IT was soothing to the ears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Jawaharlal Nehru while reaching out to the Congress leaders. He adopted a conciliatory attitude towards the opponents, emphasising “if there is any incident of atrocity against anybody, it is a blot on all of us for the society as well as the nation”. Modi asserted that no Indian needed to prove their patriotism.
Listening to speech on the floor of the Lok Sabha it appeared that the person who till a few months back was spitting venom against Nehru and endorsed the jibes and abuses of his saffron colleagues against those who did not subscribe to their views, has undergone a change of heart and turned liberal, a believer in the politics of reconciliation and was following in the footsteps of Atal Behari Vajpayee with thrust on moderation and interfaith harmony. Paradoxical indeed, as this came from a person who once regretted that it was Nehru, and not Sardar Patel, who became India’s first prime minister.
Suddenly realisation dawned on Modi that democracy is strengthened when there is consensus and discussion. Majority doesn’t give (the government) the right to impose its views. Majority and minority is the last step because we have to promote consensus, debate and discussion. If Modi or RSS had followed from the beginning this dictum the present situation would not have arisen.
Modi through his overtures tried to create a political space for his government that would help clear the legislative logjam and allow, among other things, passage of important bills. Modi is trying hard to create the impression that he was undoing anything wrong committed by his saffron comrades. Modi’s reiteration that the religion of the government was “India first” and the Constitution its “holy book” should be viewed in this backdrop.
It would be wrong to construe that Modi has changed. Bihar electoral rout has taught him the hard lessons of the real politick and made him realise that RSS’ Hindutva formula cannot be applied in the Indian context. If the BJP, and especially Modi, would not have met with its waterloo in the battle of Bihar, it is sure the Prime Minister would not have adopted a conciliatory approach. All credits for making Modi a mild person goes to Bihar’s poor and backward voters who ensured astounding victory for the Mahagathbandhan.
In a tactical move while the RSS has been taking forward the Hindutva agenda, Modi has embarked on the path of reconciliation simply to avoid direct conflict with the opposition. His opening dialogue with the Congress leadership is part of this strategy. It was quite interesting to see the person who called upon the people to create ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ was striving to have a working relation with the same party. As if this was not enough he eulogized Nehru, against whom he had used harsh words and blamed him for the present situation. Apparently it appears that Modi has travelled a considerably long distance in the politics but the fact is it is simply a façade to conceal the real face and intentions.
Eighteen months in his rule, Modi at no stage felt remorse for the increasing intolerance in the ruling elite. In fact the saffron leaders went up to asserting that this was orchestrated against Modi with ulterior motive. Its spokespersons even did not feel shy in calling the intellectuals and writers as mercenaries. This simply manifests their political upbringing.
Dissent is fundamental to the survival and success of democracy, democratic institutions and its functioning. In a rational and reasonable society dissent is accepted as a norm and is encouraged. But in India under Modi government this space and privilege is being denied to the dissenting voice. And this is being done in a very planned and crude manner. Neither the Modi government nor the RSS whose diktat the government follows are worried of the erosion of their credibility.
Instead of respecting the dissenting voices they took them as affront and challenge to their hegemony. The increase in intolerance to the dissenting voices is manifest in BJP leaders using offensive against the minorities. The beef episode, the Dadri killing and the local BJP legislator threatening the Muslims are the indicators of the mindset of the Sangh Parivar.
Quite interesting to note that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has endorsed the Modi government, lauding it for lifting the country from “an atmosphere of hopelessness” while at the same time, counseling it to gain feedback from the ground on its functioning. Modi and Bhagwat have been engaged in a friendly fight: Modi should wear the liberal mask and RSS would continue to pursue its Hindutva agenda.
One development is absolutely explicit. After Bihar rout Modi has become conscious of emerging challenges. An insight would make it explicit that he was simply following the RSS script. His emphasis on Constitution as the holy book ought to be seen in proper perspective. Interestingly on the discussion on the Constitution he said that any debate on it should not be reduced to “you and I”, its purpose was to serve as a reminder of a “we”.
Even while Modi has been publically pursuing the policy of moderation his senior party men have been busy insinuating minorities and intellectuals protesting against intolerant attitude of the saffron rulers. In fact the BJP has not changed, as is evident from the words and actions of Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi Maharaj, Mahesh Sharma, Manohar Lal Khattar, Meenaxi Lekhi and others.
Little doubt this change of stance of Modi will create confusion in the minds of the people making them believe that Congress or secular forces were unnecessarily criticising Modi. He would have the advantage. Modi has declared that Constitution is a “holy book” and impliedly ruled out any review of it. He also conceded that “consensus is more important than majority rule”. Modi’s remarks are invariably meant to alter the dynamics of future political discourse. Interesting to note that while Modi has been reiterating the line of equality and religious freedom, his senior cabinet colleagues were projecting Sangh’s vision.
No doubt Krishna Sobti was the first person to raise her voice and return her award. But it was the call of President Pranab Mukherjee to the people of the country that made them speak out their minds and feelings. The fear of terror and tyranny was so acute that none dared to speak out. Ironically instead of appreciating the people’s sentiment and cracking down on intolerance, the Sangh Parivar led a virulent attack against them. It was surprising to listen to Sangh leaders denigrating the scholars.
The government forgot the basic tenet of governance. Since Modi came into power, at least 43 deaths, 212 cases targeting Christians, 175 cases targeting Muslims, and 234 cases of hate speech have been reported.