May 30, 2009 11:29:38 pm
After the recent mauling in the 2009 general elections,the BJP-led NDA must read Napoleon Hills famous quotation: Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune or temporary defeat. A clean break from aggressive Hindutva would be a welcome point for the party to find ways of addressing the whole of India.
Adding Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi into their leadership debate confused the campaign. Harping on the black money issue was never going to be a priority with the majority of the countrys poor,seeking immediate succour from their daily drudgery. A clamour to hang Afzal Guru immediately caused revulsion amongst most Indians: the Supreme Courts verdict will be implemented sooner or later. With 30 million cases in backlog in the courts,legal reforms,hate crimes,the riot control act were issues confronting every citizen. If I may say so,the majority of Hindus have strong objections to such a blood-letting,divisive agenda.
In a country as diverse,multi-religious,multi-ethnic and multi-cultural as ours,the unique Indian identity will always prevail over a pan-Hindu matrix. Where every sixth Indian is a minority,leaving out the Muslim and not addressing his concerns will always confront the BJP in future elections. Inter-woven,intertwined with real India,the minority is inalienable just as Kashmir is inalienable.
The Vanniyars and Thevars in Tamil Nadu have more affinity with their Muslim neighbour in Arakkonam than with the Yadav farmer of Etah. The Nair graduate in Thrissur has had Christian and Muslim classmates from kindergarten. The Muslims of Bellary have lived cheek by jowl with the RSS-trained Yediyurappa family for generations and voted for his son in large numbers. Neither religion nor colour can separate the teeming millions who sweat and sow together in fields all over India.
The NDA was successful as a coalition experiment under the benign leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee because 23 regional allies sustained on anti-Congressism were the bonding glue. Naveen Patnaik was the last nail holding this entity together. By dumping the BJP prior to elections he ensured that his party was seen as inclusive and representative of all Oriyas. The fact that Ashok Sahu of the BJP came third in Kandhamal showed that the Hindu majority rejected the rhetoric of hate. As the Congress is increasingly seen as the poors preferred party,the BJP must reinvent itself and emerge as responsible,representing pan-Indian aspirations. Without the minorities it is in danger of shrinking further. Voter preference for Rahul Gandhis modernistic vision for the youth stands out against the uncouth behaviour of practitioners of strident Hindutva.
The success of Nitish Kumar and Yediyurappa to some extent should be seen as signal of an inclusive pro-poor agenda. The change in the BJP slogan from appeasement for none to discrimination against none is a reluctant acknowledgement of the status of Indias largest minority. Instead of berating the Sachar report,a detailed reading would enable the BJP to relate to the level of destitution of Indian Muslims. They need education and employment and opposing the reports findings is an exercise in self-denial.
The nine state governments of the BJP and its allies can achieve a lot of goodwill by taking a cue from Nitish Kumar. Setting up state-level schools in minority concentration areas,establishing credit facilities for artisans,situating vocational training centres near madrasas,and promoting computer training centres would be the right thing to do. A revamp of corrupt wakf boards,scholarships to the poor and maintenance of burial sites (as done in Bihar and Karnataka) have paid political dividends. Constructive opposition aimed at uplifting the status of the minorities will also signal a desire for a broad-based pan-Indian vision.
Lastly the courts will continue to ensnare the perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots. But in public life perceptions of connivance are as important as the judicial verdict. The BJP at some stage will have to show remorse for the loss of numerous innocent lives both at Godhra and in the post-Godhra riots on Modis watch. The larger canvas of fast-paced development will always show large stains as a reminder. Grudging Kalawatis neighbour Salma a chance to live with dignity would be a travesty.
The writer is chairman of the editorial board at the Kanpur-based Urdu newspaper Daily Siyasat Jadid
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