Since his appointment as Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi has constantly been endorsing Hinduness through his local and international gestures. Today the call on Modi to focus on Hind Swaraj, rather than Hindu Rashtra, is urgent.
General Election 2014
India’s 16th Lok Sabha general election, which was run in nine stages from 7 April to 12 May 2014, was the longest election in the country’s history. Out of 814.5 million eligible voters, 563 million Indians had cast their votes. As exit polls were revealed, Hindu nationalist and Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi tweeted “भारत की विजय। अच्छे दिन आने वाले हैं।” (TR. “India has won! Good days are coming!”).
The BJP and its alliances had won a total of 336 seats – a figure which by far exceeded the minimum number of seats required to win the parliamentary majority. In his article in The Guardian, Jason Burke mentioned, “No political group has seen this level of power in India since the 1980s. This is huge and it means an incredible amount of power concentrated in the hands of Modi, who remains deeply controversial.”
In an unexpected turn of events, the election swept away several giant of politics – India’s anti-corruption messiah Arvind Kejriwal couldn’t secure a seat; Congress party, under the leadership of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, faced the worst-ever defeat, putting to question the future of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty; outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned that “Modi would be a disaster for India” (CNN-IBN, 2014).
Since its formation, the BJP has been coupled to the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS). Britannica Encyclopaedia defines the Bharatiya Janata Party as a “pro-Hindu political party of post-independence India” (Britannica, 2014). While a regime should cater for diversity, Modi’s team came to Parliament with a noteworthy record of the least number of Muslim candidates ever seen in the last five decades.
The BJP had 7 Muslims in its list of 428 candidates; none of whom won. Today India’s 150 million Muslims have only 22 representatives – 4.05% of the members – in the Lok Sabha. Uttar Pradesh has no Muslim MPs for the first time in the history of India, despite the fact that the state has been sending more Muslims to Lok Sabha in the last 25 years than any other state. Maharashtra, being India’s second-most populous state and having about 11% of Muslim population, did not elect any Muslim representative.
On balance, Honourable Modi, where exists inclusive democracy in Hind Governance?
Modi’s Hindutva Slant
While many believed that BJP’s campaign committee Chairperson Narendra Modi’s endeavour to stimulate Hindutva across India was only to only fuel vote-bank, the assumption was proved wrong. In an interview with The Indian Express, Modi shared that he believes in Hindutva which is based on the age-old concept of Vasudeva Kutumba, and he is confident his Hindutva face will be an asset when dealing with foreign affairs with other nations (Kuber, 2014).
On his official tour to Japan last week, Modi gifted books on Swami Vivekananda to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Besides, he offered both a Japanese translation copy and a Sanskrit version of the Bhagawad Gita to Abe. Media reports confirmed that Modi has negotiated an investment from Japan to clean up Ganga, the most sacred river to Hindus (NDTV, 2014).
A month before, during his maiden trip to Nepal, Modi went on to offer special prayers at Kathmandhu’s Pashupatinath Temple, after which he claimed to have “felt extremely blessed”. He gifted sandalwood to the temple of Lord Shiva.
Do your official gifts, Honourable Modi, genuinely represent the identity of your citizens?
Disregarding the fact that the gifts do not bond non-Hindu Indians, do you affirm that your Hindu voters know the fundamental nature and spirit of Swami Vivekananda and Bhagawad Gita?
A Labelled Modi
While speaking at Delhi’s Red Fort on India’s Independence Day, 15 August 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that religious and caste strife was blocking India’s progress. But ultimately, he is not showing any gesture to eradicate this discord. In her article published in NPR, Julie McCarthy mentioned that “there are signs of rising tensions between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities since Narendra Modi took power as Prime Minister.”
Self-avowed Hindu nationalist Modi has reached till this stratum by foretelling his lucrative Gujarat model, at the same time by retaining a hi-tech populist identity. Putting aside our admiration for his innovative entrepreneurial strategy and public relations approach through social media, Modi has been substantially criticized by political scientists and leaders for his focus on Hindu Nationalism. Oddly, Goa Minister Dipak Dhavalikar who came on air to congratulate Modi on his new position, said, “I am confident that under the leadership of Modiji, India will develop into a Hindu nation.”
In 2002, when Modi served as chief minister of Gujarat, he was implicated in India’s one of the worst episodes of sectarian violence – Hindu rioters had killed more than 1200 people, mostly Muslims, leaving 150,000 people homeless. Modi was accused to encourage the violence, and failing to stop it. As a rule, court cases went on for years.
Back to his young days, after graduating to the BJP from the RSS, Narendra Damodardas Modi condemned Muslims early in his career. He was found in a controversy for his participation in activities leading to communal violence in 1992, in which the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was destroyed by a massive Hindu mob.
Give Up Sectarianism
Gone are those days when India had to rely on a sect – British, Hindu, Muslim – to rule. Today the nation needs wings to fly with its diversity. After almost four months of assuming office, Hind Swaraj looks more inclined towards Hindu Rashtra.
The choice is up to you, Honorable Modi. Your voters and much around the globe depend on what you resolve from then on.
– KRISHNA ATHAL
Britannica. (2014). Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Chicago: Britannica Encyclopedia.
Burke, J. (2014, May 19). Narendra Modi: what does his victory mean for America, China and Pakistan? The Guardian .
CNN-IBN. (2014, January 6). Modi as PM will be a disaster for India: Manmohan Singh. IBN .
Kuber, G. (2014, April 23). Modi: Hindutva Will Be An Asset in Foreign Affairs. The Indian Express .
McCarthy, J. (2014, August 26). In India, Hindu Nationalists Feel Their Moment Has Arrived. NPR .
NDTV. (2014, September 1). Japan to Invest in Bullet Trains, Ganga Clean-up: Top 10 Takeaways. NDTV .