Bihar verdict: Hindutva ideology faces popular axe, even as BJP shields PM Modi!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Unity against Hindutva threat
Bihar elections came timely to suggest that if secular parties are united on some worthy programs for the people India could emerge a truly strong and modern nation. The Hindutva forces may not find any space soon in India. If, however, BJP succeeds in its pursuance of ultra Hindutva agenda forcefully, it would weaken Indian ethos and even reform the constitution as well to promote Hindutva communal trends, making India entirely Hinduistic, thereby endangering national unity and integrity as foreign nations with non-Hindu philosophies would interfere with Indian polity, governance and system.
As Nitish Kumar is slated to take oath of office on 20th November as Bihar CM for the third consecutive term, the highly disappointed BJP leaders are still unable to come to a conclusion about the real causes of the party defeat. Each leader conveniently comes out with their own version of explanation to justify the debacle of BJP. Some senior BJP leaders seek removal of Amit Shah, who claims to be behind Modi’s success from Gujarat CM to become India’s PM, from the party’s president’s job as now they blame him for party’s Bihar debacle.
Nitish-Lalu proved to be stronger than Modi-Shah as people reject Hindutva tricks and prefer secular democracy as the only credible way forward for India. Bihar outcome shows majority of Hindus are essentially secular and refuses to buy Hindutva hatred stuff.
As the former ruling party of Bihar, BJP was sure of winning back the sate under the “able leadership” of PM Modi hailing from Gujarat state. But the people of Bihar have repelled and quashed the BJP’s bold attempt to use high profile anti-secular and anti-democratic Hindutva rhetoric as an experiment with fanaticism in order to win votes in Bihar state. People of Bihar have rejected the Hindutva and anti-secular platforms.
Former railway ministers Nitish and Lalu stood firmly and blocked Hindutva advancements in Bihar. Core media outlets of India and their lords tried tricks to divide Nitish and Lalu but failed to make them fight over CM post while Lalu has stuck to his firm decision to make Nitish the CM. Anti-secular media lords worry that the Bihar verdict could harm the Hindutva projects for country to make it, along with an extra fanatic Israel, a perpetual threat to world peace.
Having badly failed during the electioneering to split the Nitish-Lalu alliance, the core Hindutva core media in India are still at work to divide the bond of these top Bihari politicians.
As self projected super hero, PM Modi himself led the campaign thinking that his “powerful” speeches but he could not cut much ice in the highly polarized Bihar state. His was a mere assessment and miscalculation of the mindset of people of Bihar.
Like minded non-BJP parties have come together to take the Hindutva challenge by taking the BJP and allies by horn and peole gave the Grand Alliance their full, committed support. Nitish-Lalu won the vote and gave hopes for secular and democratic India.
While, the oldest Indian party the Congress (INC) has learned very hard but important lessons from its Delhi debacle when a new party Aam Admi party AAP of Arvind Kejriwal won the poll winning almost all seats- precisely 67 seats out of 70 seater Delhi assembly, leaving none for it and just 3 seats to the national ruling party BJP, PM Modi’s party has refused to learn anything from Delhi and thus lost its prestige in Bihar too.
The Left parties that have some traditional base in Bihar fought poll on their own without aligning with Nitish-Lalu’s natural Mahagathbandhan alliance may have learned or should have enough lessons to be learned. When Congress that had 4 seats in the outgoing assembly got a whopping 26 seats by aligning with Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan), the left parties would have easily got some seats. Past is past.
To repeat what we said before the poll, the Bihar election was lost the moment the grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) of the formidable Nitish-Lalu-Congress trio was formed and Nitish Kumar named the CM candidate. Nothing the BJP did, or couldn’t do, after that changed the result. But it did much to make the fight more difficult for the saffron patrons. Facts don’t lie.
From the very beginning, for the BJP, winning the Bihar election was like climbing a hill with the rival already half way up there. BJP and RSS were sure that PM Modi would win Bihar battle for them. Its only hope lay in the Mahagathbandhan falling because of the burden of its contradictions and fighting within its various factions. But, this did not happen. In ABP Nielsen in February survey, only 41 percent respondents had shown their willingness to vote for the NDA; 57 percent had favored the evolving Mahagathbandhan. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat hit the last nail on the coffin called the BJP’s fate in Bihar with his hasty statements.
An important issue that is still being intensely debated within the party, albeit privately, is whether RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s controversial statement on reservation was a completely “innocent” one or it was a “guided missile” which was fired thrice against PM Modi’s unbridled fortunes. One person, party MP Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav who publicly spoke out against Bhagwat, has since become/made silent. But his statement is reflective of the sentiment of a section within.
It appears the RSS chief had certain reservations about Modi when he was declared the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate but then the groundswell for Modi from within and outside, as also Modi’s ability to reach and “manage things” was such that Bhagwat gave his nod. Then Modi’s delivery in parliamentary elections, winning 282 seats, changed the game. At least it looked so. Bhagwat broke his silence during the Bihar electioneering.
