Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2009 > July 2009 > Bharatiya Janata Party: Searching a New Subterfuge?

Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 30, July 11, 2009

Bharatiya Janata Party: Searching a New Subterfuge?

Saturday 11 July 2009, by Badri Raina


Wasn’t there a playwright who penned Six Characters in Search of an Author?

Well, India has a “major” political party that seems forever in search of a programme.

It is called the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But, hang on; unlike the famous play cited above, the BJP’s interminable project is, in fact, not to find the author/programme but to constantly hide the one and only it has.

That author of its unreal being is the RSS, the so-called cultural organisation that was established by India’s Right-wing, Brahiminism in 1924 in order to direct the anti-colonial freedom movement towards the formulation of a majoritarian Hindu Rashtra, in opposition to the secular and pluralist ideals of the then Congress-led national movement.

Staunch adherent to that time-tested instrument of social and every other oppression in India, the caste hierarchy or varna vyavastha, three dominant principles have constituted its raison d’ etre:

—an unrelenting hegemony of the upper castes over Hindu thought and practice;

—an urelenting crusade against the Muslims whom it regards as alien to the land, and chief enemies of India’s “cultural essence”;

—a close embrace with militarist imperialism and with the systemic economic underpinnings that make such militarism and imperialism possible and necessary.

Not till 1949 did this organisation declare its allegiance to the Indian Tricolour as comprising the undisputed icon of the new nation, and then too under duress and as a quid pro quo to the Nehru Government’s willingness to release from prison its big chief or sarsangchalak who had been locked up as a consequence of the banning of the RSS after the Gandhi murder in 1948.

Only then was the RSS literally coerced into framing its constitution and putting on record its allegiance to the flag.

The fact that it still remains unreconciled to the Indian Constitution was borne out when the Vajpayee-led NDA regime (1999-2004) constituted a Constitution Review Committee, designed to alter some of the basic features of the Republic.

Fortunately, India’s post-independence history weighed too heavily against this camouflaged misadventure.


This ideological matrix from whence the Bharatiya Jana Sangh—the first avatar of the BJP—was to issue as an overtly political fifth column in 1951, must be seen in conjunction with a more explicit enunciation of a racist/fascist “nationhood”—that which Savarkar, that self-confessed atheist and non-believer in ritualist Hindu practices or the caste system, gave to the Right-wing.

He it was who first enunciated Hindutva as a purely political proposition, related to religious identity only as a tactical ploy of exclusion.

Succinctly, Savarkar postulated as early as 1923—some fifteen years before Jinnah—that India in fact comprised “two nations”: “Hindus” and “Muslims”.

As to the emerging new state, it was his view that only those who were both born in India and had their chief icons of worship within India could be considered Indian citizens.

Thus a neat stipulation that would exclude Muslims (Mecca) and Christians (Jerusalem) from citizenship was floated

On a TV talk-show the other day, one of the chief spokespersons of the RSS/BJP, Sheshadri Chari, when pressed by the smart anchor to define “Hindutva”, conceded that the only definition available to this day was the one that had come from Savarkar.

He quickly went to add that the RSS/BJP did not, however, subscribe to this definition.

And thereby hangs the tale.

The crude fact is that this definition does indeed remain at the heart of the RSS/BJP’s political enterprise. And, yet, it is no longer a thesis that they may overtly propound and still hope to practice any viable politics in the India of 2009.

Which is why my friend, J. Sri Raman, the reputed columnist, is so right when he says of the current post-2009 electoral rout of the BJP that the “heated debate (is) over how best to hide the ideology for the wide section of voters outside the ‘core constituency’” of the Sangh Parivar. (See Daily Times, Lahore, June 26, 2009)

Sri Raman makes a rapid encapsulation of the various subterfuges that the BJP has sought to employ through time to practice such concealment, now citing one or the other supposedly new idelogical source to their favoured shenanigans. Thus, since its inception in 1980, we have been served with “Gandhian Socialism”, “Integral Humanism” (this is still on the BJP constitution), followed by “Cultural Nationalism” (in the wake of the maraudingly anti-Muslim Advani rath yatra of 1990 that led to the demolition of the Babri mosque and pogroms against Muslims thereafter), and culminating yet again in “Hindutva”.

The one thing, of course, that no scion of the Sangh will do is to make explicit the meaning of that most mythologised term, Hindutva. For reasons not hard to understand. Never has so much benefit been drawn from so much obfuscation.


Now the problem that confronts the BJP is that it has to exist and operate both as the thin end of the RSS wedge and as itself.

