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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 50 New Delhi December 1, 2018

Unchallenged Hegemony of BJP

Sunday 2 December 2018

by Vijay Kumar

Ever since the Gujarat Assembly elections held in December 2017, the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi has been on the resurgence. The Congress missed the formation of the government in Gujarat, the home State of the Prime Minister and the President of the ruling party, the BJP, by a narrow margin. Thereafter, the Congress did well despite anti-incumbency, and succeeded in outsmarting the BJP in May 2018 by installing a government in Karnataka led by H.D. Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister. Therefore, on the political front, the Congress has been doing well and is living up to the task of an Opposition party.

At the national level and on national/international issues, the Congress is the only party which has succeeded in capturing the Opposition space. The Congress is again the only party, apart from the Left, that is raising the issue of the Rafale scam, the most conspicuous case of crony-capitalism.

But on the ideological front, the Congress is clearly not upto the task. Ever since the last Gujarat Assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party, has been on a spree of temple visits, especially at the time of election; whether it is Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and/or Rajasthan. The Congress has adopted soft Hindutva and is thus allowing the BJP to establish its ideological hegemony.

The two main planks of the BJP are aggressive and jingoistic nationalism and toxic Hindutva. Both these planks need to be countered by espousing secularism and pluralism. It is true that toxic Hindutva is a complete negation of classic Hinduism, known for bewilderingly diverse varieties, tolerance, openness and catholicity. It is also true that the basic tenet of Hinduism is under attack by the BJP through its highly sectarian and narrow vision of religion which Hinduism is not. But the response to the pernicious ideology of the BJP cannot be soft-Hindutva characterised by the temple hopping by Rahul Gandhi all the time and by proclaiming, rather defensively, that he is a

Shiv Bhakt

and

Janau-dhari

Hindu.

Confronted with constant nagging by the BJP in respect of Rahul’s religious affiliation, the Congress should take a principled stand that religion is a private affair of its leader and the BJP has no business to peep into his privacy. Instead of adopting this liberal and secular position, the Congress seems to be confused and has surrendered and is spending its energy in responding to the BJP’s absurd questions.

By now, it is crystal clear that the BJP is shying away from the issue of governance, particularly those issues which are central to the life of the ordinary public. The Congress should adopt people-centric activism by highlighting the issues which have fateful concern for the margi-nalised groups, youth and women. The Congress should raise the state of the economy and keep on harping on the issue of governance to such a virulent degree that the BJP is compelled to respond to it. There is no dearth of issues that can be raised to corner the BJP. There are a host of issues ranging from foreign policy, particularly its precarious state in the context of neigh-bouring countries, to the state of the economy, lack of jobs, farmers’ distress, callous neglect of education and denigration of institutions on which the record of the BJP Government is extremely pathetic. But this is not happening. Despite the alarmingly pathetic record of governance on all fronts, whether economic, social and/or foreign policy, the BJP is getting away from it by raising the issue of construction of the Ram temple and embarking on the name-changing agenda and allied polarising issues, and the Congress has been put on the defensive and left to respond to the same.

The experience since independence has shown that hard-core secularism has always succeeded in countering the fanaticism of the erstwhile Jana Sangh and the present BJP. The Jana Sangh was an extremely marginal player at the time of Pandit Nehru, who practised genuine and aggressive secularism. The answer to the communal politics of the BJP lies in articulation of aggressive and principled secularism. The issues of governance, particularly pertaining to the poor public, should be the main plank on which elections ought to be contested.

The Congress needs to be reminded of the difference between electoral success and hege-mony which are two distinct matters. During Nehru’s time, the Congress achieved not only repeated electoral success, but also established its hegemony in the form of the famous Nehruvian consensus. The Congress may or may not succeed in defeating the BJP. But assuming that the Congress can defeat the BJP, it is presently not in a position to make a dent into the hegemony of the BJP by combating its ideology. Achieving electoral success is one thing and defeating the opponent’s ideology is an altogether different thing. The Congress has to learn this and should be in the forefront in its opposition to the hideous and divisive agenda and anti-poor policy of the BJP.

The author is an Advocate of the Supreme Court.

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