BJP and the Congress – sibling rivalry at the ball-game
by Radha Rajan on 09 Dec 2008 3 Comments

More than ten years ago, a marked unease about the direction in which the BJP was heading goaded me to pose a question to a former BJP General Secretary then living in Chennai. I don’t remember my question, but his answer has remained in my mind. “They (the Congress) will win some elections, we will win some; they will form the government in Delhi and then we will form the government. Aisa chalta rahega.”

I am wondering now if on that day he felt as disheartened when he said it as I feel today remembering it. It has indeed gone on only as he foretold. The dejection is only partly about the BJP losing Delhi and Rajasthan; the real cause for worry is the BJP’s self-identity and how Hindu nationalists perceive the party today. As I watched the results coming in, it struck me forcefully that watching the BJP and Congress fighting elections is like watching the DMK and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadusibling rivalry, no more.

The DMK and AIADMK both have the same prophets, the same Book and the same enemies; they are different only in so far as they are different cults; and the numbers in their ranks, like in all cult following, is comprised of both the core constituency around the cult figure and the fluid party-hoppers. When people defect from the Congress to the BJP or from the BJP to the Congress today, they no longer suffer acute distress from having to owe allegiance to a new political ideology. The party-hoppers are perfectly at home in the Congress and in the BJP.  

The BJP’s crisis of identity began when Advani stated that there was no ideology in governance; when he stated this, what he was actually doing was rejecting Hindutva as the BJP’s political ideology and presenting good governance as the BJP’s defining characteristic. “Good governance’ is slippery ground because failure to win elections can be attributed to bad governance.

The problem began then; the first sign of rot manifested itself when the BJP could not retain power in 2004. The de-Hinduising of the BJP gathered momentum after the Gujarat riots and since then the BJP has privileged governance and development over ideology and Hindutva. That the US State department refused to allow Narendra Modi to set foot in their country and the fact that the US State Department was writing creative fiction damning the BJP and Modi in its annual reports, has undoubtedly unnerved the BJP leadership, including Modi. So the BJP trashed Hindutva and the entire party mechanism took up development of Gujarat as its single-point agenda. Gujarat was to be the embodiment of what the BJP now stood for.

If the Congress built 3 skyways, the BJP promised to build 4; when the Congress signed an agreement for 2 new nuclear reactors, the BJP declared that it will alter a comma here and a full-stop there, and will sign a new agreement for 5 new nuclear reactors. If during the Congress reign the country attracted ten thousand US dollars as FDI, the BJP will leave no stone unturned to attract forty thousand. If during the Congress regime there were 27 acts of terror in J&K, during the BJP regime it will be brought down to 20.  The BJP fought elections in these four states only on such an agenda. “Aisa chalta rahega” as my friend said in 1998.

Last week in Chennai, the DMK government demolished one Vishnu temple and one Shiva temple on the ground that these were encroachments on the streets, but left the Emmanuel Church untouched. Narendra Modi does not see anything other than highways and skyways these days, and he demolished over 200 temples last month. DMK or BJP, how does it matter to Hindus? Perhaps Modi should be given a tour of Tamil Nadu to see for himself the churches, Christian prayer houses, mosques and madarasas mushrooming across the state in every district, taluk and village, in every lane and by-lane of cities and towns. Christians and Muslims use their individual positions in government and institutions, and use state power to further their religions; Hindus use their positions in important places and use state power for upholding secularism and singing bhajans to development. The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister predictably attributed his victory today to development; what else?

The BJP went to town on the issue of terrorism and promised, not POTA please note, but a stringent law similar to America’s PATRIOT Act. The BJP also did not think it was necessary to distinguish between terrorism and national security because this nation’s political discourse uses the two terms interchangeably. We all understand terrorism, but do we understand national security? Does the BJP see that the two are different concepts and if it does, why did it go to its electorate with terrorism alone on its platter, considering that the party is not blameless in this regard?

