Why Modi and BJP leadership must communicate more with its support base – R. Jagannathan

Nupur Sharma

Is the BJP committed to its Hindu base and protection of Hindu interests in “secular” India, or will it head in the same direction as other “pseudo-secular” parties in order to propitiate the Muslim voter? – R. Jagannathan

The Narendra Modi government has shot itself in the foot over the Nupur Sharma affair, where it has simultaneously dented both its own credibility in the Muslim world, especially in West Asia, and angered its core Hindu voter base in India.

By indirectly having to call its own party spokesperson as part of a “fringe” to propitiate an angry Gulf and Muslim world after Sharma’s outburst on national television about the Prophet, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has egg all over its face.

Sharma’s provocative comment is not the real issue; she was emotionally responding to attempts by Hinduphobes to mock the Shiva Linga. The real issue is the BJP leadership, and especially the Prime Minister’s lack of communication with his own party people and voter base on what to expect from his government, and how far they can go while making public statements on social media, or in that warzone called prime time television.

The core voter base expects steady forward movement towards protecting Hindu interests, and a directional and definitional guidance on “Hindu Rashtra”—what it should mean and in what time frame the government expects it to be achieved. But the Prime Minister—or, for that matter his party and Sangh affiliates—have said nothing useful in this matter.

The voter base has kept quiet so far because Modi’s own charisma has been winning the party election after election, but that is not going to ultimately satisfy Hindu aspirations and expectations from his government. Sacrificing Nupur Sharma in order to fire-fight the blow-back against India is one thing, not telling its own party and voter base what to expect needlessly allows extreme or actual “fringe” elements to precipitate a crisis that nobody wants.

The key questions Modi and the party need to address are the following:

One, is the BJP committed to its Hindu base and protection of Hindu interests in “secular” India, or will it head in the same direction as other “pseudo-secular” parties in order to propitiate the Muslim voter? If the BJP is just another “secular” party, it may still win a few elections, but its core base will seek another party that can better articulate its aspirations. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas is okay as a slogan, but is not enough in a democracy to win elections.

Two, while no government can promise a Hindu Rashtra tomorrow, the government needs to answer a simpler question: why is it that eight years in power, it is not able to do the simplest things that the voter base is asking for? Among them, a comprehensive rewriting of history books, or providing funds and support for Indic organisations and groups to fight for their causes?

Why is it still supporting Hinduphobes like William Dalrymple and other “secularists” in global fora, when it should be doing the opposite: starve them of government funding. Why is prioritising Muslim appeasement through exclusive scholarship programmes and other kinds of funding so important when the reality is the BJP is never going to win a significant chunk of the Muslim vote even if it crawls in front of masjids and offers madrassa students free Qurans and computers?

Three, why is the party not counselling patience to its cadres, when an expansion of economic and military power needs to be stressed over the next decade, and India has to become a $8-10 trillion economy? Why is it so difficult for the party to ask its cadres to not make statements that will disrupt the economic programme, and wait till size and scale are achieved before becoming more assertive on Hindutva? Did China not keep quiet for three decades, pretending to be a peaceful country, till it became the world’s No 2 economy?

Why can this simple point not be explained to the party’s young eager beavers, who want Hindutva today, tonight, this instant? Hindutva depends on India becoming an economic superpower, and not vice-versa. The BJP should learn from its own growth, where Mandalisation and economic empowerment of the OBCs preceded the growth of Hindutva.

Four, can the party not explain a simple number on why inflammatory statements are not needed right now? About 95 per cent of all global Hindus live in one country; but there are 153 Christian-majority nations, and 51 Muslim-majority ones, according to Pew Research.

If Indian Christians and Muslims so want, they can get the world to meddle in Indian issues, which is what happened when Nupur Sharma spoke about the Prophet, but if anything is done to Hindus anywhere, the world will just shrug it off. They will say: “That is your job, you have one billion Hindus and you can’t do a thing about the few million targeted in your neighbourhood?”

