Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Namo's tilt towards Muslims - Lip Service or Disowning Hindutva Agenda?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conduct vis-à-vis address to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in southern state of Kerala on Sunday on Muslims has predictably evoked mixed reactions. To be precise it has made many raise eyebrows in socio-political circle as Modi has always tried to uphold his core hard-line Hindutva constituency. He need not have cherished the image of a ‘Muslim hater’ but the perceived “antagonism” towards Mulims actually helped him and had endeared him to his voters. 

In fact the so called “Moditva brand” people talk about either romantically or acidly – as the prism would be – generally suggests to a lethal combination of a Hindutva champion, an industry friendly catalyst for development and a man would not compromise with ideologies of his roots – essentially given to antagonism towards Muslims.

Like anything else in life, success for any politician also comes with hard work, proper planning and playing the cards well. There is little to dispute that Modi’s pro-development image building exercise “Vibrant Gujarat” – organizing conclave of industry captains and diplomats to attract investment in Gujarat – was certainly well planned.

Therefore when he waxes eloquence on Muslims – rather in an unprovoked situation – when the public mood is about hard measures against Pakistan – and suggesting that the battered Muslims of 2002 be treated as “our own” – there is certainly more to it.
Some politicians already see a plot in his scheme of things. Bhartruhari Mahtab, a Biju Janata Dal lawmaker from the eastern state of Odisha – a Hindu-dominated state where Modi’s BJP is still to make much headway – says Prime Minister Modi is trying to distance himself from the core agenda of the hard-line Hindutva brigade – the Sanghparivar.

“Modi is trying to give an effect to playing the centrist role henceforth. May be he wants to transform. He wants to play a bigger role – an Asian role. I welcome this because this is necessary for a country like India," Mahtab told this writer. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this backdrop seems to have come a long way vis-a-vis his troubled relations with the Muslims – who would not long ago compare him with Hitler and Milosevic – the two popular ‘hate’ images.

This is certainly a long way from an outright rejection to wear a Muslim skull cap at his Goodwill Fast in 2012.

"Do not rebuke Muslims... They need not be rewarded. Empower them. They are not items of vote market nor are they substance of hate. Treat them as your own," Modi told a BJP national council meeting at Kozhikode in Kerala.
Notably many see his remarks on Muslims aimed towards ensuing elections in the northern province of Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state with sizeable Muslim population. Five years in the local state elections, BJP did not do good at all and the repeat of the same performance –to finish third below two regional caste-based parties will be a big setback to Narendra Modi’s image of a “performer Prime Minister”. Muslims in this state are at cross roads on deciding about their political patrons and hence the pro-Muslim tilt could be deliberate and well timed political move.
On the other hand it is vital now to examine Modi’s or his ministerial colleagues approach towards other minority Christians. Many in his party including sitting parliamentarians have time and again spoken about “Ghar Wapsi (a popular local agenda of re-conversion of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism). Generally, Modi has kept silence on the controversies only to earn rebuke of liberal Hindus and minorities. But on February 17, 2015, Modi had addressed a large Christian gathering and said his government would ensure that there was complete "freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice”.
Christian clergy say that thousands of their religious group have faced threats in recent months from hardline Hindu groups agitating to make India a Hindu-only nation.
Many politicians like K.C Tyagi of socialist party – Janata Dal United – says Modi is not trying to be centrist. “Modi remains 100 percent Sanghi – an adjective for committed followers of hard-line Hindu chauvinism,” says Tyagi.
Thus the obvious inference is perhaps Prime Minister is only playing double games allowing hardliners to pursue polarisation agenda on one hand while he gives only a lip service that only religious book for his government is the Constitution of India.

With regard minorities in India, for their part – they do face certain predicament and there is no easy way to come out of this. An impression was created that Christians would back Congress party led by Sonia Gandhi – an Italian Christian by birth. But it is also true that overwhelming Christians have voted for the BJP in the past even in Christian-dominated states like Nagaland.

Which way India under Modi and the Prime Minister as an individual is moving –only the posterity would judge that better.

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