By Kushal Jeena
With a senior central minister of BJP openly and brazenly advocating a change and modification in the basic nature and structure of Indian Constitution by dropping key word “secular” from the Preamble, the party seems to have made its intention clear to go back to Hindutva agenda to fight next round of assembly elections in eight states next year.
The time-tested hidden Hindutva agenda of the right wing party that currently rules the governments at the centre as well as in 18 states would continue to be at the centre stage of its poll campaign till the general elections in 2018. The realization to stick to basics came after the party failed to register an impressive victory it had anticipated in Gujarat assembly polls held recently. It was the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had to work overtime to ensure a sixth successive win for the party, but ultimately could not even come closer to its previous tally of 115 seats in the state assembly because the elections was fought on the issue of caste not the religion.
Ä few people say the Constitution mentions the word secular, so you have to agree because it is there in the Constitution, we will respect it, but this will change in the near future. The Constitution has changed many times before. We are here and have come to change the Constitution. We will change it,” said Ananth Kumar Hedge, a first time minister in the federal cabinet.
On another occasion he also made similar provocative statement that clearly amounts to enticing majority community against minorities saying he would be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular. Hegde is not alone in the ruling party who openly tries to create a divide among communities on the basis of religion and the professions they opted, even Prime Minister Modi had gone on record calling chartered accountants as thieves and his ministers terming farmers as cowards for committing suicide in case of crop failure.
The principle opposition Congress party immediately took the minister on saying it would resist any attempt to change the basic nature of the Constitution and fight the BJP tooth and nail. “The BJP-RSS school of thought is engrained in bigotry, hate, divisiveness and prejudices that envision a monolithic culture. It is diametrically opposite to the liberal inclusive traditions of India and progressive thoughts enshrined in the Constitution of India,” said Dinesh Gundu Rao, the working president of state Congress party.
“He (Hegde) is habitual of making such remarks and the BJP has awarded him a ministerial birth for this. It is not only concerned with the Parliament but also proves that he doesn’t believe in Constitution of India. He should not have any place in the council of ministers. The government has asked us to give time and we have agreed. Let the government decide. Either the minister should come to the House and apologize or the Prime Minister should take action,” Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha remarked in a telephonic conversation.
There is a strong feeling among the decision makers in the party that if same trend continues the party is all set to suffer a major loss in the next round of assembly polls and after Gujarat elections they have been mounting pressure on the party and the Prime Minister against giving up its core agenda of ‘majority communalism’ to pave way for an alternative electoral politics similar to other parties. A statement coming from a five-term party law maker from Karnataka Hegde seeking a change in the Constitution by replacing the word secular is the reflection of that feeling within the party.
The party President Amit Shah seems leading pro-Hindutva lobby within the party as it was evident from a leaked conversation he had with Hegde and another party functionary Prathap Simha from the poll-bound southern state. In the conversation Shah was allegedly shown telling Hegde and Simha to organize militant protests all around the state of Karnataka. The recording showed the leaders using occasions like Haunuman Jyanti and Tipu Sultan’s Jyanti to polarize the electorate on religious lines.
“The BJP has been trying to rake up communal frenzy and all this is being done with election in mind. After Gujarat elections, the BJP has perhaps understood that religious polarisation and stoking anti-Muslim sentiment among Hindus are its best bet,” maintained Vijoo Krishnan, a senior functionary of CPI (M)
The next round of assembly elections in eight states are round the corner and out of eight poll going states, four major states are ruled by the BJP including Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Nagaland. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the BJP has been in power for three consecutive terms and a strong anti-incumbency has altered the balance of electoral politics against ruling dispensation.
Anticipating a backlash on the controversy as the Parliament currently is in the session, the BJP immediately went on to defensive and distanced itself from the remarks the minister made describing them as his personal views.
“The party doesn’t want to get involved with what Hegde has said. What he spoke about is not an issue for us, “said Vamanacharya, the BJP spokesman in Bengaluru.
However, the official statement of the party is contradicted by many senior leaders and ministers who frequently indulged in activities that are destructive and communal in nature. These leaders always go scot free as hardly any action has been taken against them for making such utterances. This demonstrates double-speak of the BJP leadership who wants to keep the issue alive
The opposition parties are also at fault as they allow these people go unpunished. They only discharge their duties by raising the issue in the Parliament or reacting to media as and when provocative remarks emancipate from the ruling side. The opposition leaders have hardly moved a motion in any of the two Houses of Parliament to take the issue to its logical conclusion by having a serious discussion on the issue that yields an outcome. The ruling party and the government always take advantages of complacency shown on the part of opposition.
The BJP and its parental organization Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh is plagued by the controversy for not accepting Indian Constitution since its inception. In the Indian political history they have always seen as commenting negatively on all provisions of the 67-year old Indian Constitution that promotes inclusiveness, brotherhood and equality among all its citizens. The ideology of RSS has always been advocating for a theocratic state dominated by majority Hindu population through a change in the Constitution. The BJP, political wing of the RSS has always participated in the electoral process initially as Jansangh and later as BJP after it was merged with other opposition parties during Janata Party regime in 1977 when for the first time opposition wrested from Congress party at the Centre. The participation in the election is must, as coups to convert Indian state into a religious state under the current political system is near impossible. The party leaders know that entering into election fray and forming a government by winning polls is the only way out.
Indian electorates seem to have endorsed the politics of hardcore Hindutva as an alternative to the politics of inclusiveness in the Indian political system after the grand old party of the country Congress that ruled most of the time after the independence in 1947 ordered opening up of lock of a century old mosque at Ayodhya that led to its subsequent destruction by BJP’s zealots. The opposition parties with secular credentials are yet to find a counter to the Hindutva of the BJP and very often get frightened whenever BJP played its Hindu card having trails of communal violence.
The politics of majority communalism that is currently at its peak with the saffron flag of ruling BJP flying high in almost all nook and corner of the country seems all set to bring in more electoral victories for the party as long as disputed shrines belonging to Hindu and Muslim communities exist. The right wing BJP never achieved such a grand success in the run up to the Babri mosque frenzy and large scale communal violence held in the post demolition taking many precious lives that it enjoys at this juncture. Unfortunately, no secular government that came to power in the aftermath of demolition of ancient mosque ever attempted to find a long-lasting solution to the problem fearing a majority community backlash.
The irony is that the opposition parties expect the BJP to follow the secular Constitution of the country knowing well the core agenda of the party that it has been putting on back burner as and when it suits the party. However, the fact remains whenever BJP gets a majority in both the Houses of Parliament on its own as it has now in the lower House, required for any amendments to the Constitution, it would proceed without any hesitation and with a zeal to get all its agenda implemented. The provocative remarks made often are nothing but a reminder of a single point cause; India as Hindu state.
Kushal Jeena is a senior journalist