The situation in the central hall of the Parliament on Saturday evening looked like an honest representation of what is probably the biggest challenge before Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his second term — balancing between the dichotomy of rising tide of majoritarian assertions represented by the sheer number of MPs of his party and the secular liberal principles of the Indian Constitution.
Amidst the solemn yet buoyed ambience of the central hall sat in rows the Hindutva leaders of the BJP elected from various parts of the country. Facing them with all its gravitas was the original version of the Indian Constitution held by a stand on the podium.
As soon as he was requested to deliver his address after being elected as the leader of the NDA, Narendra Modi walked up to the place where the Constitution rested and bowed in front of it with all austerity before beginning his speech.
Perhaps this was the most powerful message he could have conveyed before the commencement of his second term as the Prime Minister of India.
Let there be no qualms about the reality that Narendra Modi has all along been been seen as a Hindutva icon, irrespective of what any political narratives say. Though this attribute has time and again proven to be the most reliable strength for the BJP in elections, no one knows better than Modi that it could cause fear to many.
The 2019 Lok Sabha polls saw the strength of the Modi brand of politics. The ruthless charge of Hindu majoritarianism in Indian politics under his watch is well manifested in the brute majority of more than 300 seats he received in these polls.
Narendra Modi, by bowing to the Constitution before his speech, sent across the message that he is well aware of these fears and very much keen to allay them.
Interestingly, his message in the NDA meet also seamlessly drifted through constitutional values, benevolent Hinduism, while evoking the founding fathers of secular and liberal India — Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and BR Ambedkar.
A major part of the address constituted advisories to the BJP and NDA MPs present, which began with reference to benevolent Hinduism propagated by the saint Ram Krishna Paramhamsa.
While congratulating the Members of Parliament for their victory and reminding them of the responsibilities to be fulfilled by them, he said, "The Indian electorates neither accept arrogance of power nor can they digest it. They may tolerate such behaviour for a while out of helplessness but will never accept it. But Indian electorates bow down to accept genuine intention to serve them. We have been elected because of our seva bhav.”
He appealed to the MPs to serve every soul, citing Parmnhamsa’s famous saying, “Jeev mein hi Shiv hai (In every soul rests God)." he said, “Serving every soul is not less than serving God himself. There can be no path as bright as serving the nation through serving souls.”
Paramhamsa has long been revered for his teachings of benevolent Hinduism. His disciple Swami Vivekananda is looked up to by Hindus for introducing Hinduism to the western world as an inclusive religious philosophy. Setting Paramhamsa’s philosophy as the worldview for the NDA MPs, the prime minister redirected the Hindutva emotion by showing that apart from an aggressive form, Hinduism also has a solemn and inclusive form, which they can be equally proud of.
After setting the inclusive and caring Hinduism as a world view, the prime minister went on to make a clear reference to the minorities and appealed to the MPs to win their trust.
By conveying the message that he was willing to walk the talk over the concerns of the minorities and not just provide lip service, he said, “Like the poor in India, the minorities have also been betrayed. Unfortunately, the minorities of India have been kept in illusion and fear. It would have been better if they were empowered with education and assisted to enjoy equality with other communities. But they were kept in an imaginary fear to be used in the time of elections. In 2019, as I stand in front of you after bowing to the Constitution, I appeal to you with responsibility that we will have to end this betrayal. We have to win their trust,” he said.
He also evoked India’s freedom struggle of the 1857, saying that the battle was fought by all communities together with hand-in-hand.
“As we stand on the threshold of 75th year of India’s Independence, it is our responsibility to the re-create the spirit of the year 1857,” he added.
The first five years of the Modi regime met severe criticism from other political parties for the BJP’s unapologetic practice of Hindutva politics. In fact, many Left wing organsiations took out Samvidhan Samman Yatras, claiming the Constitution was under attack.
The prime minister pre-empts such criticism on his government by repeatedly referring to the Constitution.
“I do not think that we will face much problem if we walk on the paths showed by the Constitution and the same showed by Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia, Deen Dayal Upadhyay and BR Ambedkar,” he said, further advising the MPs to connect to the poor, Dalits and the minorities.
Modi’s message to the MPs, before he took oath for the second time, shows that he understands his challenges very well and knows the way to steer across them.
Your guide to the latest cricket World Cup stories, analysis, reports, opinions, live updates and scores on https://www.firstpost.com/firstcricket/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2019.html. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates throughout the ongoing event in England and Wales.
Updated Date: May 26, 2019 21:47:54 IST