Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Is Modi a Hindu alchemist?

Is Modi a Hindu alchemist?

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: September 24, 2002

The English language media's inability to come to terms with the possibility that Narendra Modi may win even the delayed elections in Gujarat has inspired vituperative outbursts against the former RSS pracharak. Yet the declamations are notable for the fact that, for the first time in several years, they avoid demonizing the Hindu community en masse and focus their ire exclusively on the Chief Minister's political grammar.

It would be dishonest to deny the sharp polarization in Gujarat in the aftermath of Godhra. Nor is it easy to dispel the impression that in the first few days following that massacre, Mr. Modi appeared panic-stricken and out of his depth. This is understandable as he was a greenhorn sent to Gandhinagar to keep the seat warm till the elections and deflect the anger of earthquake victims against Keshubhai Patel's inept administration.

However, much water has flown under the bridge since then, and Modi is today variously applauded or lambasted as the icon or alchemist of Hindu nationalism (sic). His colourful rhetoric, front-paged in the media, reinforces the image. Nonetheless, only a callow commentator could believe that a man who has become the symbol of a deeper churning in society as a whole, is not himself the product of waters that run deep.

Gujarat has witnessed the return of the Kshatriya element in the personality of urban educated Hindus, a fact unpalatable to many. And Narendra Modi has been landed with the unenviable task of dignifying this transition, as few within Gujarat are now prepared to countenance the colonial propaganda that Hindus are mandated by their faith to be bovine spectators in the face of unacceptable provocation. In the circumstances, Modi cannot possibly swim against the current of a powerful movement of self-assertion.

Indeed, the groundswell has been so powerful that even the opposition Congress has had to affirm its 'Hindu' credentials with a public rally at the temple of a famous crusader against cow slaughter. The BJP cannily gave this rally precedence over its own proposed yatra, as it committed Congress to a course of non-combat with Hindu sentiment and subtly changed the ground rules of political discourse in the state. Sankarsinh Vaghela has since liberally spiced his meetings with Hindu ingredients, and I feel it is only a matter of time before other political parties and states realize that Hindu-baiting is no longer politically remunerative.

This will inevitably complicate matters for political parties that regard Hindus as mere aggregates of castes linked together for electoral convenience, and treat minorities as clients who are duty-bound to provide the votes mandated by the poll arithmetic. It is already clear that Muslims are no longer satisfied to serve as clients of the major parties, and are demanding a larger political role, which Mr. Vaghela realizes is not feasible in present-day Gujarat. Understandably, Congress is in a bind; however, its new-found sensitivity to the Hindu question has checked media hostility to the majority community.

But all this still begs the question - what exactly is going on in Gujarat, and where do we go from here? To my mind, Gujarat has rejected the civilizational deadlock imposed by Jawaharlal Nehru at independence, and launched the Hindu community on an irreversible journey of self-assertion and self-affirmation. This has been possible for several reasons.

The first is that the wholly Western-inspired Nehruvian consensus is dead, and even its most die-hard adherents are finding it difficult to maintain the façade of its legitimacy. The second and more important reason is that the once-dominant West is in intellectual disarray and moral retreat. This may seem surprising in view of the awesome military and economic power still exercised by the West, but one has only to look at the dissensions in the Western alliance over the proposed American action against Iraq to realize that the West no longer speaks in one voice on issues of critical strategic importance.

The West's loss of self-esteem and self-confidence is not the subject of this article, however, I would like to emphasize that unless the West quickly revises its notions of civilization to include genuine respect for non-monotheistic traditions, it may find itself overwhelmed by Islamic fundamentalism. I may add that I have never been a votary of Samuel Huntington's clash of civilizations thesis, for the simple reason that the two entities he perceives as heading for confrontation do not satisfy my understanding of the term 'civilization.'

To return to Gujarat, most analysts have been confounded by the enthusiasm displayed during the riots by the Adivasis, Dalits, and the educated middle class. A leading newsmagazine estimated that about two million people come onto the streets, making the post-Godhra events a mass movement in purely numerical, value-neutral terms. The media has been unable to understand why one of the richest, educated and industrious communities in the country should abandon the secular quest for material prosperity and pursue a blatantly 'communal' agenda.

The answer, of course, is that man does not live by bread alone, and that India's foundational ethos was bound to assert itself once the artificial Nehruvian consensus and its ideological underpinnings had been gravely undermined. That Gujarat should be the arena of this resurgence is understandable once it is realized that the Hindu community in the state has thoroughly secured the secular realm over the past several decades. This means that unlike communities that are at odds with the modern world, Hindus have whole-heartedly embraced modernization and have internalized it completely in education, industry, trade, information technology and other state-of-the-art fields of endeavour. The foundations of artha (economic prosperity) being firmly laid, they are enjoined by dharma (law, duty) to participate in the eternal quest for dharma (righteousness, way of life).

The Nehruvian paradigm essentially rested on three pillars, all of which have now come crumbling down. One was non-alignment, which became totally redundant with the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union. The second was socialism, which has completely lost its legitimacy as a viable economic system, and remains discredited notwithstanding current Indian concerns over the manner of disinvestment in the public sector. The third, of course, was secularism, which in India never implied a separation between religion and state power. Rather, state arbitration ensured disproportionate power and privileges to the elite of minority communities, at the expense of the majority community, in return for assured votes at election time.

This third pillar was the first to loose legitimacy in the eyes of the majority community - because minority support was perceived as keeping the Congress party in power on a minority of the total votes polled - but the peculiar interplay of forces somehow kept this leg of the Nehruvian tripod propped up, long after the other two had fallen. But it was intrinsically unstable, and fell in the face of concerted opposition to an unbearable provocation.

The challenge before us now is to fashion a new national consensus and articulate a theory of secularism that is consistent the demands of our civilizational ethos and natural justice. Serious-minded citizens must begin by asking themselves to what extent the privileging of monotheistic traditions at the expense of the truly catholic sanatan dharma has bequeathed us a grim legacy of intolerance and violence.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements