Sunday, May 31, 2009

Paradox of Mandate 2009: Will the BJP abandon its Hindutva?

The results of the 2009 general elections have left the BJP very confused. It has been an interesting exercise to read different interpretations in the media about Mandate 2009. There are in fact conflicting interpretations as to whether it is a vote for stability at the Centre. Critics of this view point out that if it has been so, then regional leaders/parties would not have secured resounding victories in Orissa, Bihar and elsewhere. In other words, the voters' preference for stability at the Centre has not been conspicuous uniformly across the country. Similarly, suggestions that voters have decisively rejected the Hindutva brand of politics pursued by the BJP have also been questioned, because the BJP has registered spectacular victories in Karnataka, and Himachal Pradesh, and managed to retain its hold in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Every election since the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 - be it assembly or Lok Sabha election - has witnessed this debate in the media and within the BJP about the appropriate electoral strategy with regard to Hindutva: should the party adopt more or less of it. Apologists of Hindutva would, in fact, explain the party's debacle in terms of party's reluctance to adopt Hindutva wholeheartedly, in order to please the allies, and in practice the party fell between two stools, unable to make a clear choice between unabashed Hindutva, and unabashed secularism. (I understand the word Hindutva in a political sense here, and not the way the Supreme Court interpreted it) Therefore, when I read this post by Swapan Dasgupta making a strong case for abandoning Hindutva by the BJP, I was pleasantly surprised. It is not unusual for political parties to abandon its long-cherished goals for the sake of survival. Did not the DMK officially abandon its secessionist goal in 1962 after the Sino-Indian war? But for the BJP, it would be a difficult choice, as its very identity may be under threat. Considering that the Opposition space in Indian politics is equally important for the survival of Constitutional values, the direction which the BJP adopts in the coming days will have a major impact not only on the party's future, but on our Constitutional practice.
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