The Lotus Hocus Pocus

It is easy to attribute the UPA’s ascension to power to an arithmetic accident. But the BJP’s sordid show at the hustings cannot be explained away in a similar vein. The Cong’s victory claim may not be so convincing, but the fact remains that the BJP has lost, gross and square. And in a hypothetical two-horse race, the Cong now is surely edging ahead of the BJP. So some post-defeat turbulence was expected. But the raging parivar war, over personalities and not principles, only pushes the party even deeper into the hole it had dug for itself.

Sure every party needs powerful personalities to push its policies in the public domain. Inherent in this is the risk of the man becoming the message himself. But the BJP was supposed to be different: a democratic, cadre-based party as against the dynastic, leader-dependent Congress. It was therefore expected that the personal ambitions and aspirations of such leaders are subject to party interest and ideological constructs. But the personality-above-party bug bit the BJP in 1998 itself. Having waited long enough, Vajpayee’s Prime Ministerial itch gained priority over party principles and pride and he succumbed to blackmail in government formation. And as he reigned for six years, his deputy LKA became the next man in waiting. Come, 2009, it was again an individual’s now or never question; 82-year-old Advani’s ‘future’ as India’s PM gained precedence over everything else. The party has really lost to its own prima donnas first!

That said, the fading away of the twin towers of the BJP from the political landscape is sad enough. They built the BJP from scratch in 1984 and converted the Cong-centric India’s polity to a BJP centric one. Above all the BJP under the duo’s leadership broke the myth that no non-Congress government can last its full term. But that these personalities also provoked the party’s decline is only part of the story. The larger reason for the BJP’s debacle is that, having abandoned almost all of its basic principles, while in or out of power, the party is seeing a massive ersoion in its core constituency. It stands defeated, not because ‘secular’ voters dumped it but for betraying those core issues so dear to the constituency that launched its ascent. In its pursuit of fresh pastures which were at best a mirage, it has lost its original turf.

What explains the meteoric rise of the BJP, the quintessential Indian Right wing party, in a wholly Left-oriented milieu? Now, let us not delude ourselves that the Indian voters of the 80’s and 90’s were smitten by the looks of Vajpayee or Advani. Charisma, in a traditional sense, was the least of the BJP’s pluses unlike with the Cong. The BJP rose by riding the crest of a cultural backlash; while India had attained political independence, Bharat remained a suppressed civilisation. Every nation that broke free from a colonial yoke sought to rediscover its roots, but Nehru’s India acted as if it never had a history of worth and was born only in 1947, a position that suited the pseudo secular axis of Marxists, media, missionaries and mullahs. This disconnect came home to roost after fifty years of Cong rule emaciated the nation’s resources and spirit. The Ram Mandir movement symbolised this resurgence. To attribute the credit wholly to the BJP for what was essentially a people’s groundswell is to overestimate the party’s capability and commitment. At best, its leaders sensed the mood and capitalised. That Advani’s bid to have his coronation in Delhi even while Rama remained exiled from Ayodhya fell through was providence at work.

Besides Ayodhya there was a bunch of issues agitating the average Hindu mind that the BJP identified with much to its benefit. Equitable economic growth, healthcare and education are matters of concern for all nations at all times. And politics over these is as rife in India now as it has always been. And sure, good, clean governance is an imperative for political success, but that is so for all parties, across Left, Right and Centre. But what about the issues that defined the politics of the BJP, made it different and brought it the electoral moolah? Jihadi terror and Evangelical conversions find the ‘tolerant’ Indians ripe for the picking. For the Marxists and Maoists, the poor and oppressed are cannon fodder. For the Media, the elite mindset minted by Macaulay is a matter of honour than talking about the ‘worn out’ past. And then we have the strange spectacle of sons of the soil calling themselves minorities just by switching Gods; or the scenario of group after group wanting to be called backward just to move forward! Indeed, these are the forces and farces, outside traditional political battlefields, that the BJP was supposed to take on. But what was its record? It traded Jihadis. It did nothing to arrest the flow of dubious foreign funds that were at the root of fraudulent conversions. Ayodhya went off the radar at the sight of Delhi. A Uniform civil code, despite the SC recommending it, was quickly and quietly forgotten. The much tom tommed abrogation of Art 370 turned to ashes on the ubiquitous backburner. The much touted Hindu unity was sacrificed at the altar of caste politics that the BJP too played with aplomb. And these Swadeshi champions were powerless to stop a foreigner from making a bid, albeit aborted, for the PMO. And then comes the discovery that Jinnah is secular! And coalition dharma became an alibi for skipping all such obligations. Indeed, the BJP’s very purpose of existence was frustrated in every way. And worse, by its abdication, it became a Cong clone.

So, has the Right turn reached a dead end, as the secular brigade claims? The media, particularly, now wants the BJP to take a decisive ideological U turn, if it has to survive. Wolves cant have the well-being of goats in mind and would only want the prey to walk into their paths. So heeding them would only lead to losing even the residual gains. The future? World over, with globalisation and immigrations threatening national identities, positive rightwing politics to defend national cultures is only on the rise with nary a contradiction with modernism or development. For instance, it was Vajpayee’s so called ‘communal’ regime that laid the foundation for India’s economic and technological advances. Again, denial and deriding of a nation’s core religion may seem secular but is suicidal. Stronger the roots, stronger the tree that in turn shades all the ‘plural’ aspects that we often talk of. Former US prez, Jimmy Carter, who is now a West Asia peacenik, has said a couple of days back:’ … all the children of Abraham, Christians, Muslims and Jews, should unite for the sake of their holy land …’. Now, is this communal? Rather, that’s how a human mind falls back on its basics in times of crisis, and that’s how nations are defined. India that is Bharat should not forfeit its safety net in the name of secularism. In short, only the men and methods must change, not the message.

But for now, the space on the right is a vacuum. If the Sangh Parivar does not fill it, someone else should if only to give political articulation to those orphaned issues. Also, there has to be a check on Singh Parivar. Er, I actually meant, Signora Parivar!

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Jawahar T R