Mohan Bhagwat, Dadri, PM Modi, Hindutva hotheads contributed a little more to the pre-destined result. Consider phase five of the election in Bihar’s Seemanchal, where the combined strength of Muslims and Yadavs was considered a decisive factor. Just before this round, the NDA tried its best to polarize voters on communal lines. It issued ads featuring gau mata, made ugly references to celebrations breaking out in Pakistan after the BJP’s defeat and raised the communal temperature. Moreover, several fringe players like Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM and Pappu Yadav’s fledgling outfit were expected to eat into the Mahagathbandhan pie. The results, with the BJP winning 18 and the Mahagathbandhan getting 39 seats, were almost identical to the outcome in 2014 but made Nitish and Lalu the tall heroes.
Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav and the Congress contested the polls like a united family facing a common enemy. The leaders campaigned for each other, the cadres cooperated in the field and their traditional voters forgot their old rivalries. In the end, the Mahagathbandhan emerged as a single entity, a perfect sum of its parts.
The Mahagathbandhan retained the lead it had over the NDA from the very beginning and the trend of BJP losing around six percent votes in every election after 2014 continued. Many factors may have contributed to the Mahagathbandhan’s lead. The limited point here is the Bihar election panned out as scripted. The NDA’s vote share in Bihar fell by nearly five percent in 2015 to 34.1 from 2014 Lok Sabha elections – the gap was big enough to give Nitish Kumar’s alliance 120 more seats than the NDA.
Nitish-Lalu combination is so formidable Bihar small political parties could not make their presence in the state election as people preferred the major parties. The BJP-RSS suffered the most.
Logic of post poll storm
Debacle in Bihar has generated a storm in BJP. Amidst this ugly finger-wagging and tongue-lashing, the NDA under “formidable” leadership of PM Modi, seems to have ignored the data from Bihar’s polls the strength of the Garand alliance and BJP’s weakness.
Seeking to defend its leadership from the attack by its veterans, the BJP tried to put the ball back in their court, saying the “healthy precedent” of collective responsibility for poll victories and defeats was set by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani himself. The BJP said it would certainly welcome any guidance and suggestion of “our seniors”, shortly after Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar raised a banner of revolt against the leadership of PM Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah in the wake of Bihar poll debacle.
The BJP strongman and second after PM Modi, Arun Jaitley is blaming the party’s failure to negate the Nitish-Lalu’s Mahagathbandhan social base, while actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha is ruing the BJP’s reluctance to name him as the CM candidate and Begusarai MP Bhola Yadav has summoned rare courage to accuse the PM Modi of ruining party with his “irrelevant speeches” and needless sparring with Lalu Prasad Yadav whom the Biharis see through Nitish as their hero. At the rate holy cows in the NDA are being attacked, somebody is soon bound to bring up beef and Dadri.
BJP has made full use of “links” created by the Congress government indoors and abroad. India wants to control Afghanistan and wants Pakistan out of that neighboring nation. It seems India maintains links with terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A case in point is this development of February 2015 when a raging debate on attack on Christian churches allegedly by Hindu organisations was at its peak.
Modi spoke at length on the need to protect “values of inclusiveness” and thereby trying to shed an image that his government was either beholden only to elements propagating hard line Hindutva or was favorably tilted towards it. Just as the Modi government thought that the release of priests and the PM’s address at a clerics’ meet had brought conciliation with the Christian church and Hindu community, Mohan Bhagwat made a statement on Mother Teresa suggesting that prime motive behind her service to the destitute was converting them to Christianity: This was followed by other organizations, too.
Many RSS activists and sympathizers say the RSS chief as ideological fountainhead of the party which rules India, can his views on politics. But his statements, or plain coincidence of it with some larger event and narrative, have a bearing on overall political health of Modi and his government.
BJP cannot replace RSS.
Dealing with the crisis
The post-Bihar drama within the NDA resembles the usual political script of a defeated party where the partners start blaming each other after an unexpectedly failed heist. The boosting of BJP during the electioneering by the media lords did not do any good for the party and Modi.
Following Bihar poll debacle and amidst unease within, BJP now walks a tightrope and tight lipped without a visible “shine”. The BJP had learned that notwithstanding PM Modi’s hectic schedule in Bihar, it could win only 58 seats along with its own grand alliance of allies, and has been defeated emphatically by the Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance, which has got 178 seats, an absolute majority in Bihar.
The BJP has now resorted to a tactic to overcome the self defeat by a trick of “collective responsibility” to save Modi skin from the Bihari thrash in response to BJP Hindutva agenda. The statement took a dig at the senior rebels by reminding them that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani had set a “healthy precedent of the party collectively taking up responsibility for victories and defeats.” The subtle barb was aimed at Advani who was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate when the party lost 2009 elections.
BJP leaders cannot afford to abandon PM Modi at the juncture because people keep rejecting the party. Senior leaders like Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley have point blank said no blame can be attached to the Prime Minister. The official BJP released a statement issued by three former BJP leaders- Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, all former BJP Presidents, to lend credibility. The top BJP leaders called the parliamentary board, which includes PM Modi and Shah and assessed that no one could be blamed for the Bihar defeat; they said the party had failed the gauge the secular mood in the state.
