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With 'secularists' we have, Hindutva need not worry - The pioneer

Javed Anand ()
1 July 1996


Title : With `secularists' we have, Hindutva need not
Author : Javed Anand
Publication : The pioneer
Date : July 1, 1996

We, the secularists of India, rejoiced when the Atal
Bihari Vajpayee-led Government proved to be a 13-day
wonder. We derived particular satisfaction from the fact
that the generals of the saffron brigade failed,and how,
in their attempt to get even a single MP on their side.
We were greatly comforted that everyone's stated reason
for refusal to extend support to the BJP was because of
its communal agenda. We felt relieved when 14 parties
agreed on a prime ministerial candidate, cobbled together
a common minimum programme, forged a United Front,
the support of the Congress with its 143 MPs, and,
inside Parliament, all good MPs exuded the sentiment that
whatever their other differences, secularism is one thing
that unites them against the communal demon-the BJP.

But there is a big danger that our present state of
secular bliss may prove to be short-lived. The problem is
not just the obvious one about how long will the Gowda
Government last. There is the more basic issue concerning

the nature and future of secular politics in India The
fact that a growing section of the electorate sees
nothing wrong with the BJP should be cause enough for
anxiety. Far more worrisome is the casual-at-best and
hypocritical-at-worst commitment of the major political
players to the very credo by which they swear.

Considering that the country has only recently emerged
from the grips of election fever, it is perhaps
understandable that little attention has been paid to the
India Today-MARG post-election survey. But the findings
of the opinion poll should be enough to jolt secularists
out of their celebratory slumber. The bad news is that
had elections been held between June 6 to June 9, that
is, within days of Mr Vajpayee vacating the Prime
Minister's chair for Mr Gowda, the BJP and its allies
would have increased their strength in Parliament from
the existing 194 to 208. In terms of votes, the BJP led-
alliance would have bagged 27.5 per cent of the total
votes, a four per cent jump.

The response to some of the other questions are even more
revealing. Can this Government maintain the unity of the
country? No, said 52 per cent of the respondents against
the 28 per cent who said, yes. Should the United Front
have been formed? Yes, 32 per cent; no 60 per cent.
Should the BJP have formed the Government? Yes, 67 per
cent; no 20 per cent. Is the BJP a communal party? Yes,
33 per cent; no 56 per
cent. Who do you think will be the best Prime Minister
for India? Vajpayee, .51 per cent; Narasimha Rao, 18 per
cent; VP Singh, six per cent; Sornia Gandhi, six per
cent; Deve Gowda, four per cent; Sharad Pawar, Jyoti
Basu, Laloo Prasad Yadav, two per cent each.

Asked to identify the most important issues to be
tackled, 80 per cent of the respondents mentioned
poverty, unemployment and corruption. Significantly, the
survey found the pro-BJP sentiment equally pronounced,
across the gender-men, women-and geography-rural, urban.

How should self-proclaimed parties respond to the poll
findings? One, be ostrich-like and disbelieve them: Not
all opinion polls, after all, are accurate. Two, be over-
optimistic and believe that the UF Government will per-
form such miracles for the masses in the coming months
that their world view will automatically change. Three,
be realistic, read the writing on the wall and ask why
there is such a serious disjunction between the thinking
of party bosses and the respondents to the poll. How
does one explain the fact that while communalism was one
question which pitted almost the entire political
spectrum against the BJP, well over half the respondents
to the latest poll believe the BJP is not a communal
party? Or the fact of Mr Vajpayee's popularity among
them (51 per cent) exceeds that of the entire galaxy of
political leaders?

VP Singh's folly

To leave such a discrepancy between the pronouncement of
the secular leaders and the led unaddressed is to ask
for trouble. The parties which swear by secularism must
either revise their own views about the BJP or think
seriously about a mass education programme to help the
ordinary voter understand what Hindutva is all about and
how support to the BJP will only add to the nation's

The major parties which stood firm in their resolve not
to allow the BJP to preside over the nation's destiny
this May include the Congress, the Janata Dal and the
Samaiwadi Party. Which of these parti's are capable of
going beyond the empty "Hindu-Muslim bhal bhai"
rhetoric? Can those who are part of the problem really
be expected to be part of the solution too?

This writer had argued in these columns last fortnight
that the secular credentials of the party of Gandhi and
Nehru had been so badly compromised by Indira Gandhi
(in her last phase), Rajiv Gandhi and Mr Narasimha Rao,
that it cannot be expected to be taken seriously by any
community unless it does honest introspection and makes a

public admission of the way it has pandered both to
majority and minority communalism. It is evident from the
lack of any response to the party spokesman, Mr VN
Gadgil's recent call for introspection that the Congress
lacks the honesty to engage in any soul-searching. It
may be mentioned in passing that even today the Muslim
League remains a political ally of the Congress. What is
wrong, then, if the BJP too limits its concern to one

To be fair to the Janata Dal (and its splinter, the
Samajwadi Party), its secular conscience is not as
smeared with all the bloodshed during riots under
successive Congress governments at the Centre and in the
states. But even Mr VP Singh cannot disown the role his
party played, may be unwittingly, in accelerating the
process of communal polarisation in recent years. His
repeated prostrating before a bigot like Imam Bukhari,
giving pride of place in his party to communalists like
Maulana Obaidullah Azmi and Syed Shahabuddin, his
tokenism in declaring Prophet Mohammed's birthday did not
help India's impoverished and insecure Muslims one bit.
They did, however, provide sustenance to Hindutva's
charge of the "appeasement of minorities".

Hopefully, today, Mr Singh realises his folly. But there
is not much to be hoped from yesterday's champions of
secularism, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mr Laloo Prasad
Yadav. In a hard-hitting article last month, Ms Seema
Mustafa, a Janata Dal member, looked out at the two
Yadavs, calling them both cynical politicians interested
in nothing more than feeding on. Muslim insecurity to
ensure Yadav dominance in UP and Bihar. She castigated Mr
Mulayam Singh Yadav, in particular, for fielding a large
number of criminals and wondered what brand of
secularism, will follow when casteists and criminals lead
the campaign against communalism. In Bombay, too, the
story is not very different. Barely 15 months age, many
decent Muslims had gravitated to the large numbers and
some were given important positions in the organisational
set-up. Today, they complain bitterly, though privately
as yet, that the party has been hijacked with Mr Mulayam
Singh Yadavs full knowledge by dubious Muslims Leaguers,
who turned secular over night, and shady Muslims from the
city's underworld. With the future of Indian secularism
in such safe custody, Hindutva should really have very
little to worry about.

A letter in response.

Kanchan Junga
72, Dr G Deshmukh Rd
Mumbai 400 026.

June 24, 1996


From his article "The problem is Congress, not secu-
larism" (June 17), one would conclude that Shri Javed
Anand would like his readers to believe that the problem
of communalism started only since June 1984. Before this
there was relative harmony between members of different

In the 50s, Jawaharlal Nehru said that the country
faced a greater danger from majority communalism than
minority communalism. Respecting his feelings the major-
ity community voted for him, since he projected himself
as the protector and benefactor of the minorities. How-
ever, what has happened has been well documented by the
late Shri Hamid Dalwai in his book "Muslim Politics in
Secular India" around 1970. But, for Shri Anand, truth
is always at a discount so long as he can rave and rant
about Hindu communalism. His intentions are definitely
questionable, and one would can rule him out in helping
to find solutions to the problems that this country is

Yours sincerely,

(Ashok Chowgule)

The Editor,
The Pioneer,
Link House, 2nd Flr,
3 Bahadurshah Zafar Marg,
New Delhi 110 002.

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