The BJP has painted itself into a corner on national security. Political ideology derives from a sense of the basis of nationhood. America passed the PATRIOT Act because across the political spectrum their politicians accept that it is a Christian country, which will therefore not permit Islam’s adherents and jihadis to either alter the basis of its nationhood or threaten it. Is there such clarity within the BJP or with its leadership? The flow of foreign funds to churches and mosques, the mushrooming of churches and mosques on this land, the exponential increase in madarasas, the growing political clout of church-backed and church-funded NGOs, the dangerous and rapidly changing religious demography of the populace, and the Gandhi-Nehru political ideology which has entrenched itself as the only political philosophy of this country – all these constitute threats to national security.

But how will the BJP deal with these threats which entail keeping Christians and Muslims under surveillance, keeping churches and mosques, Christian prayer halls and madarasas under surveillance, refusing to allow the free flow, unlimited flow, unchecked flow of foreign funds to Christians and Muslims, prevent and reverse alterations in religious demography with determined measures which will not permit the two well-organized Abrahamic faiths to control territory on this land inhabited by 85% Hindus? The BJP will be accused by the EU Parliament and the US State Department of crimes against humanity; forget what they did with colonialism or what they are doing in Iraq.

Does the BJP, like China have the strength to withstand all assaults and remain focused on national security? It is easy to talk about terrorism, but the moment Advani says terrorism has no religion, when he says re-conversion is as wrong as conversion, then the BJP has signalled its incapacity to perceive threats to this nation. Hindus of this nation cannot pin their hopes on the BJP to deal with national security or terrorism.

Narendra Modi has demonstrated that demolishing temples is acceptable in the name of development; the BJP has demonstrated that permitting the mushrooming of churches and mosques is proof of its secular credentials. The BJP stands for development and governance. If in the process we do to India what has been done to the Philippines, to South Korea and Japan, look at the bright side of it all. We get to outsource our concerns to foreigners, to the US State Department, to Israelis, to EU. Never mind if the country is getting Christianised and Islamised in equal measure. Never mind that by outsourcing our responsibility to foreigners and foreign governments we signal and endorse our impotence and unwillingness to accept responsibility for ourselves. We get 5 more nuclear reactors, 3 more skywalks and an additional thirty thousand US Dollars in FDI.

Who needs a Hindu nation, Hindu state? Why should we perceive threats to the nation when there is no nation? The benefits of being a deracinated, de-Hinduised satellite state or vassal state far outweigh the long-term benefits of remaining a Hindu nation and battling threats to its nationhood. The BJP has therefore found it politically expedient to join the ranks of Manmohan Singh, Lalu Yadav and Jayalalithaa. The BJP has refused adamantly to change the idiom and content of this nation’s political discourse. And that is why its USP lies in raising the comfort level of our adversaries. And that is why national elections fought between the Congress and the BJP is no more serious than the rivalry at a ball-game.

When was the last time the BJP served a Hindu cause, expressed a Hindu sentiment, defended a threat to Hindu dharma? The BJP did not say, even if the world continues to practice nuclear apartheid, we will not sign away our sovereign right to conduct nuclear tests or test nuclear weapons; they did not protest the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad trade route for fear of angering the Sunni Muslims of the Kashmir Valley; they did not have the courage or the vision to stand solidly behind all the accused in the Malegaon blasts; they no longer promise to build the temple at Ayodhya, they have stopped talking about the Uniform Civil Code; they don’t want to even look at Article 370, so how can I even tell them that the problem is not Article 370, but the separate and separatist J&K state constitution? Get rid of that and J&K will automatically be constitutionally integrated with the rest of India. We can win hearts, minds and souls later.

But on all these issues the BJP has not been able to move beyond the Gandhi-Nehru de-Hinduised secular position adopted by all other non-BJP political parties. So how is the BJP different?

They will win some, we will win some. Aisa chalta rahega until there is no longer a ‘they’ or a ‘we’

The author is Editor,

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