In a democracy, at least in theory, an electoral mandate reflects the will of the people. Therefore it is a little presumptuous of people to question the Gujarat verdict just because the verdict was not what they wanted or expected.
This is the position that the English-language media in India finds itself in. They had begun to believe their own propaganda that the BJP was finished in Gujarat and that the Congress was going to win, as Gujaratis were supposedly ashamed of the riots that took place in the state after the torching of 58 Hindu pilgrims in a train by a Muslim mob.
Well, it turns out that Gujaratis were not ashamed of the riots; they were, rather, enraged at the media that demonized them to the last man, woman and child, as moral monsters. They were also not convinced that the Congress would be their savior: after all, they have seen the large-scale corruption and nepotism in previous Congress administrations.
It looks like Hindu Gujaratis stood up and said, “Enough’s enough!” They were appalled at the casual presumption of the “liberal” left that Hindu lives mean nothing: the English media did this when they blamed the Hindu victims after the Godhra carnage. But when Muslims began to die, the media started making a major fuss. The gross unfairness of this did not go unremarked or unnoticed.
One of the factors that marks a sea change in Gujarat is the fact that the usual Congress casteist politics did not succeed. In the past, the Congress has depended on a coalition of KHAMs, ie Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis, and Muslims. Obviously these Hindus were pitted against other Hindu castes. This divisive behavior took a beating, because all Hindus voted together against the Congress, forgetting caste divisions; thus both Harijans and Adivasis, voted for the BJP in large numbers.
I think this is not an isolated incident. Despite all the rhetoric used by divisive forces with vested interests, a pan-Hindu sentiment is evolving amongst Hindus. They, too, can see how divided Hindus have been losing because Muslims have been voting en bloc.
The country has suffered over 50 years of socialist rule by the Nehru dynasty, which, it turns out, has been an unmitigated disaster: divisive, economically senseless, and one in which Hindus were always expected to turn the other cheek, however grave the provocation might be. Thus, what happened in Gujarat is a sign that people are voting for what they believe in: that Hindus have rights too, and the “secularism” peddled by the Nehruvians, meaning unalloyed apartheid against Hindus, has run its course. Maybe the left can start something constructive now?
Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Chennai, India.
No, it can create problems for the country
It is true that the voters of Gujarat returned a result in favor of the BJP. But if the BJP wants to take their winning tactics to the rest of the country in the elections scheduled for February, then it may create problems for the entire country.
The Gujarat results may be a personal triumph for the politics of hatred and polarization as practiced by Narendra Modi, who came out of obscurity and is now considered a smooth political operator. Nevertheless, he was able to do this only because of the Godhra and Gujarat incidents, and not because of any inherent virtues.
I doubt if Gujarat wanted to vote into power someone unable to control violence there; nor would they have wanted to bring in someone who has divided the state so badly. Based on anti-incumbent feelings common in most elections, it is likely that Modi would not have won in December, given his poor track record. Godhra came to his rescue.
There is the bigger question of what this means for the country as a whole. Are we going to see the same kind of polarization in other states as well? The Congress seems to be completely confused about its response to the Gujarat drubbing. The Communists still hold on to their attitudes from 20 or 30 years ago. The BJP’s regional allies see no reason to break away from the BJP at this point.
Does all this mean that the BJP has become the natural party to rule the country, the role that the Congress always claimed was its birthright? The answer is yes and no. If the BJP can stick to the reasonable and centrist perspective that Atal Behari Vajpayee projects then they can do it.
But there are other voices within the BJP and its affiliated organizations that seem to have a different perspective, one that rejoices in divisiveness. If the BJP follows their path, then the answer is no. Some extremists would like to eject all Muslims. But that is not possible. There are 130 million Muslims, and to either push them out of India, or to keep them oppressed is neither humane nor realistic.
Instead, what the BJP can do is rein in its extremists. Yes, it is true that the socialists and Marxists in India have unfairly discriminated against Hindus in the past; but in the recent past, they have won a series of victories, for example Supreme Court rulings on majority run schools and on the new curriculum. More redress is possible.
Unless they have the vision to see what Gujarat really voted for, that is fairness for all citizens, the BJP is likely to worsen the communal divide in the country.
Bindu Raghavan is a software engineer and housewife in India.
Rajeev Srinivasan considers San Francisco and Kerala his two homes. His columns also appear in Rediff on the Net and The Sunday Observer.