Unable to make of the Savarkar/Golwalker (the latter was to stipulate that “foregn races”, read Muslims, who were unwilling to lose their separate existence and merge into the Hindu race could not be granted rights of citizenship) thesis an overt party programme within a secular-constitutional dispensation, the BJP has had the unenviable task of shopping for programmes that might sell more handily among India’s diversely plural electorate, crucially without being seen to be jettisoning its Hindu-cultural moorings.

Exactly as among its trader base where the quest must always be to patronise goods and services that have a market for the time being, the BJP has tended to shop for catchy formulations that may yield state power, for no fascist programme can ever succeed except on the strength of a powerful, captive state.

The dynamics of India’s democracy over the years, and the fact of a generational shift in league with neo-liberal technological advance have, however, now rendered the charms of the Hindutva project stale, in all its incarnations or camouflages.

Thus it is that the BJP’s failed prime ministerial prospect, L.K.Advani, skirting all issues of substance raised in the party’s recent conclave, skirting as well his own responsibility for the party’s failed campaign, and the responsibility of his chosen coterie who, in fact, stand rewarded further, to the understandable heart-burn of others, has typically floated a new formulation of the sort of Hindutva that the party must learn to practice.

This gentleman, whatever his reality, always does have something up his sleeve.

A rose they say is a rose by any name; so can “Hindutva” be, no?

To wit, he has pronounced that the BJP must henceforth avoid “any narrow or bigoted anti-Muslim interpretation of Hindutva”.

Amazing, isn’t it, how within the fascist camp, stern somersaults of Weltanschuuang can happen towards the last minutes of a confused conclave.

Presto, as it were.

But here is what we say.

We believe that coming as this new radical view of Hindutva does from an 82-year-old man, hardly in a position to conceive of a future for himself, some deeply felt conversion is here at work, one not subject to any further turn-arounds.

A conversion that inevitably also wraps a confession.

Advani’s formulation cannot but simultaneously mean that he acknowledges Hindutva to have thus far been “bigoted and anti-Muslim”. And on the basis, indeed, of his own marked culpabilities.

The nation might thus say that if the new non-bigoted, non-anti-Muslim view of what Hindutva ought to be is to be taken seriously as a rite d’ passage within the BJP, a leap, as it were, into a new being, such a transformation can be made credible only if and when an Advani shows contrition for bigoted and anti-Muslim culpabilities of the recent past, at the least, and apologises to the nation for the same.

After all, precisely because Advani did not think of Hindutva in 1990 as being non-bigoted and non-anti-Muslim did he launch that pogrom on the Babri mosque.

Or, refuse to show remorse for the Muslim massacres under Modi’s aegis in Gujarat in 2002.

Which is why we say to Advani-ji: notice how quite the other day the American Houses of Congress for the first time under the Obama dispensation passed a formal resolution of apology and contrition for the sins of slavery and racial discrimination.

And thus what better time to emulate the world’s other democracy, that iconic strategic partner, that guarantor of freedoms worldwide, and make a public apology to the nation—not just to the Muslims—for having practised bigotry and anti-Muslim Hindutva.

Short of that, alas, my friend, Sri Raman, must remain unrefuted in his astute perception that this is just but another gimmick floated in Goebellesian fashion to further hoodwink India under yet another false pretence.

Contrarily, think that were Advani to actually make that leap, how that might elevate and transform him, his party, and the future of the Republic, leaving a legacy worthy of a superior statesman and patriot.

Indeed, while we are on the subject of contrition, another apology that needs to be made by the Indian Parliament is to the Dalits of India, for a past bloodied with caste oppression and denial of human rights to a quarter of all Indians. And you may add to that the children and women of India as well.

Let us, therefore, sieze this grand opportunity of national renewal.

The hope here, however, must be tempered with a sense of hard realities. Any scion of the BJP will tell you that the party is “nothing” without the RSS. Also for the canny reason that it is, after all, the latter organisation that has the cadres indispensable to any electoral promise. Not that this is what they will acknowledge. Their point, alas, remains that the new Advani admonition notwithstanding, the BJP has no raison d’ etre except, in the first and last analysis, as a Hindu organisation primarily.

Like that chemical, benzene (C6 H12), the BJP retains whatever stability it does only because, as Kekule understood of that chemical with six missing carbon atoms, its serpent’s tail remains in the RSS mouth, causing double valencie bonds to occur. The pity is that whereas doubleness gives us a stable and beneficient benzene, doubleness debilitates and delegitimises the BJP forever, however stable it be.

Take that out, and no benzene, and no BJP as we have known it to be. A newer and better one may, nonetheless, emerge, not being an inert chemical after all.

India waits with bated breath. As, indeed, does the subcontinent.

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