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12 Jun, 2013    ·   3991

Shujaat Bukhari on the rise of Narendra Modi and the 'new' BJP

Shujaat Bukhari
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor in Chief, Rising Kashmir

Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi’s ascent in Bhartiya Janta Party’s hierarchy has thrown up a new challenge to Indian polity. The challenge is not only for the BJP to ride back on power in New Delhi while Modi is leading its election campaign in 2014, but also for the Indian electorate to chose between the “secularists” and the communalists. Sidelining L K Advani, the oldest man in the party does herald a shift from BJP’s “calculated” electoral strategy and that obviously cannot be based on the “Shining Gujarat” theory, with which Modi was pushed to the highest pedestal.

Short of announcing that he was BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014, the BJP national executive reposed full faith in his “charisma” and those who were opposed to it were not only sidelined but humiliated too. This was evident from Advani’s resignation from all the posts and his serious questions made it clear that he was not happy with the decision.

With Congress failing to deliver, a new era had begun in early 1990 when a new set of players had taken the reins of power in Delhi. While such an arrangement proved to be too loose, the Congress romped back to power in 1993, again proving that the single largest party government, though with the support from smaller parties, only could lead a country like India. However, the emergence of regional parties on the centre scene again set the stage for coalition governments. But this created a space for BJP which could lead the government by softening its Hindutva ideology and successfully govern India under the banner of National Democratic Alliance. BJP’s rise to power was possible only because of the support of the parties which were essentially against Congress but not “communal”.

The biggest advantage with BJP was that it had a leader such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee which not only managed to give an efficient government but also helped his party to change its image. Ironically, it was Advani who still nursed the strong HIndutva ideology and upset Vajpayee’s many initiatives like the one in which he tried to reach out to Pakistani President Parvez Musharraf in Agra in 2001. Advani tried to be the custodian of this ideology while being in power but the way the NDA was shaped up as a meeting ground for the anti-Congress forces he could do little to defeat all the good things Vajpayee wanted to do. Ultimately Vajpayee had his way in many things and he went ahead with the historical steps with Pakistan which brought a radical change in the discourse on Kashmir. Advani had to eat a humble pie but after BJP-led NDA was ousted out of power, it was he who emerged as the “buffer” between his party and the NDA allies. This became evident with the rise of Modi, who faced heat from an important ally such as Nitish Kumar.

With Advani playing a spoilsport to all the “softness” Vajpayee led BJP exhibited in dealing with the agendas, the circle has reverted back now. At the time Advani is seen as someone who attracts the allies, he is facing the heat of a strong Hindutva brigade in the BJP. This brigade has isolated Advani and is in search of a “new agenda” for the elections. After Modi was anointed as the new “avatar” of BJP, the battle lines have been drawn on both sides even as someone like Sushma Sawraj may be closer to Advani. However, the “New BJP” is on path to re-invent an agenda which they believe will steer the party through 2014 elections to at least get a magic 180 number in Lok Sabha with a view to lure the smaller parties. Again the irony is that the “New BJP” may have to revert back to Advani’s course of 1992 when he led the Rath Yatra. That was to polarize the Indian electorate and ride a Hindutva wave. That certainly did not help BJP to reach the power centre so easily but the divide did become the reality in the Indian polity. Today BJP is at cross roads and the rise of Modi has redefined the party.  It is unlikely that BJP will revert back to developmental agenda it had adopted during NDA time and the feeling among this “New BJP” leadership is that in spite of relatively good governance delivered by the NDA it did not help the party to come back to the power. So the only way to reach to a magic number is to resort to the Hindutva agenda to polarize the electorate. Even as the allies may not back the BJP on such a course, but the way the Indian middle class is behaving this may not be an exercise in vain.

After the Gujarat pogrom in which more than 2000 Muslims were massacred, the expected reaction in “secular” India would have been to see the Modis out for ever. But he has been returning to power in his state for three consecutive terms, though on a developmental agenda. However, it is enough to understand which way India’s so called secular polity was going.

In the aftermath of hanging of Afzal Guru on February 9 this year we have seen how mute the reaction of an average Indian was. They were given to understand that sending a Kashmiri to gallows would perhaps protest India from terrorism forever. Notwithstanding a strong reaction from a section of media and civil society, people across India were apparently convinced with this argument. So if Modi is declared as Prime Ministerial candidate and pitches for a communal divide, this will confront India with entirely a new challenge. Not that Congress is less communal in its dealings as is evident from the anti- minority policy it has been adopting but the way BJP is heading towards giving the “official sanction” to communalism by anointing  Modi the murderer, it surely is a major threat to the foundations of the country which boasts about secular democratic character. Though this has failed to test the waters in many cases like Kashmir but the experiment of this “New BJP” will cost India much.

Not that it is a foregone conclusion that Modi’s Hindutva agenda will strike a chord with every Indian , but the way his swords are out, it will impact the overall polity thus raising a serious concern for minorities. In any case if Modi reaches to the saddle in New Delhi, the fate of minorities will be somewhat in danger. What could stop Modi’s march to Delhi is only the unity among the “secular” parties but for Congress it is difficult to hold the ground. It could only think of hanging Afzal to counter Modi and not create a space for a real secular party in India. Congress party ridden with scams and bad governance will surely help BJP and 2014 will be a defining year for India as a country with diversities and accepting all religions alike.
By arrangement with Rising Kashmir