How RSS & BJP Successfully Lured Away Many Hindus from Congress
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Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi be able to generate the same ‘wave’ as he did in 2014, playing the Hindu nationalism card again? Will Hindutva be a compelling-enough election issue for the BJP this time ‘round?
These are some of the questions ex-AAP leader and journalist Ashutosh’s new book Hindu Rashtra raises, by detailing the rise of Hindu nationalism and explaining how the RSS and the BJP turned things in their favour.
Below are excerpts from Ashutosh’s interview with The Quint.
How did BJP and RSS lure many secular Hindus, who once supported the Congress?
When the Ayodhya movement started after the Shah Bano case (post 1986-87), the way in which the BJP and the RSS penetrated small towns and created a certain atmosphere there, in that political climate, many people got a chance to re-think their own politics.
And the way in which the Congress appeased the Muslim community – whether Muslims benefited from that or not is another debate – particularly with regard to the Shah Bano case, despite the Supreme Court verdict, Congress went to Parliament and tried to reverse the verdict. So, in a big way, especially in north India, Hindus reacted – BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal tactfully managed to exploit these (Hindus’) sentiments.
Why hasn’t there been a compelling enough counter-force to Hindutva so far?
There are two reasons. First, every idea has its own lifespan. Congress was born pre-Independence and contributed majorly to the Independence movement. But after that, the party came to rule us. When you’re the ruling party you’re more likely to be watched; the people ask you questions, the people have expectations. Between 1977-1982, the Congress had started to lose sheen; its attractiveness had started to fade. People’s expectations were not being fulfilled. Under these circumstances, the VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS, BJP floated a new idea (i.e., Hindutva). The second reason is that the RSS and Sangh Parivar – the Hindutva forces – are very well organised.
By projecting its ‘Hindu-ness’, has the Congress fallen into RSS’s trap, or will Rahul Gandhi’s ‘temple runs’ actually benefit the party?
As far as Rahul Gandhi is concerned, if he didn’t flaunt his Hindu identity, or didn’t make an effort to further the ‘Hindu’ cause, then the threat of Congress’ decimation would’ve been more real. The RSS, BJP and VHP have successfully portrayed the Congress as a ‘Muslim’ party. Based on this portrayal, they have tried to polarise. So, I feel Congress is on the right track.
In your book you say: “the mere existence of Jammu and Kashmir is a test for the RSS’s ideology”. Has the BJP succeeded in furthering its cause in the Valley?
Kashmir is a very, very complex issue, for all of us, and even the RSS, to understand. There are 2-3 points I want to make. People think that when BJP formed the government with PDP, it was political opportunism at play. But no, it wasn’t political opportunism.
In fact, the RSS and the BJP wanted to enter Kashmir for the last 70 years (prior) but had not succeeded. When BJP got the opportunity for the first time to form a government with the PDP, it grabbed the chance. When the BJP entered J&K government, the RSS, BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal were able to spread their tentacles inside the Kashmir Valley, to ensure their people were in all parts of the government.
These (Hindutva) forces hadn’t had this opportunity (in J&K) before. Those who see this as the BJP’s desire to form a government in J&K being fulfilled, I want to say that they are wrong. What BJP and RSS actually wanted to do was spread its ideologies deep inside the Valley.