Why is the Prime Minister allowing the RSS to steal his mandate? I ask this question wherever I go these days and frankly I have no answer.
When Leftist political pundits harangue me with charges that it was the RSS that helped Narendra Modi become prime minister, I tell them that they do not know what they are talking about. Leftists are usually allergic to dust, heat, poverty and the real India and so rarely travel during election campaigns. This made them miss the fact that last summer’s general election was not about Hindutva. Anywhere. It was about change and development. Without Modi, the BJP could not have won half the seats they did. Besides, if the RSS could help it win elections, what went wrong the last two times?
Yet there exists today the bizarre situation in which our strongest prime minister in decades is allowing Hindu fanatics in the Lok Sabha and Hindu fanatical organisations outside to blacken his image. The MPs who have been most offensive wear saffron robes signifying asceticism and renunciation. So what they are doing in Parliament instead of in some Himalayan cave is a valid question. But since they have found their way into the Lok Sabha, why is the Prime Minister not publicly rebuking them for dragging Hindutva into his mandate in the ugliest way? We barely recovered from that Sadhvi calling all Muslims ‘bastards’ when her brother in saffron pronounced that Nathuram Godse was a patriot. Both these MPs expressed regret when their remarks caused a public furore, but it is not possible to ever apologise for such things.
If we need proof that these fanatics have RSS approval, it is evident in the zeal with which the BJP’s ‘alma mater’ is trying to convert Muslims and Christians ‘back’ to Hinduism. The Sanatana Dharma does not permit proselytisation. But try telling that to those loonies rampaging about the derelict, desperately poor shanties of Uttar Pradesh trying to bring Muslims and Christians ‘home’.
Of course these fanatics harmed the people they are trying to reconvert, but much more than this is the harm they have done Modi and his government. Just as he was beginning to bask in the luminous glow of international approval and domestic election victories, he is now in danger of losing all his support. His votes did not come for Hindutva reasons. I say this with certainty. During the election campaign, wherever I went, I asked if Hindutva and the Ram temple were issues any more. And not even in the dusty halls of Banaras Hindu University did I meet anyone who believed these were issues in the 2014 election.
Everywhere I went, people said that they were drawn to Modi because of his talk of ‘vikas’ and ‘parivartan’. At his first rally in Uttar Pradesh I walked some distance with ordinary residents of Kanpur and when they saw BJP workers ride by angrily shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ from speeding motorcycles, they expressed strong disapproval. So why has the Prime Minister remained silent when the worst kind of Hinduism has been unleashed by the RSS and when the ‘love jihad’ proved that it would lose him votes in future?
For his government, the worst consequence is that the RSS has succeeded in changing the subject. So six months on, when we should have been talking about reforms in governance and the economy, we are talking about cow urine remedies and religious tensions. By now his ministers should have put before us a list of proposed reforms for sectors ranging from energy and the railways to policing and healthcare. That these are desperately needed is obvious from the horrible healthcare tragedies in Chhattisgarh and Punjab and from the recent rape in an Uber taxi.
Where economic reforms are concerned, there has so far been only talk. Not only has Modi’s government continued policies that brought the economy to its knees, it has not even rid us of laws (land acquisition, companies law) that have made doing business in India even more difficult than it already was. And if our roads, railways and ports continue to be as bad as they were in the 19th century, we can be certain that India will remain very poor for another 50 years.
It was the hope that Modi meant what he said when he promised ‘parivartan’ that won him a full mandate. For his own sake, he needs to remember this quickly or he will find that the RSS will take it away from him to revive its own fortunes. Incidentally, if it is so keen to play a bigger role in India’s future, why does it not take charge of doing some ‘Swachh Bharat’ activity in temples and holy cities like Varanasi and Hardwar? Why does it not take charge of cleaning our sacred rivers?
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh