Hindsight, Happenstance and Hindutva- Part 3

It can be said with reasonable authority, even a modicum of audacity, that the BJP’s problems are more a manifestation of unusual and paranormal growth, rather than any deficit of it.

In respect of the Lok Sabha results of 2004 and 2009, while it is true that the Congress has consolidated and secured tactical gains lately, thematically and ideologically, the BJP is better placed to emerge as the main party in the next decadal based on its root strength and past trend-based analysis. There are some caveats to this, of course, but the general direction of BJP’s growth remains pointed north.

Whether it was the propelling force of the Rath Yatra by L.K. Advani, or the crescendo of the post Babri Masjid incident or the successive attacks on Indian cities by persons professing faith in Islam, or the Pakistani conundrum, or the sum total of the organizational work of the Sangh, or the frequent flare outs of religious conversions that added fuel to fire, or the rubbing in of the theme of pseudo secularism, or the genial popularity of A.B. Vajpayee, or the coming together of a spate of situations that saw three elections in three years, or all of it combined, which propelled the BJP into the centre stage of national politics, it remains a feat that is not often seen in political history for the speed it picked up. But this propulsion did not come without attendant disturbances, as all tectonic shifts must.

The commonest problem affiliated with spurting growth is that while the engine is chugging full throttle, the rest of the locomotive has yet to catch up. In effect, this sudden burst of thrust caused the BJP to acclimatize quickly to a new situation but with some crucial components not yet in place. Size, for instance. The fact that the BJP is yet to have a footprint as large as the Congress should have always been a reminder of our under-dog status. [In the ‘coalition era’, when alliances disguise such shortcomings, this fact tends to be glossed over, but the underlying weakness show up at the most awkward moments of stress for such agglomerations.] That the Congress has a 65 odd years’ lead over this process is as true as it is that the BJP’s work in many states yet to acquire quantum mass in the states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and to some extent even Kerala.

The BJP’s loss, therefore, had more to do with a mathematical problem than any grand idea of a resurgent Congress or a wilting lotus, so to say. For a party that has yet to establish a presence in four large states of India, it was always going to be a struggle for the BJP to collate the desired numbers. The only way out would have been to pull off stupendous wins in the states where it had a presence, but as we now know, that is much easier wished than achieved – the law of averages ensures that that sort of thing does not happen too often, thanks in some measure also to the big bogey of Indian elections called the anti-incumbency factor.

The Congress’s pan-India spread, [traditional advantage over all others for reasons argued in part 2 of this series] gave it the edge it has enjoyed for the longest time, excepting minor aberrations as in the late nineties. Simply put, had the BJP been an equal player in as many states as the Congress, the results in both elections mentioned earlier, could very easily have been different. So, to buttress my point, it is the nascence of the BJP, or its shorter growth curve that handicaps it for the present, and as it continues up the ellipse, these deficiencies will iron out to its greater advantage, and the consequent disadvantage of the Congress.

This is not to suggest that the BJP’s current loss has been anything but a spectacular debacle when seen from the position of strength it enjoyed in the late nineties and early 2000. What irks is that some of this could have been avoided, in hindsight, if the party had not succumbed to hubris in 2004 and amnesia in 2009. But that is history, and everyone knows how a ship could have been saved after it has sunk. And yet, even in the short run, the damage is still not too great for the BJP to overcome.

We know the relationship between vote share and seats is at best tenuous, and this is particularly true when there is no discernible ‘wave’ in the run up to the elections and the difference in seats between winner and loser is not a figure that cannot be surmounted. Besides, as has been argued repeatedly, anybody who is serious about reading the correlation of electoral share with party performance right must know that it is not the depth of penetration of a party’s support base that is the determining factor, but more the skimming votes that allow a win to occur, seat by seat by seat on any given day. More like a 20-20 game of cricket than any real test of prowess over a five-dayer.

Given that, it is unfair to both, the winner and the loser in such electoral matches that the winning is as nebulous as is the losing: the winner is not really the master of all he surveys, and the loser is only a victim of chance. Between those covers, whatever happens is called strategy, but take it from anyone who has been close enough to the battle ground, it is often more happenstance than any programmable theorem.

In spite of all that, anybody who has followed political movements over time must accept that there has been exponential growth in popular support for the BJP in the two decades where it has moved from a measly two seats in Parliament to contender status for a national government today. That this paradigm shift was enabled by the foundational work done by the Sangh over the last fifty years is as much a tribute to the ideological framework within which the RSS has assiduously worked, as it is to the masterly evocation of India’s Hindu consciousness through a renewed vision of Hindutva, that had hitherto been all but buried under the debris of pusillanimous Nehruvian thought and the culture of the Congress he spawned.

It is appropriate that the poser above brings us back to the premise of where we started – that Hindutva has been the engine of the BJP’s growth in the last two decades from relative obscurity to centre stage of Indian politics. There is not too much to prove, nor any mystery to unravel – it has been the compulsive hold of the Hindutva theme that has coalesced large parts of this country into a solid support group that sees the premise delivered by BJP as a just, valid and necessary position to take for large sections of the electorate.

In sum total, the spectacular rise of the BJP, aided by its thematic adherence to Hindutva, sculpted and sustained painstakingly by the RSS over years has resulted in the creation of a new self-image of this generation of Indians who, while adhering to the essentially liberal attitudes of Hinduism are also now evolving as a pan-Indian political class – a feature that has never ever been recorded of Hindus in the history of this ancient land.

But one need not take my word for it – just look around for signals.

Remember this year when Sri Mohan Bhagwat took over as RSS Chief, every TV Channel gave it prime time coverage and it was the lead story in all national papers. Ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a leadership change at the RSS as a lead item in the Indian press? Read between the lines. Hindutva is working, and we should be taking note.

What we are calling defeat is the froth of impending success. That the BJP has yet to rise to its potential is a no-brainer. That it will, is my wager.

2 Responses to “Hindsight, Happenstance and Hindutva- Part 3”
  1. shravan kumar pandey says:

    Dear Sir
    I don’t knowwhy everyone is talking in different way.
    If I am a postive suppoter of BJP, I will always speak in favour of BJP.
    But every top leader is speaking in a different way.

  2. Dear Sanjay Kaul ji, I am pleased to tell that your assessment of our current predicament is almost correct.One aspect probably over looked is we suffered sabotages too.Other than that this series is an un blurred overview done very correctly.Thanks.

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