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Mainstream Weekly, VOL LVI No 18 New Delhi April 21, 2018

It’s Modi’s BJP!

Sunday 22 April 2018, by Kuldip Nayar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now all in all in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He has installed his close lieutenant, Amit Shah, as the party President. However, people’s memory is short. The founder was Atal Behari Vajpayee who subsequently occupied the office of the Prime Minister to lead the NDA Government, a coalition of several parties.

The miracle of the Congres demise took place under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, a Gandhian socialist. There was such a strong movement that all non-Congress parties came together on one platform. The old Jana Sangh members were very particular about maintaining their link with the RSS. This meant that the Hindutva ideology would remain to define the party’s communal agenda.

JP’s clothes of secularism did not fit the pro-Hindu Jana Sangh. Then the party was called the Jana Sangh. It was JP who admitted it into the Opposition combination fighting the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. JP was conscious that the Jana Sangh was a political arm of the RSS. But he had been given an undertaking that the two would part company.

When the Janata Party came into being, JP insisted on the Jana Sangh members, who occupied key positions in the Janata Party and government, to sever their link with the RSS. JP knew how they had created an atmosphere where a Hindu would assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. Nathuram Godse touched Gandhi’s feet and shot the Mahatma point-blank. It became clear later that there was a well-prepared plan. The RSS was banned. The organisation’s chief M.S. Golwalkar was arrested. But he was released after a year or so on the assurance that the RSS would not enter into electoral politics. It is another matter that they hid the fact that they were the guiding force. Today the organisation is selecting the BJP candidates for the State Assemblies. The Lok Sabha poll would see the same trend.

The undertaking of the RSS had turned out to be a ruse to join the Janata Party. JP’s reminders to the Jana Sangh leaders to make good on their promise had no effect. How could they have done so when the Jana Sangh itself was an RSS creation, with the avowed aim of creating a Hindu Rashtra? Initially, the Jana Sangh members tried to explain to JP that the RSS wasn’t what it was made out to be. When it came to the crunch, they refused point-blank to break their ties with the RSS. JP felt cheated. But by then he was too sick to go back to the people to expose the Jana Sangh. He did make it public that his trust had been violated but he was helpless because of ill-health.

When the Janata Party raised the membership issue, the Jana Sangh members preferred to walk out. Curiously, by that time, they had acquired the credibility which the Jana Sangh, now the BJP, had not managed even after a few decades of Gandhi’s assassination.

The two-year stay in the Janata Party and the portfolios they held in the Central Ministry helped the BJP immensely. On the one hand, the party went ahead to saffronise the new members. On the other, they selected persons for even assertive portfolios like Information and Broadcasting. Today the RSS seems to run on a daily basis.

The BJP also adopted at one time a positive stance which confused the Hindu intelligentsia. When a leader like Atal Behari Vajpayee was at the helm of affairs he did a balancing act and rode two horses at the same time. The Ayodhya-cum-Babri Masjid dispute and other factors percolated down to the BJP’s winning 181 seats in 1998, against the usual single digit tally, in a 545-member house. After that, even JP’s close followers found alibis to join hands with the BJP in the NDA so as to stay in the driving seat.

By then it was evident that the BJP was desperate to widen its base. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani minimised the differences between the political BJP and the totalitarian RSS. He had done everything to “unify” the Hindus, the most dangerous being the rath yatra he led through northern India, dividing Hindus and Muslims who had lived together for centuries. Advani was so satisfied with the results drawing a clear line between the two communties that he equated his rath yatra to Ayodhya with Gandhi’s Dandi Salt march.

Prime Minister Modi is underlining all the time that he is bigger than the party. Even after four years of rule, it is not clear which direction he is taking the country. Granted that his diluted form of Hindutva is spreading in the country, but this process has stopped at the Vindhyas. The Southern States do not seem to give the impression of full participants.

And once again the introduction of Hindi is creating the same problem as it did during the last days of Jawaharlal Nehru. Then his successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, assured the nation on the floor of the House that the switch-over to Hindi would solely depend on the non-Hindi-speaking States who could say that they were ready for the switch-over. It is up to Modi to see how he is able to reconcile with the two different trends. It is obvious that he would have to nudge the Hindi-speaking States. Only time will tell if he can do so.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com

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