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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 34 August 13, 2016 [Independence Day Special 2016]

The Cow Makes the Mare Go

Monday 15 August 2016, by Badri Raina

Here is how the holy cow seems to have hooved the Sangh Parivar for now: following the Prime Minister’s chest-thumpingly politic outburst against those that use the cow to beat the Dalit (Uttar Pradesh which goes to the hustings soon has 24 per cent Dalits), the Hindu Mahasabha has come out with scathing condlemnation of the numero uno, calling him anti-Hindu, and suggesting he resign office since he was supposed to be a Hindu Samrat. The VHP has said they always protected cows, and they always will protect cows. Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, since it remains primarily a political organisation, the RSS has supported Mr Modi, characterising attacks against Dalits “inhuman”. One lives and learns, you might say. No suggestion here that keeping Dalits tied to their ordained professions, in habitations at the outskirts of towns and villages, or out of temples, even as they are assured of being Hindus, and a lot more, might also be inhuman. But for now, the RSS has cannily understood that disaster awaits its progeny, come Assembly elections in the Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh. Note that the Prime Minister has said nothing about the desirability or not of attacks on Muslims and Christians, in the knowledge perhaps that those are lost causes anyway. He has not thought it worth his while to speak one word about the goings-on in the doomed Valley where no elections are due for now.

Meanwhile, coming events cast their shadows before: the urban and rural body by-elections in Rajasthan of all places has given the Congress 19 of thirtyseven seats, and the ruling BJP ten. With a near-total loss of Dalit and Muslim votes, not to forget the animatedly hostile Patidars in Gujarat, the forthcoming Assembly elections seem set to make those Assemblies relatively BJP-mukt. In Uttar Pradesh, additionally, a fairly substantial segment of Brahmins seems equally annoyed with the BJP which cannot make up its mind to foreground a Brahmin face as the chief ministerial candidate. Contrastingly, the down-and-out mother of all parties seems to be going smart thanks to a concatenation of moves tactically, but, more importantly, because of a general feeling of ennui among the UP voters with the three other parties that have been in power one way or another for some three decades now. The public response to the Congress’ Varanasi road show has been stupendous and palpably zestful. Suggesting that the oldest of all parties may be positioned, ironically, as was the AAP in Delhi—an untried formation worth the trying now. Wonders may never cease.

What will be of interest is how the cleavages within the Sangh Parivar shape out in the coming months. Between the aspiration of its political vanguard to go the whole hog for privately-driven elitist development schemes in alliance with cutting-edge technologies and collaboration with the most ruthlessly expropriating foreign capital, and its atavistic allegiance to inhuman social and cultural practices, falls the shadow on its prospects. The Prime Minister may well continue to rope-walk this irreconciliable chasm through politic silence alternating with politc statement, but with increasingly diminishing returns.

The price of prevarication may indeed prove to be rather more lethal than the price of tur dal, or, if you like, the two together may come to be decisively deleterious to the largest party in the world.

The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His latest book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012.

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