The election results for the legislative assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, among others, mark the resurgence of the Congress not only in these states but also in the central imagination of voters across India. Yet, its electoral gains have come despite the Congress having consistently failed to play the role of an opposition. In states where there has been no effective opposition party to take up local issues faced by different sections of society in recent years, desperate people joined hands to raise their own demands.
In Gujarat, where Congress has not even played opposition politics for decade-plus years, backward and Dalit communities organised popular protests, giving birth to new leaders like Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani. In Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and other states, distressed farmers took unusual steps to register grievances – marching thousands of miles on foot to Mumbai and Delhi, or throwing their produce on roads demanding sustainable prices.
Effectively, Congress was absent in these states, not even raising the issues faced by farmers almost until the eve of the elections.
Lack of an opposition in Indian democracy renders vast number of our peoples in a cloud of hopelessness.
Politics of Protests
Broadly speaking, India has witnessed two types of mass protests in recent years: top-down protests sponsored by political parties and their allied organisations; and grounds-up protests led by different interest groups. Both type of protesters turned up in Delhi's Ram Lila Maidan to press for their demands recently. On November 29, tens of thousands of farmers marched to Ram Lila Maidan to raise demands such as debt relief and remunerative prices for their farm produce.
These protests by farmers were different from the protests sponsored from the top, notably the one on December 9 led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) demanding construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
VHP protesters in Delhi were seen shouting slogans such as Ek dhakka aur do, Jama Masjid tod do (Give one more push, demolish the Jama Masjid).
India's right-wing, especially the Hindu Right, often criticises the Taliban and other Islamist forces for being anti-civilisation. However, the slogans raised by the VHP-led protesters indicate that the Hindu Right is worse than the Taliban. In March 2001, the Taliban in Afghanistan had destroyed the historic Buddhas of Bamyan because in their view idols were not allowed in Islam. Now, the Hindu Taliban want to do the same to same to the 17th century Jama Masjid for religious reasons. In the case of Hinduism, religion and culture cannot be separated. In the case of Islam, religion and politics cannot be separated. Hindutva of the BJP is Political Hinduism like Political Islam of the Taliban is for Islam.
So, while there is not even a shade of rancour in the ranks of the grounds-up protests such as those of famers in different parts of India, the top-down protests like those led by the VHP, BJP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other Hindutva organisations are filled with overt hatred for the Other.
Politics can breed prejudice. In fact, xenophobia and racism often emanate from political parties and flow into the cultural ways of societies. In Germany and Italy, Hitler and Mussolini watched and patronized the spread of racist and fascistic ideas among youths. In India, BJP does the same. The ruling BJP lacks an inclusive vision and therefore is advancing these ideas for political gain.
Communalising Ram Mandir for Political Gains
Unfortunately, the BJP leadership has projected the Ram Mandir issue as Hindu-Muslim issue. On the contrary, no Muslim of India is really concerned about the building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya today. Every Muslim is in favour of a Ram temple. By any stretch of imagination, Ram Mandir is not a Hindu-Muslim issue – it is a legal issue between some Hindu and Muslim organisations who have taken up the case before the Supreme Court. But in a calculated way, the BJP leaders including Amit Shah, have targeted even the Supreme Court of India, accusing the top court of delaying a decision. Their politics is deliberate, deceitful and murderous.
The fact is that the Allahabad High Court delivered a judgement and the parties to the case are free to build a temple whenever they wish. In the media and politics, we see voices demanding that Ram temple should be built and built now, just when parliamentary elections are five months away.
The question is: why were you sleeping over this issue when you have been in power for more than four and a half years?
The people of India are largely religious. But the BJP thinks it should exploit their religious sentiments for political purposes. While all political parties have their limitations, BJP is different from them in the sense that it thrives on hatred of Muslims.
Polls As The Ultimate Site of Protests
The tide of such hateful and racist ideas cannot be expected to recede unless political parties in power are defeated, as the BJP is learning in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and others. Over the past few years, the writing has been on the wall. In elections and bypolls in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, the forces of darkness led by BJP were defeated regularly. In the 2019 elections, the BJP is all set to be decimated on the scale Indira Gandhi was defeated after the Emergency.
The BJP rule under Modi has been an assault on the public wisdom of the peoples of India. His divisive politics torments our unsuspecting peoples.
Watching Indian Idol, I feel uplifting when I see the authentic Bhakt, the singer Nitin Kumar with his pure love for Lord Krishna. When I meet counterfeit Bhakts on social media, I see only prejudice in their minds. Since hate emanates from political parties, it can be defeated only by defeating such parties. This is why we have elections in India. From here onwards, the BJP faces a fork in the road: travel on the road of hatred led by the duo from Gujarat and sink; or swim out of this prejudice and impose on itself leaders like Lord Krishna, a true Bhakt with no animosity towards any group of people.
In a booklet which he authored in 2017 titled "Why is BJP in politics?" Amit Shah writes: "a political party's character can become known also from its leaders." Narendra Modi's remarks on "vidhwa" (widow) or "jersey cow" mocking Sonia Gandhi, or "50 crore girlfriend" for Sunanda Pushkar make it absolutely clear that he is unfit to represent India and Indians either in parliament or in international fora.
Congress may not have deserved electoral victories in states for which results are to be announced today, but a political party led by Modi does not deserve to remain in power either.
(The writer, a former BBC journalist, is a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC. He tweets @tufailelif. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them)
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