Five, if the Prime Minister can talk to millions of voters directly, through his periodic televised speeches, or his talk shows on radio through Mann Ki Baat, why does he find it so difficult to do a Mann ki Baat with his own support base, or, for that matter, his own party governments in various states? Why can’t he encourage his party to ask him difficult questions which he will not duck, so that they know they are backing the right man?

Six, why is it that a party with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, and an ability to cobble together a majority in the Rajya Sabha to pass difficult economic and social legislation, cannot find the gumption to free Hindu temples from state control? Among the difficult pieces of legislation passed are the nullification of article 370 and bifurcation of J&K, the unified goods and services tax, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the ban on instant triple talaq. Why can’t the BJP at least introduce legislation in Parliament to free temples and see where it goes? But the BJP has not even begun thinking on these lines.

Seven, why is it that India, with little more than cash and intellectual resources, is not able to take its Dharmic case to global fora, and address the general publics of America, Europe and other regions, so that there is pressure from below in these countries to change their policies towards India? If yoga and meditation can be sold to the Christian West, why not the idea of a Dharmic civilisation that needs its own political space to be a contributor to global growth and well-being?

Diplomatic and social ruptures seldom come without a warning, and the BJP should learn from this episode and do two things: one, it must define itself clearly as a Hindu party wedded to Dharma, and explain what that means for its minorities, the rest of the country and the world; and two, explain to its own core voters what to expect in terms of policies and time-frames. The real problem is India’s best communicator has not communicated enough on difficult issues with both critics outside and inside his own voter base. This needs fixing. – Swarajya, 7 July 2022

Jagannathan is an senior journalist and the editorial director of Swarajya magazine.

Nupur Sharma Effigy, Belagavi.

The Modi government as an exponent of BJP secularism – Koenraad Elst

Narendra Modi

Like the previous BJP Government, the present one fails to live up to the oft-heard predictions of strident pro-Hindu and anti-minority policies. This is due to a phenomenon insufficiently realized by most India-watchers: a desire to live up to the norms upheld by the secularists and an interiorization of the disinterest in “outdated” Hindu concerns, not just among the numerous opportunists who have flocked to the new party in power, but even in the loyal core of the BJP’s personnel. Based on insider sources, this paper enumerates the data establishing the reality of “BJP secularism” and analyses the reasons for this emerging phenomenon. – Dr Koenraad Elst

A.B. VajpayeeA. B. Vajpayee’s NDA Government (1998-2004) heavily disappointed the experts who had predicted “all Moslims into the Indian Ocean” or similar doomsday scenarios—or rather, it put them squarely in the wrong. Hindu “fascism” as a threat to democracy? When Vajpayee narrowly lost a confidence vote, he meekly stepped down. War against Pakistan? Though Pakistan unilaterally invaded India (Kargil 1999), Vajpayee forbade the Army to strike at the invaders’ base across the border, and later opened a peace process, making symbolic concessions which Congress had always refused. Isolationism? He threw the Indian media market open to foreign media ownership, a move opposed by India’s entire political spectrum. The only “Hindutva” thing the NDA ever did was HRD Minister M. M. Joshi‘s clumsy overhaul of the recommended history schoolbooks, changing nothing dramatic and easily reversed. When the Government created a Chair for Indic Studies in Oxford (“saffronization!”), it selected an outspoken opponent for the job, in the vain hope of receiving a pat on the back from its declared enemies.

With the hindsight knowledge of historical reality, it would be embarrassing to reproduce the predictions by Indian and foreign experts. Today, anti-BJP discourse is less shrill, but still confidently classifies the BJP among the “Hindu Right”. This implies a prediction that once in power, the BJP would pursue distinctly pro-Hindu policies. However, in the light of our experience with the Vajpayee Government, it is no surprise that the present Government led by Narendra Modi fails to live up to this learned prediction, at least for now. (Of course, this paper will be updated by November as new developments take place.)

