busy on the post-2009 poll verdict, it is indeed remarkable that almost all the post-poll analyses of the BJP's inglorious showing have produced a commonality of views between both the supporters and opponents of the party -jettison Hindutva.

A crowning irony of Indian politics in the past sixty years has again been another strange commonality between two diametrically opposite terms - 'communalism' and 'secularism.' Neither have been satisfactorily defined; for example the Indian Union Muslim League is 'not communal' for a section of the intelligentsia as such, while the demand for the abrogation of Article 370 - a temporary provision in the Constitution of India - and the implementation of a uniform civil code - mandated by the Directive Principles- are unfailingly derided as 'Hindu' demands, and are therefore, 'communal.'

After successfully providing a stable and economically progressive government under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the NDA went to polls in 2004, not on the basis of Article 370, Ayodhya or Hindutva, but seeking a mandate for good governance and economic prosperity. Indeed, its slogan was not "Jai Shri Ram", but "India Shining."

It won 138 seats, only seven less than its chief rival the Congress. While the Congress' 2004 poll campaign was centered on "aam aadmi", a la Garibi Hatao rehash, it was the Left that injected the debate of communalism vs. secularism and managed to elbow their way into corridors of power, minus, of course, any accountability to the aam aadmi, as has been their wont.

UPA’s report card

Cut to Election 2009. Only the naïve or the staunch apologist would deny that the UPA regime that held power for the last five years notched up an ignominious report card of atrocious governance, contemptuous disregard of the aam aadmi and all-round administrative disaster.

Not only did it fail to carry forward the progressive and futuristic projects and plans of its predecessor the NDA but also had little qualms in deliberately stalling them. From the scrapping of a tough anti-terror law like POTA, goaded by vote-bank greed to the infamy of Mumbai 26/11, not to forget unabated Maoist mayhem in vast swathes of Indian territory, the UPA's approach to national security has been virtually one of shameless surrender to terrorism.

The shambolic picture of its economic (mis)management was revealed throughout its five-year regime, with GDP growth plummeting to less than 5%. These then, were the issues that the BJP raised throughout its campaign along with a pitch for a strong and decisive central authority focused on national security and economic development. Yet, after the heat and dust of election 2009 has settled, all that is being highlighted as the high point of the BJP's campaign is Kandhamal, stray pub-bashing in Mangalore, plus Varun Gandhi's verbal ballistics.

Undoubtedly, these issues became a convenient tool for the BJP's detractors, to equate the party with Hindutva and Hindutva with only violent activism, which served their purpose of addressing their own requirements of vote-bank politics. The BJP's election war room probably failed to comprehend the potential harm of this negativism, and was clueless about the correctives to the wrong perceptions it did engender and also failed to engineer its poll campaign back to its original agenda of focusing on the UPA's undeniable failures.

While the Hindu psyche has undoubtedly been wounded because of a series of continuing terror attacks and religious shenanigans, its desire for a strong and stable government, free from the vagaries of coalition partners, owing to a plethora of political parties, is also unmistakable. Evidently, the BJP lost out to the Congress on this perception of stability.

Where does Hindutva figure in all this? Indeed, it could be justifiably argued that the politicization of Hindutva is not the BJP's doing at all. The BJP's shortcoming was that it could not educate the post-2004 cadre and the voters about its core ideology and consolidate its support base.

The disconnect between the BJP's core ideology and its voters could be at the root of its predicament today. Indian classicism has shaped and sustained Indian thought, polity, and society, similar to what Greek classicism has done to the West. This unique journey through the vicissitudes of time would of course, merit a separate analysis, but pointedly, with the advent of the British, Indian classicism underwent a renaissance of sorts, centred on nationalism.

A vibrant debate that spanned Vivekanand to Tilak, Tagore Gandhi, Savarkar and Ambedkar, all of whom perceived it in different shades, was abruptly stalled after 1947 and unfortunately became moribund, with our search for imaginary roots in contrived ideologies like socialism and secularism.

Core philosophy

Post-1947, it was (the late) Deen Dayal Upadhyaya who made a forthright endeavour to address this imbalance through Integral Humanism, which was greatly influenced by Indian classicism, which again, was at the core of the Jan Sangh, and should ideally be the core philosophy of the BJP. This happens to be the challenge before the BJP leadership, young and old, i.e. of merging its ideology with the demands of a modern polity.

For Mahatma Gandhi, Hinduism was a "relentless pursuit of Truth, and if today it has become moribund, inactive, irresponsive to growth, it is because we are fatigued, and as soon as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst upon the world with a brilliance perhaps unknown before." (Young India, April 24, 1924). The BJP would be doing a great service to Indian political discourse if it is able to come out of its fatigue.

(The author is former editor of Organiser and a senior political analyst)

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