What is Hindutva for you? Does the word Hindu signify a religion or is it symbolic of a way of life?

For me, Hindutva or Hinduism or being Hindu is a way of life. And the origin of the word Hindu confirms it. In ancient times, Persian and Greek people would use the word Hindu for the people of the Indian Subcontinent living on this side of the river Indus. So it basically connoted a geographical and cultural identity. Though there are differences on when the word Hindu became synonymous with a religious identity – in medieval or British colonial India – but it did happen so. And if we talk of the last or this Century – it is now an established fact that Hinduism or the Hindu religion is the largest religion of India in terms of number of followers.

It is said that Savarkar explained the term Hindutva in his essay to explain Indian national identity. But if the word could not gain universal or wide acceptance in India, there were inherent reasons behind it and the main was that Hindutva was still seen in the context of Hinduism or Hindu religion. After the independence, some rightwing political outfits made politics based on Hindutva their ideology and agenda. With time their sphere of influence increased and with it increased the allegations that these parties were using religion to gain political mileage – be it the day-to-day politics or electoral politics.

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A seven judge bench of the Supreme Court is going to deliberate on its 1995 verdict that defined ‘Hindutva and Hinduism’ as a ‘way of life’.

While reinstating Shiv Sena’s Manohar Joshi and the BJP’s Ramchandra Kapse assembly election victories, Justice JS Verma had observed, “It is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that any reference to Hindutva or Hinduism in a speech makes it automatically a speech based on Hindu religion as opposed to other religions.”

His bench, in fact, further said that ‘Hindutva and Hinduism’ represented India’s people and its cultural ethos – “It may well be that these words are used in the speech to promote secularism and to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, or to criticise the policy of any political party as discriminatory or intolerant.”

It was an epoch-defining judgment which cleared the path of the BJP and the like-minded parties who weaved their politics on Hinduism and Hindutva as it removed the legal hurdle due to the interpretation of ‘Hindutva and Hinduism’ as under religion and thus as corrupt practices under the Representation of People (RPA) Act.

Its Section 123 (3-A) says, “The promotion of, or attempt to promote, feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes of the citizens of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, community, or language, by a candidate or his agent or any other person with the consent of a candidate or his election agent for the furtherance of the prospects of the election of that candidate or for prejudicially affecting the election of any candidate.”

And that defines one of the many corrupt practices it lays norms for.

Now, according to this landmark judgment, any electoral practice aimed at influencing voters in the name of ‘Hindutva and Hinduism’ doesn’t constitute the case for corruption because Hindutva is not a religion but an all-encompassing term that defines the Indian way of life.

But the verdict has not been beyond questions, even from different judges of the Supreme Court. So anything can happen tomorrow.

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Tricky but interesting political premises:

Congress strategists are feeling they are effectively on the way to polarise the anti-Modi and anti-BJP Muslim votes in their favour and it manifests in party’s silence over Shakeel Ahmad’s tweet on Indian Mujahideen quoting an NIA report blaming BJP, RSS and 2002 Gujarat riots for the terror outfit origin. They would be aided by the premise that a communal Vs secular polarization would help them get over the huge anti-incumbency against the UPA government.

Narendra Modi would be feeling good that the Congress strategists are playing the game he has started exactly as per his designs as the main ruling party’s efforts to polarise the Muslim votes would help his efforts to polarise the Hindu votes in his favour. The polarisation of the divided Hindu votes along with the UPA’s anti-incumbency and Narendra Modi’s pro-development reputation would be a cocktail that several millions of voters would be tempted to try in a country where something like chronic political corruption is still not a decisive issue.

Some in the Congress are playing to look worried or some are worried believing in the hypothesis (hypothesis at the moment) that Modi’s image of Hindu fundamentalist and his vote-polarizing ability can unite the Hindu votes across the country to an extent to give the BJP a clear edge to form the government in the next parliamentary elections. And only Congress is not worried. If Digvijay Singh has to claim and cry that he is a practicing Hindu, Mulayam, too, has to come forward to say that he feels sorry for ordering the police to open fire on karsevaks in 1990.

Some in the BJP are also sounding cautious that the excess of Hindu nationalism and Hindutva would push burning issues like corruption, price-rise, failing law and order and bad condition of the economy, where the Congress and the UPA are on the back foot, to the periphery, giving the UPA strategists the opportunity to duck the answerability for the all-pervasive mayhem they have created.

It is an established fact that the Congress-led UPA government is a total failure. It has failed on almost every front that could easily kill the electoral prospects of any political outfit or coalition – price rise, corruption and law and order. Yet, it has scored victories in many assembly elections.

Such chaotic conditions provide for enough of ‘food for thought’ to every ‘thinking’ political strategy maker and every one feels he is thinking in the right direction until the outcome gives them some more food for thought.

Tricky! Isn’t it?

