Hindsight, Happenstance and Hindutva – Part 1

Post election media frenzy dictates that the BJP was compromised by Hindutva. Maybe the media compromised its judgement?

The cacophony of dirges that are being sounded ever since the post mortem of the BJP’s defeat has begun, is getting to be more like a requiem for the damned – it is no longer about any real analysis of the situation but more the dissection of a curse everyone believes has been set on the party’s fortunes – the curse being Hindutva.

The sheer volume of symmetrical editorials and stories in the press and on TV is indicative of the munificence of this theme but which also points to a suspicious confluence of views in a normally disruptive polity like ours where nobody agrees on anything.

The commoditization of news is one thing but this is really a case of sellers becoming buyers of their own commodities. It is noticed that the media is too often a victim of what is called the “echo effect” – you sound like what you hear. It happens that the more mainstream a media product is, the more difficult it is for it to go against the grain of popular belief and which eventually just becomes an instrument of buttressing the established view, or the view under establishment. Of course, some offbeat or boutique media may have the temerity to tread a different, perhaps truer, path but then their limitation of spread – what allows them to have the liberty to do so – retards their reach to have any perceptible impact on the larger mass of readers.

And so it goes, that  column after column, columnist after columnist is at pains establishing that it is Hindutva and its manifestations that blighted the BJP’s chances in the recently held Lok Sabha elections and which has led to a cat fight among the seniors if not the cadres.

But did it? And can we be sure?

To those whose aversion to Hindutva – the idea and the word- is so pronounced that their faculties short circuit at the mention of the word must also decide if they are really serious about this exploration : because to establish or debunk the relationship between Hindutva and the causes of BJP’s poor showing at the elections will require some amount of suspension of belief – for both, those on this side of the argument, and the other.

The belief that it was Hindutva that was under test in the elections is a fallacy simply because it was never put up for referendum by anybody. The BJP did not seek a mandate for either the continuation or the cessation of, or any revision of Hindutva; did not also put that up as a point of policy for debate or dissertation. It did not find place in the Manifesto as a point of action and was never referred to as a point of assertion or disagreement of any sort between its allies, the members of NDA.

The demonisation of Hindutva as a concept that can bring defeat in elections is also strange, for it is not an issue to be voted on for the larger support base of the BJP. Hindutva is a pervading theme, leitmotif, the raison de etre for the existence of the BJP, not an issue for debate. To question that ,would be to question its existence. Hindutva is the thematic umbilical cord that roots the party, vein and sap, into the soil of India’s fundamental cultural ethos. It doesn’t come into question. Like it doesn’t come into question that you were born of man.

But clearly this explanation is not enough to cancel out the argument of some of its die-hard critics, that there has been a rejection of Hindutva as a thematic agreement between the BJP and its voters, based on the depletion in its vote which has reduced to about 18% from 22% the last time. And yet, it only takes a moment to realize that the Congress has depleted in much larger volume over the last twenty years in vote share, so how do we sustain this argument?

But the detractor comes up with yet another analogy: the gap in vote share of the Congres and the BJP is now close to 10 percentage points indicating clearly that the Congress’  ‘secularist’ agenda is a preferred alternative for the nation over the ‘exclusivist’ agenda of the BJP. Is it ? First: vote share fluctuates dramatically from election to election often without reference to ideological moorings of parties. Second: the difference in vote share is not directly proportional to seats won, as we have seen time and again. Did you know, for instance, that in 1998 when the BJP formed the Government on the basis of being the party with the largest number of seats, its vote share was actually less than the Congress aggregate. So, the thesis that the country has rejected Hindutva on the basis of the reduction of seats or vote percentage for the BJP in this Lok Sabha election is at best a specious interjection by political dilettantes.

The more real assertion should be that irrespective of the waxing and waning of electoral numerology, the Indian polity has now comprehensively accepted the BJP as an alternate political entity to the Congress and that this has, inter alia, validated Hindutva as a potent tool for aggregation of support for the party.

The BJP lost for many reasons: and we will come to that soon enough, but the BJP is what it is and Hindutva stays what it stays.

One Response to “Hindsight, Happenstance and Hindutva – Part 1”
  1. Ritwik Agrawal says:

    “Hindutva is a pervading theme, leitmotif, the raison de etre for the existence of the BJP, not an issue for debate. To question that would be to question its existence.”

    But that is exactly what commentators like Ashis Nandy have done – question the sustainability of Hindutva, and by extension, the existence of the BJP.

    The basic issues which have come to symbolise Hindutva, like Ram Mandir or article 370 or UCC, have time and again been consigned to a corner, for the BJP to gain wider acceptability.

    The challenge for the BJP is to sell its core ideology as an inclusive and development oriented vision. Can the BJP do that, laid low as it is by the baggage of obscurantist “friends” such as VHP and Bajrang Dal?

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