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HVK Archives: Damning the BJP will only boomerang on Congress

Damning the BJP will only boomerang on Congress - The Free Press Journal

M.V.Kamath ()
January 29, 1998

Title: Damning the BJP will only boomerang on Congress
Author: M.V.Kamath
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: January 29, 1998

Elections are here. In a few weeks the country will go to the
polls to elect a new Lok Sabha and hopefully a new - and stable -
government at the centre. Several parties art in the fray, Among
them are the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress' a host of
small regional parties collectively known as the United Front and
some smaller parties that are allied to one or other of the three
major groups. The received wisdom is that of the three, the BJP,
the Congress and the United Front, the BSP will command the
single largest majority. On this there are no two opinions among
pollsters. According to a national opinion poll conducted for
Outlook weekly by the world's largest market research company A.
I. Nielsen, the BJP and its allies will secure 238 seats, the
Congress and its allies 149 seats and the United Front some 123
seats. These numbers could conceivably change over the next few
days. They must be taken as good, as of the third week of
January. About the same time, Arun Nehru, who has been fairly
accurate in his predictions in the past has given Congress and
its allies 167 seats, BJP and its allies 245 seats and the United
Front 112 seats. The United Front over the past few weeks has
been slowly sliding down in public estimation.

The BJP remains the front-runner and this has caused a great deal
of heart-burning in many quarters. The so-called "secularists"
can't bear the thought that the BJP might come into power and
consequently all manner of imputations are hurled at the party
that merit close examination. For example Sonia Gandhi has
dubbed the BJP as a fundamentalist Hindu party which is a
travesty of truth. In the first place, the words 'Hindu' and
'fundamentalism' are contradiction in terms. Hinduism is
catholic in outlook and permits a large variety of beliefs. It
does not have a supreme pontiff such as a Pope to dictate to
Hindus what should be believed and what should not.
Fundamentalism is primarily an aspect of Semitic religions such
as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. To dub Hinduism as
fundamentalist is to betray a vast ignorance of the subject. It
is because Hinduism is so catholic that it can live in peace with
other religions. That is its unique selling point. It is only in
India that Muslims, Christians, Parsis and various sects and sub-
sects can co-exist. It is beyond the power of the BJP - even if
it should have secret objectives of turning non-Hindus into
second class citizens - to change Hinduism's basic character. And
the BJP has been saying over and over again that it has not the
slightest intention of turning India into a theocratic state. But
our ecularists refuse to take the BJP at its word. The usual
argument is that the BJP is but the hand-maiden of the RSS which,
in turn, is suspected of wanting to impose Hinduism on the land.
Apart from the fact that this is a distortion of truth, it is
reminiscent of the story of the wolf and the lamb, an effort
simply, to brand the BJP and give it a bad name to suit one's

The weakness of this way of thinking being continuously exposed,
some "secular" commentators are off on a new track. Worried that
the "communal" label can no longer be made to stick to the BJP
they have now embarked on a new form of attack. Thus, Malini
Parthasarathy of The Hindu has been arguing that "more disturbing
is the threat posed by its (BJP's) majoritarian outlook to the
political culture of this country".

The charge is made (remember the Wolf and the Lamb story?) that
if the BJP is not "communal", it is "majoritarian" and that it is
nabashingly canvassing its majoritarian view of the national
ethos", making it clear that "minorities will have to get used to
living in a Hindu country and according to the Hindu way of
life". Nothing more ridiculous can be imagined. In the first
place, again, minorities are already used to living in a Hindu
country and are quite at ease with Hindus. It was only a few
months ago that the Catholic Bishop of Hyderabad could say that
he is "Hindu by culture, Christian by religion and Indian by
nationality" and no Christian leader has contradicted him.
Writing in The Hindustan Times (19 January), a Muslim writer,
Andalib Akhter quoted a report by the Anthropological Survey of
India which revealed that "Muslims share a very high percentage
(96.77 per cent) of material and cultural traits relating to
ecology, economy and occupation with the Hindus". The trouble
with our leftist "intellectuals" is that they resolutely refuse
to learn if knowledge implies that they change their preconceived
prejudices. According to Akhter, "Indian Muslims, a majority of
whom are of indigenous origin have been an inseparable pan of
Indian civilisation" and that "they share social space, cultural
traits, food habits, dress patterns, languages and dialects with
their Hindu neighbours.

