The Hindutva nation and its discontents

23 May 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah at a meeting in Delhi.
Pankaj Nangia/India Today Group/Getty Images
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah at a meeting in Delhi.
Pankaj Nangia/India Today Group/Getty Images

There is a crude certainty to this Narendra Modi victory that no amount of talk about governance, delivery or economics can hide. Search the map of India for those states where the percentage of non-Hindus approaches or crosses a majority, and you find that this is where the supposed juggernaut of Modi’s governance comes to a halt—Punjab, where the only seats the BJP won were the state’s two Hindu-dominated constituencies; Kerala; the Kashmir Valley; and a few of the states in the northeast. Tamil Nadu is the one state where the simple equation does not hold, but its long history of Dravidian politics is explanation enough.

This victory has marked out the contours of the Hindutva nation, and the regions that are home to its discontents. The conclusion is evident: governance does not stop at the doorsteps of these regions, nor does patriotism. These states in fact contribute far more to the armed and the paramilitary forces than most states, where the passion for Modi runs much deeper. Why do they then not vote for Modi? This is simply because they do not see their faces in this new nation, nor they do consider themselves included.

The people of these states are not alone. The worst afflicted in this new dispensation are the millions of Muslims spread over this new nation, and in lesser measure—but only in comparison—Dalits and tribals. Over the past five years, these communities have been subject to hostility, bigotry and murderous violence; those who pretend to champion them, such as the Congress, have told these peoples to sit aside, be quiet, to not show their face. Despite this, these communities have once again been made the subject of Modi’s campaign of Hindutva self-assertion. It is clear that the response to the Hindutva nation is not the self-effacement the Congress indulged in; this only emboldens those who wield its ideology for their rule.

So if a democratic resistance to the crudity of this verdict is to be constructed, what is the shape it must take? The Congress as it stands is irrelevant to such a project. It is led by upper-caste Hindu liberals, who have come to believe that a channel of their own and a Twitter bubble, where each one of them retweets the other, is representative of the electoral reality of this country. Their reaction to the verdict has been typical—to close ranks, renounce responsibility and tell us that Rahul Gandhi is not the problem.

Hartosh Singh Bal is the political editor at The Caravan.

Keywords: Elections 2019 Narendra Modi Indian National Congress Rahul Gandhi
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