How will the Hindutva blues play out?

Delhi, India Oct 06, 2018, 10.53 AM(IST) Written By: Makarand R Paranjape

File photo of BJP. Photograph:( PTI )

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The ruling dispensation must be more inclusive and accommodative rather than succumbing to hardliner and radicals.

One of the paradoxes of ideological and cultural conflict is how adversaries, after a long engagement, begin to resemble one another. Following Karl Marx, the presiding deity of Communism, the patron saint of dialectical materialism, Frederich Engels, called this phenomenon the interpenetration of opposites. In Anti-Dühring and The Dialectics of Nature (1878), Engels argued that while “traditional formal logic seeks to banish contradiction…dialectical thought embraces it.” In other words, contradiction is the key to progress.

During the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA-I (1999-2004), we witnessed a ‘Congressikaran’ of the BJP and a saffronisation of the Congress. In other words, once in power, the NDA stared sounding more and more like the Congress, while the Congress adopted some of the shrill postures and overtones of its political and electoral opponent. One would have thought that NDA-II, with PM Narendra Modi at the helm, would buck this trend. The decisive majority that Modi earned, not to mention the BJP’s triumph in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh, proved that they were not hostage to “coalition dharma”. Without any compulsion to appease other NDA members or conciliate a belligerent Opposition, how is it that the BJP and the larger Sangh Parivar sometime resemble a divided family?

The paradox is that their very success and dominance in today’s India seemed to have exposed cracks and fault lines; in constantly embattled in the Opposition, they seemed much more cohesive and united. But now that their writ runs large over the country, whether in politics or culture, their internal dissensions have been exposed to the gaze, often critical and unsparing, of the public. In the last few weeks there have been at least three inflexion points baring the internal disagreements within the Hindu Right.

First, the unprecedented success of the 3-day outreach by RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Rao Bhagwat. With over 10 million views and 50 opinion or op-ed responses in English and Indian-language press, this event would be pronounced an unqualified success. However, rumblings of discontent soon appeared. Some hardliners tweeted that the spiritual head of the RSS was appeasing Muslims, other minorities, LGBTs and generally backtracking on “Hindu” causes. Actually, nothing Bhagwat said constituted a radical shift from the line taken by previous Sarsangchalaks, including ‘Guruji’ MS Golwalkar. The Sangh has shown itself responding to the need of the hour by changing with the times.

The second inflection point was the so-called “Hindu Charter of Demands”. I say “so-called” because it also includes demands not exclusively Hindu, such as a ban on all foreign contributions and stress on equal opportunities to all Indian languages which would, of course, include Urdu, widely, albeit mistakenly, perceived as a ‘Muslim language’. Again, what we see is the coming to the fore of elements more impatient if not radical than the ruling BJP or RSS. The authors and signatories of the “Hindu Charter of Demands”, many of whom I know personally, expect speedy and timely redress, else may urge Hindus to vote against the BJP in the upcoming 2019 elections.

The third inflection point was the Sabarimala verdict, allowing women between 10 and 50 or, to put it plainly, menstruating women, to visit the shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala. In a 4-1 verdict on September 28, the Supreme Court had ruled against this: “Rules disallowing women in Sabarimala are unconstitutional and violative of Article 21.” While sections of the Sangh Parivar, including some womens’ outfits, initially welcomed the verdict as promoting equality, others immediately saw it as an opportunity to put the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Communist government, which sought to implement the judgment immediately, on the back foot. The issue, aside from its politics, is quite complex. Should an interventionist Supreme Court overrule and override the faith of devotees? In this case, allowing women would distract, if not disturb, the celibacy, if not of the deity, then of the millions of male devotees who have fasted and practiced abstinence for the 40-day period of their vow. Especially, when a large body of women devotees are ready to wait?

The challenge for the bigger Hindu-Hindutva constituency is how to maintain unity, especially in the run-up to the 2019 elections. The real work of the regeneration and rejuvenation of India, which includes a second Indian renaissance, insiders aver, requires at least another five years of the Modi Sarkar. “The reforms initiated in the first term need to formalised, institutionalised, and put on a permanent footing,” one of them told me.

For this, Hindu unity is absolutely essential. The question is what can be done to ensure it. Here the principle interpenetration of opposites might show the way: The ruling dispensation must be more inclusive and accommodative rather than succumbing to hardliner and radicals.

(This article was originally published on DNA. Read the original article)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)