A joint statement issued said: “The Party has been very fortunate to have been led by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shri LK Advani for decades. They had set a healthy precedent of the Party collectively taking up responsibility for victories and defeats.” “The Party has won the Lok Sabha Election last year under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi. Thereafter, the Party had success in Assembly Elections of Jharkhand, Haryana, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, we have won the local elections in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andamans, Kerala and Assam. The results of Delhi and Bihar have been adverse against us,” the statement said.
The statement is a mischief. Modi won the parliamentary poll thanks to the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal that led to the debacle of the corrupt Congress led UPA government and also the historic victory for Kejriwal’s AAP in Delhi poll and MP seats in Punjab. Had Anna Hazare fought the poll, he would become the PM of India. But unfortunately for Indians Hazare, seemingly a close associate of RSS-BJP refused to form a party and did not contest the elections. BJP and Modi took the advantage of anti-corruption movement.
But rebel leaders led by former Deputy PM LK Advani and three other veteran BJP leaders have issued a lacerating statement on the party’s defeat in the Bihar assembly elections, demanding a thorough review and criticising its stand on the debacle. “The results of Bihar election show that no lesson has been learnt from fiasco in Delhi,” said the statement, signed by Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha, all 80 plus leaders sidelined by the party since Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah took charge of it. The statement censured the Modi-Amit leadership unambiguously and in strong words. “To say everyone is responsible for defeat in Bihar is to ensure no one is held responsible. It shows those who would have appropriated credit are bent on shrugging off responsibility for the disastrous showing in Bihar,” the leaders said.
The senior leaders are seen to have given voice to those in the party who are wary of the style of functioning of the Modi leadership, there are MPs who have hit out at the party publicly. An era of mutual blame set in but the party is careful not to destroy the party which came a long way from “returned Hindus from Pakistan” after the partition to the rulers of India promoted by the Congress party to attack Muslims and their properties including the historic Babri Mosque. As more of its MPs joined voices of dissent, BJP appeared to be treading cautiously in its approach towards the LK Advani-led team of veterans, who took on the party leadership over the Bihar debacle. They questioned everything that makes Muslims the Indian citizens, gives them some honor.
The BJP old guard’s statement, which had not named anyone but wanted accountability to be fixed, was seen to be targeting party president Amit Shah. Sources said the veterans were not in favour of Shah getting another term as party chief. However, the BJP was unlikely to give in and could take a brazen it out approach given that PM Narendra Modi is known not to succumb to pressure. At the same time, the BJP would refrain from taking a combative tone towards the party elders and would avoid ruffling feathers further, sources said.
Meanwhile, a national stage is being for all pro-democracy and pro-secular forces to come together to form a formidable national alternative to face communal forces.
Congress as well as BJP views the RSS as the backbone of Indian system. Like BJP men, many Congress men also maintain links with RSS, making the Hindutva communication easy. But popular leaders like Nitish, Lalu, and Kejriwal have been identified by Indian voters to replace both national parties.
It appears, the BJP-RSS and PM Modi have comprehended the facts behind their unprecedented success in 2014 parliamentary poll which they could not repeat in the polls after that. Indians voted for BJP as anti-incumbency measure to unseat the totally corrupt and insensitive Congress led UPA government. Modi’s “development” agenda did only the backup role in the poll to remove the Manmohan government and save India for the time being. But Indians now see the BJP also trying the same corporate policies, lies and other mischief of Congress misrule.
BJP and PM Modi must have realized that anything beyond the usually hidden Hindutva policy that the Congress party pursues alone would suit Indian polity and overtly poisonous or aggressive Hindutva imposition has no place in India. Extra patriotism, targeting minorities, is not good for any country. Indian voters are capable of busting any communal bubbles being floated by Hindutva forces that focus on Hindu vote banks of Congress party by attacking Muslims. Rising economy helps the Indian government to persecute Muslims, and, where necessary, other minorities.
Varanasi region in UP state from where PM Modi got elected last year to the parliament to become Indian PM, replacing an innocent looking Manmohan Singh of Congress party, has defeated BJP in local polls, signaling bad time for the Hindutva parties in India.
While the BJP parliamentary board had shielded Modi and Shah in the face of the defeat and attributed it to “collective responsibility”, the veterans had said that this amounted to saying that no one was held responsible. The veterans were of the view that unlike in the past, there was no “collective leadership” at present
Bihar election was high stake election and a victory for Modi had the potential to take personality-centric politics and mass following to a new level. A severe drubbing in Bihar has impacted his aura and image.
Instead of fighting with each other, the BJP leaders should start worrying about two clear trends: Its national outlook as well as voter mindset: both are disintegrating and rivals are uniting. Both don’t augur well for the future of BJP as well as PM Modi.
Complacency that killed a over confident Congress party earlier on the strength of unfailing support it used to receive from Muslims, seems to have begun to eat into BJP leadership as well.
Soon the weakening BJP would realize that it can’t go back to patriotic mode and must play the Congress brand communal politics of taking minorities also into confidence in order to win polls.
Only that could be a constitutionally valid option!