You win the toss. Your first batsman takes a huge swipe at the first ball hoping to score a six. He gets caught. The lesson is clear. Governing is not a T20 or even an ODI. It is more like a Test match lasting five years. You have to pace yourself, take care not to waste time or lose wickets. There is no draw in this game.
The Hindi curriculum controversy brought out the problems Narendra Modi will face. There is a divide within the BJP like there is in most ideological parties. The core membership has a radical agenda which they wish to implement immediately upon winning power. There will no doubt will be ghar wapsi, love jihad, gau raksha and vigilante attacks before Modi reads the riot act. He has extended the vote beyond what the core membership can deliver by widening the appeal, Sabka Saath, and offering substantial rather than ideological goods, Sabka Vikas.
Hindi is an obsession of the Hindi belt. When the issue came up before the Constituent Assembly, the Hindi belt Congress members defeated Jawaharlal Nehru, who wanted Hindustani as national language, by one vote during a meeting. In 1965, the insistence on replacing English by Hindi nearly caused the cessation of South India. Lal Bahadur Shastri solved the issue by compromise. Why then start dividing again?
The Hindi belt has to learn that it may be the most populous region, but it is neither the majority nor is it the most socially progressive or prosperous region. South and North East, Gujarat and Maharashtra, Punjab-Haryana are important but separate regions of the nation. Hindi is a relatively recent language, at most 200 years old. Tamil is 4,000 years old. If you want to unite the nation genuinely, then encourage the learning of a South Indian or Northeastern language. Hindi and English are both jointly national languages. Learning both is a luxury. Studying Tamil, Bengali or Assamese may bind the nation together better.
There is no point in rushing on the cultural front before the material poverty has been tackled. Clean water, energy, good health, adequate income, viable livelihoods, decent education and skills learning should have priority over language wars. Modi won because he began working on this vital list of needs and never talked about Hindutva in five years. The BJP is now the party with a long lease on power. Its Hindi belt core supporters will have to learn not to harm its prospects. Making haste will lead to loss of power.
The BJP may be a Hindu majoritarian party, but it has to learn that not all Hindus do or should speak Hindi. The Sanatan Dharma takes different forms in different parts of India. It is not a monolith like an Abrahamic religion. Murugan is worshipped only in the South, not in the North. Assam became integrated into Vaisnavism only in the middle of the second millennium of the Common Era. The Scheduled Tribes follow a variety of beliefs across India. “Educating” them into Hinduism will lead to a backlash.
Pakistan is a guide. Despite sharing a religion, language became the reason for the breakaway of East Pakistan. Every linguistic state is a nation with its own history. India is a nation of nations bound together by democracy. Let it be.
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