“It is a sad irony. Can you imagine the Jews honouring the Germans with preferential treatment instead of seeking compensation for the millions of Jews killed? Yet Islam and Christianity that have gravely harmed Indians over centuries get preferential treatment by the Indian state, and their own beneficial dharma that has no other home except the Indian subcontinent, is egged out. And to top it, this is called ‘secular’!”
Read full eye opening article by Maria Wirth at
Narendra Modi and the Muslim votebank
9 July 2012
Before, if ever, Narendra Modi becomes India’s prime minister, he will have to break the stranglehold of the Muslim votebank on Indian politics. His sadbhavna yatras (goodwill missions) to win the confidence of Muslims are good as far as they go. However, even hundreds of such yatras will not take him even an inch closer to the throne of Delhi. Hindus, and Hindus alone, can propel him to power at the Centre, if they choose to.
For BJP’s central leadership, Narendra Modi poses a dilemma: he is viewed as a great asset and also as a great liability. Modi’s popularity crossed the borders of Gujarat long ago. He emerged as a national leader on the back of resolute leadership, efficient administration and a clean image. He enjoys a good deal of support from the RSS, which in BJP is a trump card.
With ears close to the ground, easy accessibility and a sound track record of delivering on promises, Modi has acquired a measure of credibility and charisma which none of the BJP’s central leaders possess. Shivraj Singh Chauhan of Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh have also earned popularity on similar strengths, but neither appears to be keen, as of now, to play a leading role at the Centre. Modi is a different case. BJP bigwigs cannot ignore him or his ambitions.
However, if Modi is selected to command BJP forces in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election, many BJP leaders will have to forget their ambitions and rein in their lust for power. The pull of such lust should not be underestimated.
These leaders want Modi to campaign for the party, not only in Gujarat, but also in other states where his presence can make a difference, while expecting him to confine his own ambitions to Gujarat. Modi is unwilling to oblige them, unless he could augment his own political capital by campaigning outside Gujarat. He wants to be the commander, not a foot soldier. This subtle tug of war is slowly becoming visible and will emerge out in the open by the time of the Lok Sabha election.
It is equally certain that if BJP selects Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, it will have to forget not only about the few (if any) Muslim votes it gets, but also about allies who are mortally scared of annoying Muslim votebanks. Therein lies the rub. Barring the Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena, all other parties in the NDA are enamoured of the ‘secular’ label. The hypocrisy of leaders like Nitish Kumar is infuriating. By insisting that the NDA candidate for prime minister must have a ‘secular’ image, he is playing to the green gallery while trying to keep a powerful rival off the field. The ploy is too transparent to be missed, but, unfortunately, it threatens to work.
Muslims are naturally amused to watch the game. In their view, their security (actually, political clout) lies in keeping out of power any party or leader who enjoys any credibility – real or fake – among the Hindus. And if Hindu leaders can articulate that position for them in as many words, so much the better.
This is a decisive moment, not just for the BJP or NDA, but for Hindu society. The modern Hindu intelligentsia has failed to grasp a basic fact: clout, influence, power or authority is central to human relations. Power that is not exercised eventually wears off and vanishes. Hindu intellectuals rarely examine any issue, development or trend in terms of Hindu influence or power. For most of them, such an exercise is weird and anti-secular if not anti-national. They think it is beneath them to indulge in it. Hindu society has paid, and continues to pay, a heavy price for this failure of its intelligentsia.
In the post-independence period, Hindus have never asserted primacy of their civilisational identity at the political level. They have never claimed to be the essential national society, the fulcrum of the polity around which every institution and organization must arrange itself. In contrast, Muslims realize the centrality of power in relations with non-Muslims. They can and do use their votes as an effective political weapon. I do not criticize Muslims for doing so, just as I do not applaud Hindus for neglecting power equations in post-independence India.
Hence it is that Hindus have become political orphans in the only country they can call their own. Hence it is they are still maligned for Gujarat riots ten years after the event, while the original provocation (burning alive of 59 Hindus by a Muslim mob without any provocation) is all but forgotten. Hence it is that heartrending tales of Kashmiri pundits, who have suffered far greater atrocities for much longer, hardly ever evokes any sympathy at all from any political party – not even the BJP. Hence it is that Hindus can speak as Dalits, Adivasis, Jats, Yadavs, Kurmis, Lingayats, Reddys, Vanniars and Nairs, but not as Hindus. Hence it is that 12 per cent Muslims, without uttering a word, can frighten mighty Hindu politicians into rejecting anyone with Hindu credentials…
In the pre-independence period, a con game was played in the name of nationalism. Only that party, that leader was national (and could speak for the whole country) which was not opposed by the Muslim League. In this reckoning, the Congress was an organization of Hindu banias, but the Communist Party of India was a national organization. After independence, the same game is played in the name of secularism. Only that party, that leader, that programme or proposal is secular which is not opposed by Muslims. The name has changed, participants have changed, but the game remains unchanged. And so does its objective: to keep the Hindus on the defensive.
How history repeats itself! Congress is now saying about BJP whatever Jinnah used to say about Congress in 1940s: that it is a party of Hindu banias, that Muslims can never expect justice from it, that if it ever came to power then Muslims will have to fear for their lives and so on. Again the object is the same: to use Muslims as political pawns to delegitimize and checkmate nationalist sentiments.
