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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 49

Implications of the Majoritarian Offensive


Tuesday 25 November 2008, by SC


A week ago it was written in these columns:

The constituents of the Sangh Parivar have been overactive in ... stereotyping a specific minority community by going to the extent of even suggesting, sometimes overtly but mostly covertly, that terrorism in this country was basically the handiwork of members of that community. They also want POTA to be used against those whom they brand as terrorists. Today with the probe into the Malegaon blast of September 29 ... having exposed the role of saffron terrorists, these stalwarts of Hindutva ... have been forced to adopt a defensive posture.

That the BJP, being the political wing of the RSS and the most prominent public face of the Sangh Parivar, practises communal politics is well known to any close observer of the national scene. But in its functioning as the principal constituent of the ruling coalition at the Centre for six years it sought to camouflage its communal approach to problems at least in its public dealings; also because of pressure from other constituents of the then ruling alliance, the NDA, it was compelled to keep such contentious (and communal) issues as erection of the Ram temple at the site of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution and enforcement of an Uniform Civil Code on the backburner and not include them in its agenda of governance. However, now that it is in the Opposition and is in utter desperation to somehow climb back to power both in the States (where it was reduced to a minority in the Assemblies) as well as at the Centre (where it was dislodged by the Congress-led UPA more than four years ago) it has no such inhibition despite the firm repudiation of its communal—majoritarian— proclivities by its partners in the NDA like the JD-(U) and, to a lesser extent, the BJD.

That is precisely why the BJP, seeking to return to power in Delhi on the crest of a majoritarian wave, is pandering to blatantly anti-Muslim sentiments by issuing such an election poster as the one published on November 13. This is what it conveys:

Congress has chosen its vote-bank over our lives.

- • TADA scrapped. POTA repealed
- • Afzal’s sentence not executed
- • Sought inquiry into Batla House encounter
- • Jamia University funds to defend terror accused
- • Martyrs fighting terror dishonoured
- • Illegal Bangladeshis made voters
- • Created discord over Shri Amarnathji pilgrimage
- • Challenged existence of Shri Ram
- • Bent upon demolishing Ram Setu
- • Promoting religion-based reservation
- • Implementing communal budgeting

Now, it is your turn to choose.
Congress, at what cost!

Even a cursory glance at this advertisement would convince one that the BJP is playing on the prevailing anti-Muslim attitude of influential segments of the majority community in order to reap electoral dividend. This is nothing but communal propaganda proscribed by the Election Commission in the poll campaign and thus a blatant violation of the model code of conduct. The Commission was, therefore, fully within its competence to issue a notice to the BJP on this specific advertisement making it abundantly clear that it was violative of the model code of conduct. In its reply to the notice the party has taken a defiant posture and instead of effectively rebutting the charge of resorting to communal propaganda only asserted that falsehood, inaccuracy and misrepresentation cannot be a part of the model code of conduct. In other words, its response only reinforces the EC’s allegation.

This shows that lately, especially after the Maharashtra ATS was able to unmask the saffron terrorists’ conspiracy which is no less criminal when juxtaposed against the activities of the jehadi terrorists (in a sense it is more sinister as even serving and retired members of the armed forces have been alleged to be actively involved in such exercises whether in Malegaon or Nanded or the Samjhauta Express blasts), the BJP leaders, as the most notable figures of the Sangh Parivar, have shed their defensive posture and spiritedly justified saffron terrorism. This has been best illustrated in the change of stance of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, the seniormost leader in the party after former PM A.B. Vajpayee. Whereas in the past he had tried to distance himself from Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, one of the most active personalities among the accused, even when the party President went out of his way to defend the latter by rubbishing all terror charges against her, on November 18 Advani came out in full throated denunciation of the ATS’ ’’politically motivated and unprofessional’’ actions of meting out ’’barbaric treatment’’ to a ’’spiritual person’’. It needs to be underscored that the Advani ’’transformation’’ took place two days after the Panipat rally of the entire Sangh Parivar (attended even by Baba Ramdev) which, while openly supporting the Malegaon blast accused—from Sadhvi Pragya Thakur to Lt Col Shrikant Purohit—and describing the investigation into the September 29 explosion as a ’’political conspiracy’’, announced the launch of a mass campaign against the UPA for its ’’vilification of Hindu saints and Army officers in the name of Hindu terrorism’’. As for Baba Ramdev, he went a step further: not only did he call for the coming together of “Sant Shakti and Jan Shakti”, but also advocated a ’’big change’’ in the country and at the Centre in the coming elections.

The BJP leaders feel that with this kind of Hindu mobilisation the majoritarian offensive will gather increasing momentum (as had happened during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the nineties) in the coming days and the party will be able to draw requisite political mileage to seize power through the battle of the ballot. In the process, however, the country will experience further communal polarisation dealing a body blow to our secular structure and ethos.

The danger emanating from this phenomenon cannot be overemphasised. And the need to resist such a majoritarian offensive becomes all the more imperative in the present setting when the disunity in the ranks of the secular forces due to various factors, both objective and subjective, has only aggravated the complexities in the national political scenario thus heightening the magnitude of the task before all secular democrats who are not blinded by personal hatred and/or egotistic prejudices so as to lose sight of what lies in store in the days ahead.

November 20 S.C.

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