The apprehensions remain

THE STATEMENTS MADE by the BJP's leaders during the couple of days when the National Executive was in session represent an attempt to ride the two horses of political correctness and the party's own core majoritarian agenda. The manner in which the Prime Minister, A.B.Vajpayee, and the others who matter in the party seemed to distance themselves from the revanchist slogans raised by those in the VHP — declaring that the party did not subscribe to the idea of making India a Hindu Rashtra — are strikingly similar with the BJP's record in the context in which the Ayodhya issue was pushed into the political centre stage. Recall the BJP's attitude to the campaign and mobilisation carried out by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal before and after the party's national executive at Palampur in 1989 and the zeal with which the then party president, L. K. Advani, undertook the rath yatra, a few years later, inciting passions across the country. The BJP's tactical approach was indeed the same in the midst of the violence and pogrom in Gujarat post-Godhra. After having walked the extra mile when he seemed to be unhappy with the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi's role in the wake of the violence against the Muslim community, Mr. Vajpayee did show up in the midst of the elections to the Gujarat Assembly to stand by Mr. Modi as well as his associates from the VHP. The tactics would seem to be to let the VHP and the other foot soldiers rouse passions and mobilise voters on the basis of an extreme Hindutva ideology even as the BJP appears politically correct and even liberal through ritual obeisance to the Constitutional values.

As for the semantics indulged in by the party's leaders — the definition of Hindutva being the same as the Hindu way of life — the BJP has been playing this game for long. The Sangh Parivar's strategy for mobilisation has always rested on conjuring up fears of the Hindu religion being in danger. And, the Sangh Parivar had, through the years, achieved a measure of success in creating such a fear among the members of the majority community. A siege mentality and passions built on this basis had helped these outfits to organise violent campaigns against members of the minority communities over the years. The systematic destruction of property (amidst killings) immediately after the Babri Masjid was demolished was the outcome of this campaign during which the BJP and its other associates in the Sangh Parivar had managed to mobilise support for their majoritarian agenda. It was in a society so conditioned that the horrific carnage at Godhra set off such a major conflagration and a brutal pogrom. Gujarat was an instance where the BJP's version of Hindutva was on display and that certainly cannot be seen as an expression of the Hindu way of life. Mr. Modi and his aides (along with Praveen Togadia and the others in the VHP) through their acts had conveyed, without ambiguity, that by Hindutva they only meant putting into practice the majoritarian prescriptions handed down to them by M. S. Golwalkar in his `We or Our Nationhood Defined' as early as in 1939 and taken up by a long line of RSS ideologues thereafter.

The attempts by the BJP's leaders at the national executive and the assertion that the party did not subscribe to the demand to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra will have to be seen in this larger context. The systematic manner in which the BJP as a party and its other associates have been putting into effect their majoritarian agenda in the past decade has made clear the Sangh Parivar's ultimate objective. Quite apart from the fact that an appeal to voters on the basis of religion is contrary to Constitutional values, the Hindutva agenda is not about preserving the eclectic spirit and the nobler elements of the Hindu way of life. Instead, what is espoused by the BJP over the years is nothing but crude majoritarianism that seeks to oppress and marginalise the minorities and is totally out of place in a pluralist society. The latest BJP meet does not in any way lessen the apprehensions over its commitment to a majoritarian agenda.