The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Pravin Togadia has said things that threw the Narendra Modi narrative off, but only for a couple of days.
Togadia gave a neighbourhood gathering in Bhavnagar a few tips on how to get rid of a Dawoodi Bohra who bought a property in their area. One way was to do what had been done in others parts of Gujarat, which is to declare the area disturbed. The other way was just to muscle in and kick the occupants out. They could be kept out, Togadia said, through fear, and this was done with the help of the Bajrang Dal, the lumpen end of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Togadia said the offended neighbourhood could also create the atmosphere of a riot which would compel the government to take their side. And they could harass the Muslims by spitting on them and pelting them with tomatoes. There was outrage in the media when the video was shown, and the Election Commission, which governs India in this period, asked the police to act against him.
Modi condemned Togadia obliquely, by tweeting: "Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP’s well wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development & good governance."
This was good and decent of Modi, though I wish he had been explicit about who he was condemning and for what. It is not the throwing off of his campaign that he should have been concerned about but the fact that such a thing had been said. But more about that later.
The history of these two men, Togadia and Modi, is that both were rising at the same time. Togadia is Modi’s junior in the RSS in terms of age but at one point, during the heat of the Babri Masjid campaign, Togadia was a bigger national figure than Modi. His thuggish manner (Google his name to see how many times he has got himself into trouble – and gotten away – by doing exactly the sort of thing he did last week) kept him in the headlines.
This changed after 2001 when Modi became chief minister, and particularly after 2002, when Modi became the Hindutva hero. Togadia is from the powerful Patel community, who is the primary voter of the BJP in Gujarat, and its primary donor and supporter among expatriate Indians. This is why the majority of BJP ministers in Gujarat have been Patels.
Today the leader of the Patel community is indisputably Modi, who is not a Patel but represents their aspirations best. The rivalry between the two ended long ago, and today Togadia is, as Modi said, merely an irritant.
I’m interested in talking about something else, which Modi did not tweet about. What sort of state in India has two decades of Hindutva rule produced where it is easy for Togadia to say what he did in a public gathering?
What does it say about Gujaratis in the rule of Modi that they do not want as their neighbour a Bohra, one of the most peaceful and most enterprising of all Gujarati communities, because he is also Muslim?
Togadia was there giving advice because an elite neighbourhood had solicited it. Sadly this is the reality of Gujarat, where unbroken rule by the Hindutva party has produce great bitterness on the ground. The religious poison they have spread has made the state toxic. It is I would say normal for the sort of gathering Togadia attended to be formed in all parts of Gujarat. This one was only reported because someone filmed it, perhaps on a mobile phone, and it came out.
Why did that neighbourhood in Bhavnagar feel so offended at a Muslim living next to them, that they applauded Togadia’s insane advice? This is the issue Modi should have addressed instead of his banal tweet expressing irritation that his campaign narrative was being inconvenienced. These things Togadia said are exactly in line with the values the RSS spreads and which Modi himself spread in his decades in that body in Ahmedabad. It was Modi who called Muslim families ‘Hum paanch, hamare pachchees’. What happened to his pitch of development and good governance at that time? He can hardly disown Togadia now only because he doesn’t want the spotlight away from him.
What Togadia said and did is merely reaping the hatred that Modi himself has helped sow.
Updated Date: Apr 28, 2014 09:01:05 IST