But what needs to be remembered is that, even if the, Muslims did
not share these ways of living with them, the Hindus couldn't
care less, considering that among themselves Hindus follow
separate ways in food, dress and rituals. A Hindu brahmin in
Kashmir, for instance may cat meat, a Bengali brahmin fish while
a Tamilian brahmin would be aghast at the very thought of eating
non-vegetarian dishes. And in any event it is not part of the
Hindu ethos, if one can think of it in collective term, to impose
its culture on others. What it is comfortable with is the
commonly accepted standard of life and behaviour which is usually
described as Hindutva, a word hard to define and for that precise
reason is susceptible to be misunderstood by such gracious ladies
as Malini Parthasarathy. She is, no doubt, aware of what both
Atal Bihari Vajpayee and La] Krishna Advani have said on the
subject. Vajpayee has stated over and over again that BJP is
totally against a theocratic state and as recently as May 1997
Advani has maintained that "Hindutva or Hinduism is not a
religion or creed in the narrow sense of the term" but is "a way
of life" and constitutes "the personality of the country". As
Advani put it," The BJP's stand is not only in the interest. of
the nation, but even of the Muslims".

Ms Parthasarathy is perhaps too young to remember what it was
like to live in princely states in pre-Independence India, such
as Mysore. Travancore and Cochin, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and
other Hindu states. The Maharaja of Mysore made no pretense of
being "secular=94, a word that has been richly prostituted by the
Congress in recent times. The State observed dassehra with
religious fervour and the dassehra procession was an annual event
that was eagerly looked forward to by one and all. One of the
most highly respected diwans of Mysore was a Muslim, Sir Ismail
who subsequently served in the same capacity in a state in
Rajputana. One doesn't remember any communal disturbance shaking
the peace of those times. It is only in "secular" Karnataka that
riots have been regular feature. Most of the rulers of that
period were Hindu and many quite devout in their own way but that
never came in the way of their dispensing justice and fair play.
For anyone to suggest that under the BJP, Muslims and other
minorities would be unsafe is to show a particularly vicious
streak of character. It does neither the proponents of this vile
theory, nor the party they support nor the ideology they propound
nor the country at large, any good.

Yet another technique of damning the BJP is to conjure up all
manner of fears of what could happen in the event of its coming
to power. Thus former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh has been
saying that he does worry a great deal, that the fear of anarchy
is a "real threat" and that "we should not conclude that things
which have happened in eastern Europe or Russia cannot happen in
India." The analogy is wholly wrong and brazenly put forward.
What happened in Russia was a collapse of an ideology and what
happened in east Europe is a clash of civilizations. As has been
stated earlier, Hinduism alone has that wonderful talent to
accept different cultures and religions. The Semitic religions
are confrontationist by nature and there is no comparison between
them and Hinduism. But Manmohan Singh has even worse fears to
project. He told an interviewer: "If we mismanage our economy,
merit our polity, divide our people on the basis of religion,
region and caste, you will then have governance processes that
have no coherence and which do not articulate a sense of national
purpose." Who, it may be asked, has been in power in India in the
last fifty years? The BJP? Surely Manmohan Singh does not think
that in the thirteen days it was in power, the BJP mismanaged the
economy fragmented our polity and divided the people on the basis
of religion, region and caste" He should know that linguistic
states were brought into being and the nation carved out into
states on linguistic lines by no less than Jawaharlal Nehru, that
our polity was 'fragmented' by Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and
that it was the Congress which supported "from outside" a United
Front whose major parties like the Janata Dal were caste-based.
Where does the BJP come in the picture? And it was the Congress
of which Manmohan Singh is such a pillar of support, that
actively sought the support of frankly and unashamedly casteist
parties like Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party. Manmohan
Singh must think again. The BJP does not think on casteist
lines. The Congress does. So do the parties that are part of the
United Front. Manmohan Singh must address his homilies to them.

Manmohan Singh is further reported to have said that leadership
vacuum will lead to anarchy. True enough. But it is the Congress
which is leaderless and has to seek shelter behind Sonia Gandhi's
pallu. The BJP suffers from no such shortcoming. It has able
national leaders such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna
Advani not to mention Murli Manohar Joshi and a host of others.
Manmohan Singh; like his leaderless colleagues would do us all a
great favour by not projecting his party's fears on the national
scene. India is under no threat of anarchy. It will live and
thrive and be a model for all others to follow.

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