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Mainstream, VOL LV No 15 New Delhi April 1, 2017

Back to Square One

Sunday 2 April 2017, by Kuldip Nayar


We are back to square one. The Supreme Court has advised the two parties, those who want the Babri Masjid to be reconstructed and those who claim that the site is that of Lord Rama’s. In its judgment, the Court has advised the different parties to sit together and sort out the problems through negotiations.

One surprising part of the advice is that the Chief Justice of India is willing to mediate for an out-of-court settlement. He has said: “Give a bit and take a bit. Make an effort to sort it out.” He points out that these are issues of sentiments and he can even step aside and let his brother judges to decide. How can the Chief Justice or, for that matter, his brother judges mediate because their very office is supposed to be above controversies?

Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu icon, has been elected as the leader of the Uttar Pradesh legis-lative party of the BJP with a huge margin and installed as the Chief Minister. Whether the credit for securing this majority in UP goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi or to the Yogi, who has the reputation of being a hardcore Hindu leader, it shows that Hindutva is sweeping the country. Obviously, the RSS is behind the move.

In the past, the RSS always stayed distant although it was the final arbiter. But now it is so confident of the Hindu majority, particularly after the BJP swept the elections in UP, that it doesn’t mind coming out in the open. It is already preparing for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Its chief, Mohan Bhagwat, minces no words when he tells the swayamsevaks to be prepared to meet the increasing attacks on the RSS and get ready for the next Lok Sabha polls.

In the face of what has happened in the recent Assembly elections, the RSS fears that the Opposition parties might join hands together to fight it out. In such a scenario, the BJP-led NDA may lose ground. The RSS, or for that matter, the BJP, knows that despite getting 42 per cent of the vote-share in UP, the combined efforts of the other parties fetched 55 per cent of the vote- share. It means that the non-BJP parties would have to come together. This doesn’t seem possible at present.

The bigger danger may force them to sink their differences and fight the saffron brigade. As Nani Palkhiwala, the late eminent jurist said, when the house is on fire you don’t think whether to save the drawing room or dining room. You want to save the entire house. He was referring to the looming threat of the erstwhile Jan Sangh getting a majority in Parliament. It is another matter that the Janata Party, comprising most Jan Sanghis, came to power at the Centre in 1977. But the sticking point was to sever relations with the RSS.

 However, the Jan Sangh elements, who are now a part of the ruling BJP, refused to snap ties with the RSS. Subsequently, L.K. Advani walked out and founded a separate party, the BJP. Liberal elements in the party like Atal Behari Vajpayee, too, left the Janata Party. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that his sobering influence did not allow the hardcore elements to take over when the party came to power.

It, however, shows that secularism has not taken roots in the country. It is unfortunate that the independence struggle, aimed at a secular democratic country that included this noble thought in the Preamble of the Constitution, seems to have gone awry. The Hindutva elements, slowly and gradually, swept the country. Today, you can see that soft-Hindutva has spread even in Kerala where the BJP, for the first time, has made inroads.

As it is, the party has captured the imagi-nation of people and has come to power in over a dozen States. This also means that a secular party like the Congress has been losing its grip in the States which it ruled once. Even the regional parties are losing their relevance as it happened in UP. Obviously, the BJP has been able to influence the minds of most people. The Rajya Sabha elections look like strengthening the BJP’s hands.

The Assembly elections in such States as Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will really show whether the Lok Sabha would be captured by the BJP or not. However, the future is ominous. The revival of the Ram Mandir issue could shape the future of the country and would polarise the nation further. Yogi Adityanath has repeated Modi’s words of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’.

But the content of the party cannot change overnight. Though the UP Chief Minister may not be saying it in as many words, he will have to follow the RSS and BJP agenda of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, sooner or later. If the all-powerful Yogi has been installed as the Chief Minister by the BJP High Command, it must be with a clear-cut intention.

Whatever may the outcome, the Court cannot decide on what is apparently a matter of faith. That is perhaps why the CJI has offered to mediate for an out-of-court settlement. But then there have been several attempts since 1986, involving five governments of different colours. It was mainly because both parties seem to be adamant that they don’t want to make any compromises. Under the circumstances, another attempt by the CJI may not help.

Except for the BJP, none of the other parties is enthused over the offer by the Supreme Court Bench. It looks as if the Apex Court also is not clear in its mind how to settle the dispute. This long-ranging issue needs a quick solution for the comfort of all parties concerned. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be coming, at least in the near future.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com

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