Narendra Modi has the power to break this game. Without a single Muslim vote, without making any special or specific gesture to Muslims, he has swept assembly elections, not once, but twice, in Gujarat. He has demonstrated that if Hindus stand solidly behind any leader, he does not have to flatter Muslims. This is why he is regarded as a mortal enemy by most Muslims, all brokers of Muslim votes, and all parties hankering after the Muslim votebank.
If Modi can replicate at the national level what he has done in Gujarat, it will decisively break the stranglehold of Muslim votebanks on Indian politics, breathe a new self-confidence in Hindu society and force a rethink among Hindu politicians in non-BJP parties. Muslims will become just one of the many groups in Indian politics and thus join the national mainstream.
Whether Modi is interested in attempting this feat, whether BJP will give him an opportunity to make such an attempt is, of course, another matter. His sadbhavna yatras have aroused speculation that he, too, may be craving acceptability among circles that want BJP to shed every trace of Hinduness. As to BJP, it does not deserve a single Hindu vote as of now as a party of Hindu nationalism. But that does not affect the position outlined in the earlier passages.
If the BJP really regards itself as a party of Indian nationalism, it should distance itself from those hankering after the 12 per cent votebank and announce Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha election.
The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai
June 29, 2012
Defining ‘Secular’: The war rages on
It was Nitish Kumar who lit the fuse on the amorphous word this time. He did that last week by warning that his party, the Janata Dal (United) would accept only a ‘secular’ prime minister. His target was clearly Narendra Modi, said to be the likely choice of the BJP for that post. Why the Bihar CM’s bouncer to his ally BJP should have been bowled at the time it was is a separate subject for debate.
The issue is that Kumar was wrong in not realising that:
Even after 10 years of investigations, Narendra Modi is still innocent of the charge of being personally responsible for the post Godhra riots of 2002. Even Supreme Court judge Ajit Pasayat, (now retired), who orally alluded to ‘Nero fiddling while Rome burnt’ during a hearing on Godhra did not have evidence to put down that remark in his written judgment.
Amidst the decade-old demonisation of Modi unleashing a ‘Genocide’ against Muslims, nobody has explained why, of the total 1044 killed in those riots, 254 were Hindus.
Modi fielded 247 Muslim candidates on the BJP card in Gujarat’s civic elections of October 2010, and, more unbelievably, 118 of them were victorious. Would a ‘communal’ chief minister do that ‘secular’ act?
Even after Indira Gandhi got the word ‘Secular’ into the Preamble of the Constitution of India with the 42nd Constitution Amendment Act, 1976, our nation is not secular. Take a look below
‘Dr Ambedkar made it clear in Parliament that he did not believe our Constitution was secular because it allowed different treatment to various communities and the legislatures could frame separate laws for different communities.’ (‘Reforming The Constitution’ UBS Publishers Distributors Ltd, 1992, edited by Subhash C Kashyap, an eminent Constitutional authority.)
In the above book, Kashyap writes, ‘Where there is discrimination between man and man on the grounds of religions… where the administration of places of worship can be entrusted to Government Officers… where even fundamental rights are demanded and conceded on grounds of communities, it is a cruel joke to talk of secularism.’
The Indian nation as a whole is itself not ‘secular.’ Unknown to almost our entire political class, the Preamble of the separate Jammu and Kashmir State Constitution, November 1956, does not proclaim J&K State as a ‘Secular’ State, courtesy Article 370.
Come now to Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief who was provoked by Kumar’s remark to talk of dharmanirpeksh. He too was wrong in not realising that the word dharmanirpeksh does not denote the adjective ‘secular.’ The exact Hindi word for ‘secular’ is panthnirpeksha, coined, at the behest of Indira Gandhi, by Lakshmi Mall Singhvi, (1931-2007), a literary figure and an altogether very versatile personality who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1998… He said the word ‘secular’ should more appropriately be translated as panthnirpeksh. He argued that dharma, the fundamental duty, is the foundation ethic of the Indian nation and of every walk of life, and the very foundation for the section called Fundamental Duties of Citizens being part of Mrs Gandhi’s Constitutional amendment. Panth, on the other hand, meant religion. That is how the word panthnirpeksh to denote ‘secular’ got into the Hindi version of the Preamble of our Constitution. It is, therefore, a shame that dharm continues to appear in Articles 15, 16 and 25 of our Constitution’s Hindi version with regard to ‘Prohibition of discrimination…,’ ‘Equality of opportunity…’ and ‘Right to freedom of Religion’ respectively in the English version.
Below is another true story.
In 1977, the Janata Party government introduced a Constitution Amendment Bill wherein one clause sought to define the word ‘Secular’ as ‘equal respect for all religions.’ The proposal was passed in the Lok Sabha where the newly elected Janata Party was dominant, but was rejected by the Congress majority in the Rajya Sabha.
The Congress should no longer object to that definition suggested 34 years ago. Why? Because in a lecture delivered on June 9, 2007, at the Nexus Institute, The Hague, Sonia Gandhi herself proclaimed that ‘India is a secular country. The term secularism means equal respect for all religions.’
Let me end with a poser. A political party represented in our Parliament from 1952 till now says in its website that among its aims is ‘To secure and protect the rights and interests of the Muslims and other minorities in the state.’ Which is that party? And can it be labelled as ‘secular?’
Published Date: Jun 29, 2012