By John Dayal
New Delhi, Dec. 12, 2018: The worst is not over for India’s religious minorities, its Dalits and its farmers despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failing to retain its governments in some of the most populous and vast heartland states of the Union in the legislative assembly elections held this month.
Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were ruled by the BJP for a full 15 years each – three terms. This was time enough for the party to infiltrate police, subordinate judiciary and the massive education system, radicalizing not just a generation of youth in the Hindutva ideology but suborning the administrative machinery.
Rajasthan, the third state it lost this month, has seen a government change very five years, and is to that extent comparatively less radicalized, though its traditional feudal traditions have also seen the targeting of Muslims, and Christian tribals.
Politically, the election has meant a revival of the Congress – Uttar Pradesh and Bihar remain the two states where it has not been in power over two generation – and a new respect for its young leader Rahul Gandhi.
While the BJP had sworn to make India Congress-Mukt, or cleansed of the Congress – its leadership had individually targeted Rahul Gandhi to make him a subject of ridicule in the political discourse.
Gandhi dueled with N. Modi across the three states in scores of public rallies. And he seems to have clicked with the young in his attack on the prime minister with accusations of massive corruption in defense deals, and personal command responsibility in the death of tens of thousands of farmers who committed suicide under a crushing debt burden.
The demonetization of currency which impacted small farmers and tradesmen, rural labor and tribals, the effect of the ban on cow slaughter, transport and sales, which led to millions of useless cattle ravaging crops or dying of starvation, were very visible reason for the anger against Modi.
Urban youth without jobs and an economy that has refused to take off despite the government fiddling with the data seems to have triggered a disillusionment with the man and his party who rode to power in a promise of “better days” of development and a burnishing of the Hindu faith with the building of a grand temple to Lord Rama.
The Congress lost its last government in the North East, but not to the BJP, if that is any solace for it. Politically, the North East has traditionally sided with the party whose government in power at the Centre. But the BJP entering Mizoram — which with Nagaland and Meghalaya is one of the three “Christian majority” provinces in India — has some symbolic importance, but nothing more than that. It rules Assam, the key state, and has a finger or more in every one of the eight “sister states” either directly or through vassal parties.
For Modi, it is no longer the 2013 ride on chariot of fire for victory in 2014. He is left with nothing more than just a push for Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra, promised by his cadres and ministers, if not directly by him.
He is the face of the party and the ideological electoral thrust, and will remain so in 2019. But it needs be remembered that the RSS rules the roost, and much of the decision making in what is called the Parivar, the loose clutch of cadres, “sants’, militant group such as the Bajrang Dal and several “think tanks” targeting various segments of society, including the armed forces.
When Modi sought to flex his muscles last year, RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat came out the self-imposed privacy his predecessors had maintained, and held a series of very public projects, including inviting senior Congressman and former President of Indian, Pranab Mukherjee, to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur. In one famous statement,
Bhagwat said the RSS could out its strength behind anyone it chose to. It had done so in 1984, supporting Rajiv Gandhi in the general election following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Rajiv won 404 seats, a record that may perhaps never be broken for long, or some dramatic political move, to retain power for a second term.
Modi, as we have seen in his grimaces and body language in election campaigns, fancies himself an action politician, a man of unexpected thrust and parry. The talk of surgical strikes has promoted rumors of an adventurous military excursion on the Pakistan border in Kashmir, but the nuclear arsenals of both countries make such action foolhardy, and even impossible.
Minorities have reason to fear that the four months left to the general elections in 2019 spring, Modi, and the party, may try defying Supreme Court orders by beginning the work on the Rama temple over the ruins of the Babri mosque demolished by Hindu mobs in December 1992. There had been massive bloodshed at that time.
The air is now foul. The cry for the temple has already taken on a strident note. In the recent elections, even Congressman Rahul Gandhi wore a sacred threat, mentioned his “gotra”, and garlanded every idol he could. The winds of hate rage, even in otherwise sane Kerala. The killings, of Muslim individuals for the most, but also of others, are being reported with increasing frequency.
And the fear is palpable. The people can but hope the road to 2019 will not be stained with blood.