“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” – Sir Winston Churchill
Indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at those indulging in “cow vigilantism” thrice: First, he made it clear to them that swayamseva wasn’t about suppressing and terrifying others; it was about empathy and sacrifice. Second, he drove deeper the point by observing that cows died after consuming plastic – and not because of slaughter. And third, he requested states to prepare dossiers on such people as 80 percent of them would be found involved in activities which no society would approve of.
The Prime Minister’s uncharacteristic hammering of the case against the so-called protectors of mother cow has, in turn, raised two key questions: First, is Moditva beginning to gain ascendancy over Hindutva? And second, are Narendra Modi and BJP two different entities?
Let’s try to tackle the first riddle first. Those who claim to know Modi better than this scribe recall that the relationship between Narendra Modi on the one hand and different offshoots of RSS on the other had been bumpy and uncomfortable, even in Gujarat. There exist, in fact, too many instances of Modi putting the Hindutva forces in place with an iron hand.
Who doesn’t know the fact that the then Gujarat Chief Minister and VHP stalwart Pravin Togadia had fallen apart long ago?
In an article published in indianraajneeti.com published on 15 January last year, Aseem Prakash writes: “While it is difficult to pinpoint when the Modi versus Togadia clash began, many would agree that Modi’s ascendancy to the position of Gujarat Chief Minister and his desire to be his own man precipitated this clash. Modi sought to focus on governance, and not saffronisation. Importantly, he began ignoring Togadia and even sacked his crony, Gordhan Zadaphia, from the Council of Ministers.”
Prakash further writes: “But to focus on governance, Modi had to take on the RSS. For example, he locked horns with RSS sponsored Bharatiya Kisan Sangh when he decided not to roll back tariff on electricity supplied to the farming sector. While sensible economic policies such as these eventually led Gujarat become a power surplus state from a chronically power deficit one, it antagonised the BKS.”
The article elaborates further: “Modi didn’t shy away from confronting the VHP on religious issues either. His government forcefully tackled an endemic Indian problem: encroachment of public space by religious structures. Consequently, the Modi government demolished nearly 200 temples in Gandhinagar which led VHP’s Ashok Singhal to compare Modi with Mahmud Ghazni.”
These incidents apart, there is yet another example of Modi’s style of governance: Yes, it’s the fact that VHP workers, who were protesting against Lal Krishna Advani’s remarks in praise of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, were beaten up brutally by Gujarat police.
In one of his characteristic angry moods, Togadia had retorted frustratingly: “The BJP, which claims to be Hindu party is moving away from its ideology.... Never in the past has even a Congress government imposed ban on carrying Trishul.....Is this what we had dreamt about a Hindu government? Certainly not.”
What’s surprising in all this is that Modi went from strength to strength thereafter while Togadia and his followers, who had joined hands with Keshubhai Patel’s Parivartan Party, had to bite the dust.
Now that we have all got a glimpse of the other side of Modi, will it be too far-fetched to imagine that a renewed power struggle between the Prime Minister and godforsaken loudmouths owing allegiance to the RSS is on the cards? Chances are, yes.
Remember, the Prime Minister had declared on the floor of Parliament in November last year: “India first is the only religion and Constitution the only Holy Book."
Now, let’s try and answer the second query: Are Modi and BJP two different entities? Again, the reply is yes. And why not?
We have all been witnessing two things happening simultaneously: The stature of the Prime Minister continues to rise both within the country and abroad while the BJP certainly doesn’t look like what it was in 2014 strength wise. The Bihar and Delhi assembly election results have dented its image. And reports emanating from poll bound states say that things don’t augur too well for the party in Punjab, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.
Can you imagine a BJP without Modi? Perhaps not.