In spite of having a more homogeneous majority, it is reluctant to do anything pro-Hindu or perceivable as anti-minority. On the contrary, one of its first acts was to decree a new subsidy to Islamic schools. The stray Hindutva statements by loose cannon (Sakshi Maharaj, Niranjan Jyoti) were followed by retractions, condemnations by Government spokesmen, and indignant innuendos by Modi-friendly journalists (Tavleen Singh, Swapan Dasgupta). Public reconversions by the allied VHP, heavily publicized and demonized by the media, were promptly discouraged by the Government. Having learned from Vajpayee’s 2004 defeat, though, Modi does “keep the pot boiling”, does regularly throw crumbs of inconsequential Hindu symbolism to his support base, all while not formally changing anything.

However, if many BJP workers are disappointed with this Government, is not for what it does but mainly for what it persistently fails to do. Thus, it inducted no figures with a strongly ideological profile (Arun Shourie, Subramanian Swamy). Likewise, some public figures who had crossed the floor (e.g. Madhu Kishwar) were conspicuously not rewarded—a fact not considered here for disgruntled ego reasons but for illustrating the BJP’s lack of strategy: it doesn’t put people who have actually sacrificed for the BJP to any use, while awarding positions of influence to unreliable newcomers motivated by sheer opportunism. While some things on the Hindu agenda are either useless to Hinduism (e.g. declaring a “Hindu Rashtra”) and others would arouse violent protests for which the media are sure to blame Modi (e.g. a Common Civil Code, though “secular” par excellence), others are perfectly feasible and, moreover, turn out to be the most consequential for the flourishing of Hinduism.

In particular, the amending of Constitutional Articles 28 and 30, which (de facto c.q. formally) discriminate against Hinduism in education, does not take away any rights from the minorities, yet lifts an enormous burden from Hindu organizations investing in education and eliminates a major reason for Hindu sects (Arya Samaj, RK Mission, Lingayats, Jains) to have themselves judicially declared non-Hindu minorities. Similarly, eliminating the legal basis of the discrimination against Hinduism in temple management, with rich temples (but not mosques or churches) nationalized and their income pocketed by politicians or diverted to non-Hindu purposes, would give an enormous boost to Hindu religious and cultural life, without impinging upon the rights of the minorities. It has to be noted, however, and it buttresses my case for “BJP secularism”, that temple management is partly a competence of the States, and that BJP State Governments have not made the difference. At any rate, there are meaningful things a BJP Government could do specifically for Hinduism without endangering its non-religious agenda (development, cleaning India etc.) or its international standing, yet it chooses not to do them.

As for the Hindutva fits and starts of some BJP members, now considered extremists but in fact only representative of what the erstwhile Jan Sangh (1952-77, predecessor of the BJP) stood for, it should be easy to bring them in line around a more reasonable but still credibly pro-Hindu programme. It is here that the BJP is most conspicuously failing — conspicuous at least to insiders, for 99% of the outside literature about the BJP never mentions this phenomenon. Contrary to a consensus among academic and journalistic India-watchers, the supposed “Hindu extremist” party has no Hindu agenda. It relies on pro-Hindu workers to do the campaigning legwork, but once in power it cold-shoulders them, it publicizes and pursues an agenda of economic development only, and it tries to curry favour with the secularists.

The main reason is the long-standing deliberate lack of investment (pioneered by M. S. Golwalkar) in an intellectual and strategic vision of its own, the spurning of any analysis of the forces in the field and of the potential and limitations of the situation. It therefore also lacks competent personnel for the ideological struggle, e.g. for a textbook overhaul or, now, for nominating politically friendly new Vice-Chancellors. Consequently, most BJP leaders have an enormous inferiority complex vis-à-vis the secularists and, even when in office, try to live up to the norms laid down by their opponents.

This is hardly the impression created by most experts; but the primary data, the only source to which this paper pledges loyalty, tell a clear story: the present BJP is only termed a Hindu party in deference to the distant memory of its initial orientation. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 15 November 2016

» Dr Koenraad Elst is an indologist and historian from Belgium who publishes with Voice of India.

