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Of Falling Statues And Vanishing Ideologies

Author: Balbir Punj
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 12,  2018
URL:      http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/edit/of-falling-statues-and-vanishing-ideologies.html

It would do no one any good if the avalanche of change that has swept through the North-east of the country is seen as a competition among India’s many clashing ideologies in breaking and vandalizing statues of national and local heroes.

At the same time, it would help no one to ignore the sentiments that popular figures invoke whether in their victory or in their defeat. All history is full of fallen heroes as well as risen messiahs.

The Prime Minister was quite right in admonishing in no uncertain words those who indulge in competitive tarnishing of statues in the wake of his party’s victory in the three North-eastern tribal dominated States. For, if bringing down or setting up statues becomes a national sport, it would divert focus from the potential lessons of such victories on the mutually destructive capabilities of contending political and cultural forces.

Such diversion is a huge national loss at a time when in the wake of BJP’s inroads in the North-East’s cauldron of contending political forces there is a rising sun of nationalist loyalties overcoming inter and intra-tribal allegiances.

That in all these States whether Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura or Manipur, local allegiances and the detritus of history have led to the entrenchment of local so-called armed “liberation” movements is well known. In Manipur, for instance, there are stated to be more than half-a-dozen mutually contending armed forces that find different levels of local support — which is also mutually exclusive. This is a reality of the political scenario. Such proliferation of “senas”, each claiming to be liberating something, makes it virtually impossible for the Indian Army to be withdrawn from the conflict zone. These contending liberators themselves cannot by their political DNA agree on any single action line even though all of them want the army to be withdrawn.

In Nagaland the contending “liberators” are clearly split in two groups, with one being itself a plaything of similar “liberators” in neighbouring Myanmar. China, that has been eyeing the opportunity to fish in this cesspool and to use these factions to embarrass or blackmail New Delhi as the occasion demands, will not miss this opportunity. The story in most of these States is the same with slight variations.

The Congress that for several decades dominated the political scenario in India and in these States failed to sow the seeds of nationalism there. On the other hand, it was using the inter-tribal conflicts to gain a leg-up in these States and retain its electoral hold.

British policy was to encourage Christianity exclusively in these areas and even parcel out the many tribes among the contending Churches from Britain and the US. The churches with their foreign origin and funding kept up a constant anti-nationalist stand of which a demonization of the BJP was one important aspect.

After seven decades of this ideological desertification of most of these States, the people there have woken up to the lost opportunities and the futile demonisation of the BJP. The way the BJP-led Government in New Delhi has piloted the country over the last few years has contributed much to this transformation.

This was more than evident in what happened in Meghalaya. The dominant Presbyterian church did seek to block the pro-BJP wave in the North-east and restricted the party to mere two seats. But the regional parties like the National People’s Party (NPP) did not buy the Churches’ anti-BJP line and were ready to properly value the benefit of the North-east centred policy of the BJP’s Central Government which has put development at the head of all policy-formulation.

This factor, as well as the adroit handling of the multi-party scenario of the election result by the BJP top brass, succeeded where the Congress with 29 seats could not. In the swearing-in of a coalition headed by the 21-party NPP of Conrad Sangma is also an exposure of the Congress’s “high command” remaining so far from the ground level in this and other tribal States. While the election results were a challenge to the Congress, which secured a ray of hope in only one of the three States, the newly-crowned Congress President was off to Italy to meet his grandmother.

But that does not mean that is all hunky-dory for the BJP with its demonstrated success in the North-East including Assam. The people have responded to the BJP’s call, on which it will have to deliver, that it is development that is first and foremost: Jobs, extensive health-care, houses, job-oriented education while being free to follow their way of worship.

The political stability provided by the BJP in the large majority of the States that constitute the Indian federation has already begun to have an international impact. The Canadian Prime Minister’s visit has been followed by New Delhi hosting the French President in New Delhi here he announced a joint programme with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The extremely good relations Modi has established with the Gulf countries including a reforming Saudi Arabia, calls into question the attempt of the Congress as well as SP and Marxists to mislead people regarding the true nature of BJP’s Hindutva.

That the communal charge the Congress used to repeat endlessly has lost is cutting edge is evident from the repeated attempts of Congress MPs stalling Parliament now alleging (entirely baseless) corruption in the Rafale jets purchase. In fact, on corruption, that the boot is on the Congress leg is becoming clear day by day as the investigation into the manipulations of Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram allegedly favouring his son’s foreign dealings intensifies.

The brief shine on the Congress’s desperation following the party’s limited success in the Gujarat election has worn off quickly. After what happened in the North-East elections, the Congress is apprehensive that one of the last few remaining State Governments it has in Karnataka is also about to be swept away and the country will become virtually “Congress-free” as the Prime Minister forecast in 2014.

Apart from increased integration of the North-Eastern States with rest of India, the swearing-in of the new BJP Government in Agartala last Friday had yet another silver lining for the country. The outgoing CPI-M’s legendary Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was gracious enough to respond to BJP’s invite to attend the function.

The courtesy extended by the newly sworn-in Chief Minister Biplab Deb and the Prime Minister Sarkar on the dais underlined a bright aspect of a fading Indian tradition, that ideologically opposed politicians are just rivals in a competitive democracy and not enemies. One hopes the message gets through to the CPI-M cadres and top brass in West Bengal and Kerala too, for whom violence against political rivals is central to their ideology.

- (The writer is a political commentator and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP)
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