Narendra Modi should know that vitriol of Hindutva, renaming of cities won't woo voters; he has a lot to fix before 2019

If one wishes to be profound, the loss of face for the BJP in the Hindi heartland states can be chalked up to demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax and the dismay of farmers. Experts will connect the dots to these elements, but there is possibly another reason.

People just got tired of being told what to do with their private lives, and secularism, that poorly treated label, won the day.

All that folderol over what to eat and what to think and go all saffron in thought, word and deed, combined with the theatrics of changing the names of cities and monuments, spiked in its novelty and then hit against the inbred tolerance that marks the people of India. We have endured all sorts of invasions through history, and this was another invasion of individual privacy and our right to pray to our pantheon of gods without political interference.

File image of Narendra Modi. AP

File image of Narendra Modi. AP

For many who do not seek esoteric reasons, there is some comfort that these election results could be the beginning of the end of the shrill and aggressive, near fanatic, Hindutva movement. It had its day for a while, but as it became a staple of the BJP's stance and seemed to eclipse all other considerations, making even the Shiv Sena look placid in comparison, there was a realisation that politics and prayers do not mix.

The likes of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adiyanath and his ilk would do well to hear the bell tolling. Changing the names of streets and cities neither generates employment and prosperity, or encourages medical access, nor does the shrill rhetoric over the religious divide and erecting huge statues lead to the basics of roti, kapada and makan and the right to education.

Whatever good the Modi government has done these past four years, including putting India right up there on the global map as a nation to reckon with, was getting lost in the dross of religion and Hindutva-oriented sentiments. Much as one would like to talk about anti-incumbency being a factor and the financial confusion these past two years, as well as the embarrassing impasse in the CBI, the cause of the losses at the hustings is really more personal.

There was a palpable fear, and it was this unspoken fog that was enveloping the nation in a toxic grip. The political mandate was invading homes. It was no longer my castle. Even the for-or-against diktat was getting out of hand, and lynch mobs were winning. That social uneasiness may not have been articulated, and several thousands may have even paid lip service to it to maintain their security. But like the cancer it is, the poison was taking its effect and creating discomfort, pitting neighbor against neighbor, worker against co-worker.

One would have thought that had Hindutva and the brouhaha over beef and the call to arms over even edifices like the Taj Mahal been as successful and popular as it was projected, these were the states where the majority population would have swamped the polls in favour of the BJP.

Mr Modi has four odd months to rework his priorities. He is fortunate that he will now have to only take on Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in a one-on-one battle since these victories sanctify Rahul's leadership of the Opposition. That will still give him an edge by sheer force of personality. But get your people out of the Indian home, the Indian houses of worship and the Indian psyche that says stop with the window dressing.

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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2018 13:47:22 IST

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