Contemporary challenges facing Hindu society – Gautam Sen

Durga Puja Kolkata

Hindu society is also stirring silently, but with heartening self-confidence. The wave of a massive movement … is spreading from the … obscure tribal districts of Mandla in Madhya Pradesh to adjacent regions and beyond, across India. It draws its inspiration from the likes of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, and Chanakya and promises to overturn the long-held accepted norms of acquiescence to threats against Hindu society and the retreat that usually follows. – Dr Gautam Sen

Waking up to the sonorous voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, reciting the intensely poignant Mahisasuramardini, announcing Mahalaya, is a moment of extraordinary significance for Bengali Hindus. Its memory prompted me to reflect on the catastrophic fate of contemporary Bengal. Dolorous is the word that instantly comes to mind, when contemplating the intellectual, spiritual and moral disintegration of Bengal. Its historic antecedents are in the attempted partition of Bengal under Lord Curzon and its eventual occurrence four decades later. The trauma of the experience gave rise to a self-destructive malaise, paradoxically and inexplicably, presided over by communist refugees fleeing Islamic Jihad in East Pakistan. The final political chapter is being written by the banal phenomenon of Trinamool Congress. Under the bizarre rule of its leader, idolised by many Bengalis, a major growth sector of the local economy is middle class prostitution, testament to the moral nullity that has overtaken its society.

The Bengal renaissance that led India into modernity, reaching back into its Vedic past, gifting the world Swami Vivekananda and a galaxy of luminaries, has all, but evaporated. No profound reflections by a sage like Rishi Aurobindo, unprecedented scientific endeavours of a Jagdish Bose and Meghnad Saha or poet of Tagore’s astonishing talent or the renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray, have emerged in recent decades. And nor is there in the horizon a new grammarian, linguist and moralist, echoing Montaigne, like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, taking humanism to new heights, clad in modest dhoti. Instead Bengal’s post-independence educated class unleashed nihilistic bloodlust on society in the name of a Chinese warlord, Mao Zedong, in cahoots with Islamic Jihad and then fled to a salubrious life abroad. This cynical and self-seeking cabal has since been virtually urging US and Western imperialist intervention to curb India’s alleged descent into Hindu fascism!

Of course Hindu civilisation itself has also been in retreat for more than one millennium, although its reluctance to acquiesce to an ultimate coup de grace is both remarkable and puzzling. In the aftermath of the transfer of power in 1947, completely erroneously labelled peaceful, this historic hiatus of an endless pause from socio-cultural erasure appears to have been broken. Hindus are now descending rapidly towards cultural and spiritual oblivion.

Gandhi & Nehru (1942)Independent India had fallen under the suicidal spell of an eccentric, the kindest accolade he could be accorded, and he nominated a primus inter pares ill equipped to secure and defend the civilisation of Indica. It was also at his insistence that the new government of India was obliged, by the threat of a fast unto death, to fund the very war the state of Pakistan unleashed against India within months of partition. His tragic murder consigned the fate of Hindus and any prospect of social and spiritual renewal to the ideological detritus of the departing colonial power. The outcome has been a conspiracy to impose an ideology on the fledgling republic that eventually empowered Islamic Jihad, Christian resurgence and grand larceny as its abiding motifs.

The chosen nominee for the premiership of independent India was himself from a morally bankrupt Kashmiriyat political tradition of incoherence and imbued with vaulting self-regard that had already surrendered its own community to predators, although the endgame awaited the 1990s. His family subsequently sought to turn popular Indian democracy into indefinite dynastic rule, by nurturing every latent fault line and endangering the nation’s very survival, until boundless greed overwhelmed all judgement and common sense. It is they, who were responsible for the immeasurable tragedy of the Punjab, in a vain and imbecilic attempt to augment regional political power to dominate the Centre. Their earlier catastrophic follies in relation to Tibet and Kashmir are open IOUs to fate that hang like a sword of Damocles over future generations. The recent rise of Narendra Modi, who ended the unfolding calamity abruptly was considered to be the moment of a reversal of rapid decline, though it could not be and was nothing of the sort.

