By M A Mufazzal
Notwithstanding, the felt failure on all developmental fronts and promised programs including creating millions of jobs, curbing corruption, bringing back the dark money and other socio-economic promises, the today’s right-wingers’s winning formula: populism and in our context religiously-tinged populism or in nutshell the hindu-nationalism led BJP and Modi to a landslide electoral victory.
As the electoral campaigning breakdowns reflected, the determining factors were not education or health, not development, employment or economic upliftment, not social issues or eradication of poverty – they ranged from national security issues to a Hindu nationalism. As a key strategy in campaign BJP exploited a Hindu feeling among diverse Hindu communities to polarize them into a single voting bloc, more often by fielding it against the country’s minorities and particularly Muslims. B.J.P’s “us-versus-them” philosophy in a country already cleaved by numerous socio-cultural divisions becomes successful to further divide the society virtually between Hindus and others.
To bring Hindu nationalist themes and corresponding anti-Muslim feelings in its fullest wave, the BJP finally took out a rabble rouser, terror accused sadhvi Pragya Thakur from jail and fielded her in Bhopal to contest the election who took no time to betray the father of nation who stood tall for human dignity and social inclusions, and declares Gandhi’s killer, Nathuram Godse, as “a patriot”. The horror of the story culminates into a massive win for Sadhvi.
Let alone the other horrors of Modism and alleged dirty role of EVMs, the wave of majoritarianism hits a higher crest than ever before and turned out for Modi and BJP in a phenomenal vote cast.
To weed out secular agenda has always been a sticky note for Modi and BJP. This is no longer useful to count on that they might set the sectarianism aside as many of their more moderate supporters hoped.
In his maiden victory speech, Mr. Narendra Modi recalled that for last 30 years there was a drama being played out in an identical fashion by political opportunists. “There was such a tag in fashion bearing which all sins would get washed. That fake tag was called secularism. Taglines and slogans have been raised for the unity of secular forces. But you have witnessed that from 2014 – 2019 these sloganeers and their supporters stopped speaking in the name of secularism. In this election not even a single political party could dare to mislead the country by wearing the mask of secularism,” he said.
Through admonishing the seculars and liberals, more than anything he was basically conveying that this is an ideological victory. And he wasn’t wrong. The “secular” forces have abandoned secularism. By employing the policy of witch-hunt and invisibilisation of Muslims, they became host for soft-Hindutva. But how far did it take them? If this election is somehow a mirror, then among other things, the opposition must understand that one cannot defeat them in their own game. That is their strength. If they both are offering the same, one soft and the other hardcore, a buyer would rather choose them.
The BJP/RSS’s biggest victory in this election was the right ward shift of the polity as a whole, they were successful in turning the narratives to an open Hindu nationalist theme, and that is their ideological mission.
(MA Mufazzal is Research Fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University)