India’s journey from Jai Hind to Bharat Mata Ki Jai
Chandigarh, June 30: The opening days of the 17th Lok Sabha have given out the signals loud and clear as to the path that this biggest democracy is now going to take under this second successive Bharatiya Janata Party government formed after the historic victory commanded by Narendra Modi who has emerged as the strongest leader since Indira Gandhi.
Going by the atmosphere at the swearing in of the newly elected members, India has moved from Jai Hind to Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Only the time will tell whether this is a movement in forward gear or the reverse. The transition is multi-layered.
The slogans that reverberated from the treasury benches were Jai Sri Ram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai. The transition from Jai Hind to Jai Sri Ram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai signifies religio-cultural and ideological transformation rooted in the majoritarian mentality that is associated with Hindutva, the political ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh that mentors the BJP. However, the change in relationship between the BJP and its parent organisation too could change under the changing situation. As per the information now pouring in, the RSS did not play its earlier key role in the finalisation of candidates in the 2019 election.
One of the disturbing scenes was when a Muslim MP from the opposition was moving to take oath. The BJP members repeatedly raised the two slogans as if to ridicule him. He shot back with Allah Hoo Akbar and Jai Hind. This was not a scene in isolation. The sanctity of oath taking ceremony was repeatedly violated and this signal is ominous.
It is old narrative that the Sangh Parivar has turned Lord Ram into a political symbol but it is now its total assertion that is a new phenomenon. But then the people of India have given a massive mandate to the BJP to bring about transformational change and the path is to be decided by the ruling party. However, the issue here is that of the basic framework of India.
It is not just the swearing in ceremony that has signalled the path the BJP is to force on this biggest democracy. The action has already been triggered beginning with Uttar Pradesh where Swami Adityanath government has come up with a legislation that aims at curbing what has been claimed to be anti-national activity in the universities. The universities are supposed to be the free spaces for the interaction of various ideas and ideologies. The legislation has not defined as to what constitutes anti-national activity.
One has to go back to the planned and conspiratorial attack on the Jawaharlal Nehru University and that was the beginning of unleashing of the narrative that is now being fine-tuned. Almost everybody who dared to differ was dubbed as anti-national.
Going by the present political situation in the country, the advocates of majoritarian domination would find little opposition. The opposition parties continue to be not only in disarray but also refuse to learn lesson.
The irony is that despite the Congress having tasted second humiliating defeat, this is the only party that is supposed to confront the Hindutva onslaught. Of course, for decades, the Congress, especially in the Western media, used to be described as the Hindu Congress. And during the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Rahul Gandhi projected himself to be a Janeu-wearing Hindu. Those who had briefed him had failed to understand the reality of India. Hindutva can’t be confronted with soft Hinduism.
The Congress continues to be arrogant while its president Rahul Gandhi has further added to the crisis by not taking the final plunge either way after he announced his resignation more in disgust than anger. But then he and his party had failed to understand socio-political reality due to disconnect with the grassroots. The Congress has not given out any signal that the party is willing to make amends.
Can the Congress stop the Majoritarian juggernaut by turning the states ruled by it as the base areas? It is very difficult but not impossible.
The problem with the Congress is that majority of its leaders are perceived to stink with corruption and arrogance. This has turned them into sitting ducks.
The Congress can reverse the situation by presenting that states where it is in power as the model of transparent governance and performance. This would amount to total change in the style of functioning and culture. This is not possible while functioning from behind high walls from the residential areas that are inaccessible to the people.
Punjab has been witnessing a trend dating back to the previous Akali Dal government that is unprecedented in India. The chief minister of Punjab does not functions from the office in the Punjab civil secretariat that is the headquarter of the state government. Of course, Congress in Punjab has given the best performance under the command of Capt Amarinder Singh. However, now the Congress would have to be aggressive to confront the BJP.
The leaders in the Congress would have to come to grip with the reality and shed its ‘chalta hai’ attitude. The party would have to go to the grassroots and connect with the people who constitute the idea of India.
Minorities are already getting scared. The latest case is that of policemen in Delhi brutally attacking a Sikh driver and his son. It might be a law and order issue but the way the narrative has been constructed around this incident is shocking. There have been protests against it by Sikh organisations at various places in the country. Almost every non-BJP party has jumped in. Some tweets that were later deleted were threatening and highly objectionable.
It is the role of the Shiromani Akali Dal that is alliance partner of the BJP that too has come under question. Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjinder singh Sirsa who is also a BJP MLA was heckled by angry Sikhs in Delhi.
Akali Dal is the oldest party in the country representing a minority. Rather it is the second oldest political party in the country after the Congress. The Akali Dal for long had been advocating rights of the minorities but the party shifted away from this agenda after entering into alliance with the BJP from 1997 Assembly election in Punjab. The alliance was engineered by Parkash Singh Badal, more to make his own position secure in the religio-political space in the state although it continues to be projected as the guarantee of amity.
What should be the role of the Akali Dal when the dominant narrative is homogenisation? The party should consult its own documents to seek clarity. However, the problem is that the Akali Dal narrative is being dictated by different considerations.
In a diverse country like India, homogenisation is just not possible but than it is the dominant narrative that is important. It is this dominant narrative that was unashamedly exhibited by the ruling party in the Lok Sabha.
The Akali Dal is supposed to take ideological position that is transparent and in accordance with universalism of the Sikh philosophy.
However, it is the role of the states ruled by the Congress that is going to be more important in this long fight. Other parties like the TMC, DMK, SP, BSP and the like are just regional outfits. Moreover, these parties are in a situation that is even worse than the Congress. The leaders of these parties too just refuse to see reality. Their leaders continue to be as arrogant as earlier.
The BJP has already unleashed its agenda. This agenda would have to be fought in the villages and cities, in the streets and fields. The fight is between the BJP and the Congress. The Left lost its relevance over the years due to myopic vision and lack of originality.
However, the tragedy is that the Congress is not giving any sign of possibility of its revival.