In the meantime, Hindus are in confused retreat on multiple fronts. The best outcome they can apparently hope for and many earnestly seem to desire, is to become like Koreans, with the accretion of a degree of prosperity, but without history or their rich and vibrant antecedent traditions and culture. Korea is now largely a Christian nation and its remaining Buddhists dismayed at waning state patronage of their age-old religious and cultural heritage. What historical national identity Indian secularists would prefer without Hindu antecedents is a mystery, since all culture and memory permeate it. The defining societal hallmark of this terrifying prospect is the growing insignia of the Ambanis and Vijay Mallya rather than the sage Adi Shankaracharya and divine Swami Vivekananda. Wealth, its grotesque display and obscene consumption, imitating the imperialist and racially arrogant elites of the US, is the warped longing degrading the humanity of Hindu society, as it has done elsewhere. Self-restraint and genuine concern for the welfare of the many in desperate circumstances, the essence of self-realisation and godliness, appear to have been substituted by the moral universe of Hades.

Abroad, Indian humanities and social science academics have been whipped, en masse, into an incomprehensible and incoherent frenzy of rage against imaginary signs of supposed Hindu self-assertion. So ferocious is their desire to curb this alleged Hindu descent into fascism, embodied by Narendra Modi’s modest electoral success, they are evidently willing to join hands with Islamic Jihad to protect the oxymoron of Indian secularism. Some among them not-so subliminally seek armed international intervention to protect their terrorist allies from the wrath of the Indian state, under the guise of minority rights, and, presumably, to prevent church window panes being broken in India. The genocidal impact of such intervention, visible in the Middle East, is possibly regarded as an incidental bonus!

Foreign governments like the US and the UK, which have always had malign intentions towards India, want to use it as a pawn against China, though the prospect of betrayal in a Sino-US deal that institutes condominium is the most probable outcome. Significantly, both governments and their European allies, aided by the Republic of Korea, are waging a deadly war simultaneously to permanently subvert Hindu civilisation through religious conversion. In a recent visit to Nepal, I was stunned to be told by several knowledgeable public figures that the Church privately boasts about how a third of the population has already embraced Christianity. Christianity has indeed advanced in Nepal through allurement, subterfuge and outright bribery, including a multimillion dollar inducement to a former prime minister. The dramatically successful campaign of religious conversion in Nepal, across India and within the UK itself, abetted by some infiltrated British Hindu social and religious organisations, highlight the perversity of the situation.

Narendra ModiYet the rise of Narendra Modi represents a moment of respite and hope. Having inherited a parlous nation, in the throes of economic, political and moral chaos, the appropriate priorities for reversing its decline are easy to debate and dispute. And the authority and power he and his government enjoy are not unfettered, as political and social life in India brutally demonstrated in the past two years. The incumbent government is besieged on many fronts by an array of truculent adversaries, determined to thwart even the most indispensable policy measures. International conspiracies, originating in foreign capitals, aided by treasonous domestic surrogates and incited by a suborned anti-national media, abound visibly. The urgent task of national economic revival is preoccupying the Modi government’s attention and socio-cultural initiatives appear to enjoy less prominence. However, the task of securing the nation’s future in a hostile world, by creating national productive capacity and ensuring future electoral consolidation, surely depend on the overall policy stance adopted by Narendra Modi.

Hindu society is also stirring elsewhere, silently, but with heartening self-confidence. The wave of a massive movement, Hindutva Abhiyan, for example, is spreading from the apparently unpropitious and obscure tribal districts of Mandla in Madhya Pradesh to adjacent regions and beyond, across India. It draws its inspiration from the likes of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, and Chanakya and promises to overturn the long-held accepted norms of acquiescence to threats against Hindu society and the retreat that usually follows.

» Dr. Gautam Sen is President, World Association of Hindu Academicians and Co-director of the Dharmic Ideas and Policy Foundation. He taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for over two decades.

Sri Aurobindo