BJP’s Hindutva Poster Boy and PM candidate, Narendra Modi has stuck to hardcore governance, he shade his Hindutva image for the upcoming general elections. At last, BJP and its leaders have realised that going on Hindutva agenda in public is not going to help them much. This is the main reason and also the clean image of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who ruled the BJP for six years, three months and 13 days after independence. Party which miserably became dormant, was suddenly revived by Modi and his Gujarat Model. He has spoken a lot about it; he also announced that the BJP’s new slogan would be “sab ke saath aur sab ka vikas” (With all, and for everyone’s development).
Modi’s attempt to revive hardline Hindutva in UP for gains in the forthcoming polls is a double-edged sword, which may end up doing more harm than good to the party and ignoring Hindutva issue can also sabotage party interest, as people see him as saviour of Hindu religion. They are giving more emphasis on development than Hindutva because it kept the party ‘alive’ in most adverse circumstances. People want good governance, they want corruption free India, and they are looking out for an option. In such crises, the Hindutva agenda may limit BJP votes. In 2012 assembly elections, BJP won 47 seats in UP, of which 25 had Muslim population above 20 per cent. Similarly, in 2009, BJP won 10 Lok Sabha seats, of which eight were Muslim dominated. Also, in 2012, Modi campaigned only in Ayodhya and talked about development but party lost the seat it held since 1991.
However, BJP cannot sideline this crucial issue; this party is nothing without Hindutva. Hence, Hindutva is to amalgamate party’s core vote and other issues including anti-incumbency against the state and central governments which will bring surplus. During Babri Masjid demolition, Hindu crusaders promoting “Hindutva” or Hindu jingoism, belonged to different nonpolitical groups such as – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal. These are the groups which participated in demolition of the Babri Masjid, a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya. The followers of Hindutva believe that this disputed land in Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Rama.
With an eye on the Lok Sabha elections, BJP raked up the Ayodhya Ram temple issue in a bid to boost the party’s morale in Uttar Pradesh where good performance in the past had helped it capture power at the Centre. Amit Shah, aide of Narendra Modi, has been given charge of Uttar Pradesh to play religious card and win the voters’ heart. Amit Shah promised grand Ram Mandir, if BJP comes to power in Utter Pradesh. The Ram Temple issue has helped the party to boost its electoral prospects in the past and Shah’s visit appears to be an attempt to raise this issue again in the coming elections. Meanwhile, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Tagodia said that his party would support BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi only after he clarified his stand on the Ram Temple issue. The other organisations are adamant over Ram Temple in Ayodhya. It is clear that the Hindutva movement encourages the marginalisation of religious minorities in India, and is thus an anti-democratic force in the country. What is not clear is that the Hindutva’s revisionist ideas of Hinduism – especially their strict ideas about what qualifies as proper Hindu belief – threaten the tolerant and multifaceted nature of the religion itself.
On the other side, religious leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Nityananda, Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev, Swami Narayan Trust etc are supporting Modi. To stop religious conversations, bring back glory to Hindu religion. Modi may not publicly promote Hindutva agenda but somewhere people believe that he is Hinduism’s saviour. The political implications of Hindutva are immense indeed, as much of the electorate has shifted its focus from voting for the best political party to voting for the party that seems to best promote a narrow version of Hinduism. BJP has grown from a small, marginal party to become a one of the major parties to challenge the Indian National Congress. The BJP even headed the national coalition government from 1998 to 2004. A secular country with an immense variety of religions, India faces the real possibility of being ruled again by a political party with a religious radical agenda.
Within the BJP, the older generation subscribes to economic nationalism and has close ties with the RSS. The RSS, which is seen by some as an “Indian version of fascism” and has been connected to instances of religious violence against Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. The younger generation, who will soon lead the party, includes much of the new middle class and tends to be more pragmatic and supportive of free trade economic policies. However, we have to see whether these emerging leaders will move the BJP away from Hindutva & the RSS and reinvent the BJP as a normal political party on the footprint of the Congress Party. Such a transformation could be good for the BJP as well as the development of a thriving multi-party system in India. However, if the new leaders continue to maintain strong ties with the RSS, then the future of the BJP remains bleak. There are many Hindu political activists today who are committed to doing away with the broad and tolerant parts of the Hindu tradition in favour of a fairly crude view, which they hope to impose on all Hindus. Both Hinduism and Indian society are harmed, when Hindus shy away from the spiritual elements of Hinduism and instead use the religion as a means to cheap and prejudiced material and political ends. However, the Indian public still by and large maintains its sense of national Indian identity that transcends religious divisions. Hopefully, Indian politicians and political parties will cease to advance religious goals and protect the integrity of both Hinduism as a religion and India as a nation.