Today, India needs a liberal narrative, not a hateful cliché imbibed in the BJP’s political agenda. To many educated Hindus, as well as the Indian citizens hailing from the minority group, nostalgia captures their mind of a liberal order during the Congress regime where it was just like an umbrella that had a place for every kind of voice – left, right, and centre. Although Congress’ economic policies were left-leaning (socialism) and pro-poor with a focus on poverty alleviation and nationalisation, its political policies were right-leaning (democracy). Congress ideological flexibility was impeccable. Perhaps, that was the reason why many times the RSS fans came out in her support as well. But the BJP-adored ultranationalism is not only fateful for India’s Hindu community but also for the minorities living in India. By laying down the Ram temple foundation stone (at Ayodhya) in place of the desecrated Babri mosque on August 5, PM Modi overplays with his Hindutva agenda via expanding the octopus of hate and communal divide.
When India’s political founders architected the ideals of country’s constitution amid the horror of the Partition, they decided to adhere the semblance of secularism, albeit different from prevailing Western notions; not merely establishing a strict church-state separation but rather manifested a “principled distance” between religion and the state whereby the state would embrace an interfaith culture–accommodating all of India’s many religious faiths without unduly favouring any one tradition.
As per the Sub- continent’s political history, post-independence, India’s middle-class continued to grow under Nehru’s cooled but visionary leadership and his precision endowed in state-led development initiatives. Nehru’s indoctrination was meant to grow the middle class through subsidized education and free access to government jobs. Despite Nehru’s liberal approach in helping to maintain India’s middle class, disenchantment with state-led development began to take root during the late 1980s and into the early 1990s. Subsequently, Rajiv Gandhi moved India away from state-led development to the market-led development. Because of this impending shift, many of those individuals within the middle class-especially those of the upper castes-began to experience the grooming benefits of liberalization: resulted in India’s middle-class yearning for more of the privileges offered to them via economic liberalization. The BJP exploited this desire amongst the middle class and so established itself as the pro-liberalization party and so, mischievously aligned itself with the interests of the middle class and gradually, established its supremacy over the Congress.
Etymologically, the term ‘Hindu Nationalist ‘was popularized by Graham (1990), who also distinguished the term from the other term ‘Hindu Traditionalist’. It is believed that the Hindu traditionalists had a conservative approach, they honoured exiting social values for the continuation of hierarchical society while the Hindu nationalists wanted to remould the Hindu social order on corporate lines and restructure the state. After the release of the Mandal Commission Reports, the middle-class sentiment began to think of the Congress Party as the political playground of the lower-castes and religious minorities. But while accusing the Congress Party of engaging in pseudo-secularism and appeasing India’s minority communities at the expense of the country’s overwhelming Hindu majority, the BJP experienced a resurgence that signalled a shift toward a muscular, pro-Hindu brand of nationalism.
Needless to say, the current waves of Hindu extremism and Hindu religious nationalism got its strength in the 90s. The Congress party often referred to their kind as Indian nationalism. It is not surprising that the doctrine of Hindutva or Hindu religious nationalism is less supported by the religious elite, the Brahmins and the Hindi speaking segments of the Indo- Gangetic plains.
It is highly misleading that Hindu nationalism (as projected by the BJP ideologues) is a conservative and preserving the privileges of the existing elite. The Nationalist, rather be truly called the ultranationalists have been trying to dominate the myth of the Hindu religion in their political agenda. In 1990 the BJP President L. K. Advani said In 1990 the BJP President L. K. Advani said: “….Henceforth only those who fight for Hindu interests would rule India. The secular policy is putting unreasonable restrictions on Hindu aspirations. It would not be wrong to call the BJP a Hindu party”. Paradoxically, India’s secular agenda seems entwined with Modi’s ideological roots within a conservative Hindu political movement-striving to make India a Hindu state. Over the past six years, the BJP, has been spreading an us-versus-them philosophy (the cult of otherism) in a state that is already rived by dangerous divisions via RSS and the Hindutva orchestrated agendas.
Simply put, the BJP was able to clinch power in many states since 2013 because of its borrowing support from regional parties such as Janata Dal (United), All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU), the Shiv Sena, the J&K Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJK). But things remain drastically changed today, now many of these allies have either left the BJP or are annoyed with it. Therefore, now the BJP has been losing election partners in states – like Maharashtra and Jharkhand, where the party contested the elections without AJSU and its allies from neighbouring Bihar (JD (U) and LJP).
And yet, Modi has been systematically altering the ethos of civil ethics and subverting the secular character of the state by a series of executive measures vindicated by the newly introduced CAA and New Delhi’s unjust municipal policy in India-held Kashmir– whereby the state institutions have become the BJP policy garners-profoundly fostering a Hindutva ideology of communal segregation via willful extortion of Muslims. Not one Muslim was given the BJP ticket in the UP Assembly elections.
The toxic ideology of cancel culture/exclusiveness groomed under the BJP regime is a fatal discourse. Though civil society speaks up, yet it still seems unpredictable for India’s secularism and its democracy. Nevertheless, BJP’s loss in the current election is reflective of the fact that Indians are remaking their mindset by shifting towards a liberal order beyond the communal divides, paving the way for the Congress resurrection.
This development goes to underscore the historical fact that the Congress and the Hindutva right-wing remain intrinsically aware of the irreconcilable nature of their ideological moorings and narratives as the vanguards– of this binary myth-the Congress and the BJP are committed to making a beeline for India’s political future. The truth is that under Modi’s fascist rule, India’s international image has been completely tarnished with Hindutva, which has acquired an imposed- lease on Indians’ life. Article 51 of the Indian constitution directs the state to respect international law. The big challenges before India’s liberal order are to annul the divisive CAA, the suspension of Kashmir’s revised status, and the restoration of Kashmir’s fundamental rights. Make no mistake the future of Indian posterity seems bleak unless the Indians today reject Modi’s political particularism in order to realign India’s political legacy with the values of modern times.
The writer is an independent ‘IR’ researcher and international law analyst based in Pakistan