Assam polls as a case study: It's time to reboot your idea of India

Of all the five state Assembly elections, the results of Assam election are set to redefine political concept of majoritarianism. After all, the first-past-the-poll electoral system is all about winning majority.

Yet the concept acquires a tinge of malignancy with the rise of the BJP that defied the overweening influence of Nehruvian secularism. The Assam results emphatically confirm the Sangh Parivar’s prognosis about India that there is innate Hinduness in the society that is politically exploitable. Perhaps no state elections in the country had achieved this level of polarisation since the Ram Janam Bhoomi-Babri Masjid agitation in the 1990s as Assam's apparently did.The high turnout fuelling speculation of minority consolidation triggered a counter-mobilisation with equal intensity.

The BJP’s victory will invariably put a stamp of approval to the belief of the RSS-BJP that Hindutva identity could even tide over ethnic-caste mobilisations.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Assam regarded as a long neglected periphery of India proves to be a classic example of this experiment. Given the complex demography of various ethnic groups and minorities in the state, it was unthinkable till a decade back that the ideology of the Hindutva would get a traction in the state. However top strategists of the BJP were quite confident of making Assam their new laboratory of political experiment in the Northeast. The RSS cadres were deployed and asked to set up educational institutions across the state to ingratiate with those sections that were increasingly chagrined by the influx of outsiders (Bangladeshis, largely Muslims).

Apparently, the strategy seems to have worked in these elections.

The BJP’ sustained campaign of “us versus them” in Assam created a situation over the years where a majority is apparently getting queasy over the minority’s assertion and groping for a coherent political expression. Hindutva filled the gap and provided an instant platform. Though the growth of Hindutva conforms to a pattern across the country, Assam clarifies the ideological underpinnings of the BJP which are often discussed within the family, but camouflaged in the verbiage of “cultural nationalism”.

Those who believe that the victory in Assam is the result of a fluke will find it difficult to reconcile with the fact that there exists a careful planning and a method in the madness within the Hindutva fold about cultivating its own “idea of India”. This is the precise reason why the RSS-BJP combine was never averse to the emergence of regional forces on the strength of ethnic-caste coalitions.

Political mobilisation on ethnic-caste lines helps Hindutva in the long run

For instance, the RSS-BJP combine was never unnecessarily worried about the emergence of the OBCs as a strong political force in the Hindi heartland. Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav are seen as stumbling block to the growth of the Hindutva forces. Yet within the Parivar, the assertion of caste groups through political formations is usually seen as furthering the agenda of Hindu consolidation. “These social groups will tend to merge with the larger identity once the era of charismatic individual leaders is over,” said BJP leaders whose job is to keep the party and the government in alignment with the RSS.

That the caste based political formations are too fragile to stand up to a popular wave was evident in the manner in which the BJP swept across Hindi heartland. Dalits and OBCs found charm of Prime Minister Narendra Modi irresistible though they owed primary allegiance to their caste leaders. Obviously, the consolidation of pro-BJP vote largely on religious lines in Hindi speaking states and parts of North West India almost eliminated representation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha from the entire region.

Disturbing trend: Muslim alienation

This is indeed a disturbing sign. A large section of Muslims getting sidelined from the mainstream political process of government formation does indicate a ominous foreboding. The Assam election results confirm this fear. But should the RSS-BJP alone be blamed for bringing the situation to such a pass? Of course, the answer to this question would ultimately lead to a critical examination of “Nehruvian secularism” and its distortions that crept into the body politic of India over the decades.


Jawaharlal Nehru’s majoritarianism and its distortions:

The Sangh Parivar has right since its inception, found Nehru’s pursuit of “Fabian socialism” as unacceptable and divorced of the Indian realities. This is the precise reason why the Bharatiya Jana Sangh’s most authentic ideologue and president Deen Dayal Upadhyaya could easily find common cause with Nehru-baiter Ram Manohar Lohia who was the most ardent critic of Nehru’s political approach. Despite the Hindutva underpinnings of the Sangh Parivar, Lohia often aligned his anti-Congressism with the Sangh Parivar’s politics. This was the precise reason Vajpayee, despite being an admirer of Nehru, advocated and embraced “Gandhian socialism” as a belief during his days as BJS chief.

Of course the self-righteousness of Nehru’s approach was so pronounced that a section of top leadership — holding religious right-wing views like Purshottam Das Tandon and C Rajgopalachari — was completely marginalised by bullying majoritarianism. Nehru’s sacking of the Kerala government in 1959 and his military moves in annexing Goa were frowned upon, but never seen as a streak of an autocrat primarily because of his towering personality and his background as freedom-fighter.

Reboot your idea of India now

Those who inherited Nehru’s legacy carried the most perverted form of majoritarianism in the garb of a secular discourse. In the 1990s and by the turn of millennium, the Sangh Parivar has turned the same logic on its head. They have successfully turned majoritarianism with its Hindutva underpinnings as an acceptable political concept. Although there is no denying the fact that this concept is seeded with serious vulnerabilities, it can hardly be challenged by archaic and outdated political idioms.

Those raring to take on the BJP in general and Modi in particular need to “reboot their idea of India and politics” afresh instead of lamenting Hindutva’s brand of majoritarianism.

Updated Date: May 19, 2016 12:32 PM

Also See