Election 2009: Is mandate against Hindutva?
by Amitabh Tripathi on 31 May 2009 6 Comments

Since the results of the 15th Lok Sabha elections were declared, a heated postmortem is on. The people’s verdict has been deciphered in various ways. Some analysts have concluded the era of smaller parties is over, yet the smaller parties garnered 220 parliamentary seats more than the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Another conclusion is that people have punished smaller parties which boasted of having the key to government-formation in their hands. This has ignited a debate on the inclusive nature of the mandate, with faith on development. The people’s verdict has various dimensions; one bottom-line is the mandate for stable government. But this verdict has also been described as no to Hindutva, but before jumping to any conclusion we may analyze the mandate in context of secularism and Hindutva.

Secularism in the Indian context has been defined as the blatant appeasement of minorities and Hindu-bashing; but election results don’t substantiate this. The election results contain some unique phenomena, brushed under the carpet and overshadowed by the highly charged debate on development. 

These elections defeated the stalwarts of secularism. Lalu Prasad Yadav, a mascot of secularism for two decades, with vocabulary filled with phrases derogatory to Hindutva leaders and Hindutva itself, has been thrown into the dustbin. Lalu Prasad Yadav is the same person who cashed on his image among the Muslim community because as chief minister he did not allow Lal Krishna Advani to proceed in Bihar with his Rath Yatra in 1989. Before polling in this election, this so-called messiah of Muslims stunned everyone by delivering a speech against the controversial Varun Gandhi.

Lalu and the other messiah of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, built a Fourth Front to root out communal forces. These two Yadav leaders were accompanied by Ram Vilas Paswan who has openly demanded citizenship for Bangladeshi infiltrators. 

The politics of secularism for these leaders was based on the arithmetic of moderate Hindus in the name of secularism, along with Muslims; but the arithmetic did not succeed this time and they were rejected like flotsam. Their rejection is pregnant with a hidden message that rhetoric alone will not appease Muslims and moderate Hindus will not tolerate blatant minority appeasement.

In Bihar, the defeat of the wife of Md. Shahabuddin, known underworld don, has been described as a defeat of the politics of criminalization; but the constituency of Siwan tells another story.  The followers of Md. Shahabuddin raised the slogan “Hina nahi to jina nahi” (If there will be no Hina - wife of Shahabuddin - it will be difficult to live). This boomeranged on Hina; Hindus polarized against her, and in the absence of any candidates from a national party, they voted for an Independent. People from Bihar told me this is the first time when elections in Siwan have been polarized; earlier Hindus also supported Shahabuddin.

This is not the case only with this troika of secularism; another face of secularism was defeated in Maharashtra. After the terrorist attack in Mumbai, the then union cabinet minister A.R. Antulay, shamelessly and openly talked the language of Pakistan and raised questions regarding the very nature of the attack and ignited the conspiracy theory floated by Islamists world over – that this attack was an inside job by India. Antulay got a stunning defeat, but no one in the media talked about this development. 

In Kerala, the Left parties gambled to take Abdul Naseer Madani along with them, and this strategy backfired as the traditional Hindu voters of this godless party left it on account of apprehension over the growing clout of Islamic fundamentalism in this highly volatile southern state.

If we see election 2009 as a rejection of Hindutva politics, we have few instances to corroborate this conclusion. It is argued that BJP was unable to polarize votes and people voted for the performance of governments. By this logic, this was a pan-national phenomenon and people everywhere discounted identity politics. If it was indeed the case and people voted against BJP for its anti-minority rhetoric and raising the issue of Afzal Guru, then BJP should also have been punished in Malegaon, Pilibhit, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh. Actually, BJP won all these constituencies where election issue was based on Hindutva and Jihad.

If the pan-India appeal for development and rejection for Hindutva was truly the essence of this election, then BJP should have lost in Karnataka where Masjids and Churches issued a fatwa against the ruling party. Before the elections, the Ram Sene was a darling issue for the Media in the state for several months, and secularists were hoping to bring moderate Hindus to their side with this campaign; results showed the opposite happened.  

Election results indicate a new trend that Hindus could not be taken for granted on secularism with blatant Hindu-bashing. Gujarat was the first state to break the jinx of secularism, synonymous with Hindu-bashing, and Congress with its allies paid heavily for the vilification of Chief Minister Narendra Modi in every election in the state. This was clearly evident in this election when Congress preferred to keep mum on the direction of Supreme Court to investigate the role of Narendra Modi in the Gujarat riots which followed the Godhra incident in 2002.

This new phenomenon in Indian politics needs to be analyzed carefully. In the last two decades, the Hindutva movement has played a role of deterrence of Islamic fundamentalism and Evangelical fundamentalism. People have punished BJP for not taking these issues as election issues, but have not defeated Hindutva. BJP lives in utter dilemma and confusion and in this hour of crisis, people need clarity of thought, and they have to decide between Congress and pseudo-Congress, and finally their verdict went in favour of the real Congress.

Congress needs to understand this inherent message of the mandate and not side with Islamic fundamentalism and evangelical fundamentalism as people are mature and not going to tolerate minority communalism in the name of secularism. BJP needs to come out of its dilemma and confusion and make its position clear on Hindutva.  

The author is a professional translator and political commentator

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