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Saffron Power

Saffron Power

With the declaration of dates for the assembly election in five states: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram the political parties in India are trying different techniques to attract the voters. The two main political parties, the BJP and the Congress, seem to be competing with each other to garner votes by appealing to Hindutva. No other political party in India can excel BJP in the art of Hindutva politics. From two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984 BJP rose to 282 seats in 2014 mainly by resorting to Hindutva politics. The omissions and commissions of the Congress also contributed immensely to the saffron surge.

It seems that the Congress party has not leant any lesson from the past. It has failed to learn that it cannot browbeat the hard Hindutva of the BJP with its soft Hindutva. It is trying to win the Hindu votes by adopting the same techniques used by the Hindutva hardliners. The president of Madhya Pradesh Congress while addressing a meeting in Ganjbasoda promised to construct cow shelters in every panchayat if voted to power. "Look at the condition of the cows here. They always keep talking about cattle but do nothing for them. If we are voted to power, we will construct  gaushalas in every panchayat," he said last month.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, has gone many steps forward and declared on September 30 the establishment of a Cow Ministry. "I have reason to believe that the Cow Protection Board in the state should be turned into a full-fledged ministry," Mr Chouhan said at an event attended by Digambar Jain monk Vidhyasagarji Maharaj in Khajuraho. “An independent ministry can help serve cows in a much better way”, he said. Cow appears to be the root cause of all problems of Madhya Pradesh. Hence if cow is taken care of, all problems of the people will be automatically solved, is the new invention of the political leaders of the Congress and the BJP.

The Congressmen are making all efforts to present Rahul Gandhi as a Shiv bhakt, Ram bhakt and Narmada bhakt. Rahul Gandhi as a citizen of India has the freedom to visit any temple in the country and express his faith. But using his temple visit to showcase the Congress as a party of the Hindus appears to be a flawed approach. People of India have the commonsense to discern between a drama and reality. Moreover, people do not expect the Congress to be a replica of BJP. One wonders why the Congress is doubtful about its identity. How can a party that does not have clarity about its ideology and faith in its identity expect the people to repose their faith in it?

The Congress will never be able to win an election focusing on Hindutva. First of all Hindutva is diametrically opposed to its professed ideology of secularism. Shashi Tharoor in his latest book, “Why I am a Hindu” has conclusively proved that Hindutva is entirely different from Hinduism; both are at opposite poles.

Madhya Pradesh has been the epicentre of farmers’ agitation. Neither the BJP government nor the opposition Congress could present a viable programme to solve the vexing problems of the farmers. According to the  2018 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Madhya Pradesh is the fourth poorest state in India after Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. Alirajpur district in Madhya Pradesh is the poorest in the country where 76.5 per cent of people are poor. According to the data released by Niti Ayog, Madhya Pradesh has the highest infant mortality rate in India: 47 per 1000 live births. The state also has the third highest rate of undernourished children (36%). As per the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2017 Madhya Pradesh tops the list of rape cases. The state has the third lowest GDP per capita income (Rs. 72,599) after Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as per the data published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India. 

Both the BJP and the Congress are not bothered about the problems of the people and the status of human development in the state. Madhya Pradesh has the third lowest Human Development Index in 2017 (0.577) after Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Although the Chief Minister claims that MP is no more a bimaru (sick) state, the ground realities have not changed. Welfare of the cow is the main concern of both parties. Both the parties are vying with each other to exploit the religious sentiments of the people instead of highlighting the real issues of the people and presenting alternatives to change the situation.

As Shashi Tharoor has described in his book, ‘Why I am a Hindu’ “Hindutva or Sanghivad is in many ways a distraction from the real issues facing the country: issues of poverty and economic development, oppression and injustice, the evolution of our still-imperfect democracy. Identity politics becomes a diversion from the bread-and-butter issues that actually affect most Hindus”. Shashi Tharoor’s party is indulging in the same game of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.  In fact, the over- smart politicians on both sides of the fence do not realize that they are belittling the intelligence of the common people. It is very sad to note that the Congress is playing with BJP the game of Hindutva, in which it doesn’t have the basic skills.

There is no wonder why BJP indulges in Hindutva politics. It has miserably failed to fulfil the promises made to the people at the time of last Lok Sabha election. Instead of creating 2 core jobs every year it has contributed to increase unemployment through the disaster of demonetization and the flawed implementation of GST. Instead of fulfilling the promise of ‘ sab ka saat, sab ka vikas’ its focus has been rewriting history, saffronizing education and dividing people under the guise of cow protection and love jihad. There is no let up in the woes of the farmers. As the BJP has very little in its kitty to present its achievements before the people, it is compelled to go back to the emotive issues.

If the Congress tries to present itself a votary of Hindutva, it will lose not only the votes of the minorities but also the votes of the liberal Hindus. Secondly, the cow has been used by the cow vigilantes promoted by the Sangh Parivar to kill innocent Muslims. According to a report by Reuters, 28 people were killed and 124 injured in  cow-related violence between 2010 and 2017. Most of these killing took place since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. The Supreme Court had said India should not be allowed to descent into “mobocracy”. If the Congress resorts to cow politics it will have no moral right to speak about cow vigilantism.

The Congress cannot defeat BJP only by attacking Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi still continues to be immensely popular across the country. Along with highlighting the failures of the BJP government convincingly, it has to present an alternative vision and solutions to the pressing problems of the country. The editorial in Hindustan Times on October 6 appreciated the changes that have taken place in the persona of Rahul Gandhi on the basis of his speech at Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. “In recent months, Mr Gandhi seems to have grown into the role of the principal Opposition leader — there are many claimants to the throne — even as he has reinvented his persona and sought to do the same to his party’s. He has become approachable and accessible and doesn’t shy away from taking tough questions any longer”, wrote the editor. The editorial also has pointed out what is lacking in him and his party. “While he told the audience what the Congress party didn’t stand for, he didn’t spend as much time telling them what it stood for. Nor did he have specific ideas to tackle issues related to growth, bad loans, a falling rupee, unemployment, and the problems in agriculture”.

Gone are the days when a political party could win election on account of anti-incumbency. If the Congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh think that people will vote for the Congress because of their disenchantment with the Shivraj Singh government, they are in fools’ paradise. They have to work hard and present credible and realistic plans before the people for various sectors: agriculture, health, education and above all schemes for job creation. If Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijay Singh dream that cow will bring votes to them they will realize on the day of reckoning that the cow has eaten up the votes. Time has come for the Congress leaders to realize that there is no alternative to hard work and team work. They have to learn it from the Sangh Parivar.  


(Published on 15th October 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 42)