But, at the moment, the game looks headed the Narendra Modi way.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


It has already begun. The Reuters interview should be seen as the formal announcement – timed and worded the Narendra Modi way!

It is just a matter of time when Narendra Modi is declared the NDA’s prime-ministerial nominee. Anyway, he is already calling the shots. He has started writing the script of BJP’s and NDA’s strategy to approach the upcoming assembly and parliamentary elections.

As expected, it is going to be the reflection of the Narendra Modi style of politics and is going to be based on the experiences gained in Gujarat. And it has to be seen in the light of the growing realization among the majority of the BJP leaders that a wider deviation from the core Hindutva ideology has harmed the party, especially in absence of someone like Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

This would certainly push the party and the coalition strategists to push for a ‘mix’ of religion and politics that could serve the twin purposes of – not looking too deviant on the core Hindutva ideology as well as not sounding communal while wooing the voters on the religious line.

And Narendra Modi has been doing it exceedingly well in Gujarat, especially after 2007 when he won the state the second time.

And so, the cardinal elements of the script are expected to be:

A greater emphasis on the Hindutva branding: As already indicated in the Reuters interview where Modi reiterated himself to be a Hindu nationalist first.

An increasing mix of the hardline ideology as the time progresses: More in sync with the RSS thought process – to stir the voter’s thinking pattern with the notions of Hindu identity and the Hindu pride!

Religion and politics to gel even more deeply: Yes, the BJP may not make the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya an election issue but it is only because the party knows its support groups like the VHP or its ideological mentor RSS would do this bit.

But the party would keep talking about it in varying degrees as Amit Shah spoke about the temple during his Ayodhya visit recently. Expect Modi to polarize and exploit the religious sentiments of Hindus to unite them across the divided Hindu votebanks on similar lines.

‘Gujarati Pride’ to prop up the ‘Indian Pride’: ‘Gujarati Asmita or Gujarati Pride’ has created a huge pro-Modi middle class votebank across the different caste lines in Gujarat. It pulls the affluent class and the Diaspora as well. Modi would love to rake up the imagination of Indians for their position in the globalized world, a not so encouraging picture at all. He would talk and eulogize the Gujarat development putting it in context of the BJP’s performance in the party-run states. The development plank would run parallel to the religious plank.

Expect more of the comparisons like with China and other neighbours as Modi elaborated on in his Pune speech on July 14. The meekness of the Manmohan Singh’s government in dealing with China, Pakistan and other neighbours as well as acting coy in dealing with the global powers like the US can be exploited very well. And there are plenty of such issues.

Besides these are the routine pot-boiler elements like the UPA corruption or the price rise or the falling Rupee.

Elections in a country like India are not fought on statistical manipulations like what the Congress tried to do by putting a point-by-point rebuttal targeting the Narendra Modi’s Pune speech a day after.

In a country that has not had the history of distinguishing between ‘status quo’ and ‘progress’ as the election plank, elections are fought by creating stronger elements of perception putting the adversary in the negative light. Yes, having a pro-development image is an added advantage. And Narendra Modi as the most popular political leader in the country with the twin advantages of being ‘pro-religious’ and ‘pro-development’ looks far more capable than any other leader in any political outfit to deliver it.

So be ready for the fireworks. Narendra Modi knows a small spark lit by him creates a huge fireball taking every political opponent within its reach. And he seems to be enjoying it. That is what he is looking for.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


“Modi has a poor impression about the Indian people, to be a Hindu nationalist is an oxymoron. Religion can’t have nation. It is a very narrow and unsustainable idea to use a religion and treat it as a companion of nationalism” – External Affairs Minister Salmnan Khurshid, Indian National Congress

“It is a very sad, humiliating and very disturbing statement. He is saying Muslims are worse than even puppies? He should immediately apologise to the people of this nation” – SP General Secretary Kamal Farooqui

“Thousands were killed in the riots and in the backdrop, the analogy used by Narendra Modi needs to be strongly condemned. There is no place for such a comparison in civilised India. It is reflective of his perverse mindset. It is totally against the idea of India….We are unable to understand as to what is the intention of raising such things before the elections,” – Ajay Maken, Indian National Congress

“No one can change the character of any person. This is just the beginning of unveiling of his character, more will come out in future. Nitish always said Modi is fascist, Modi always treated minority with contempt” – Sabir Ali, JD (U)

“I think Narendra Modi is mentally unstable, his psychoanalysis test should be done” – Shivanand Tiwari, JD (U)

“It is utterly shameful that he is justifying the genocide and using inappropriate examples and analogies to trivialise the enormity of it” – Brinda Karat, CPI(M)

“Shouldn’t we all be Nationalist Indians rather than Hindu Nationalist or Muslim Nationalist or Sikh Nationalist or Christian Nationalist?” – Digvijay Singh, Indian National Congress

“There is nothing called Hindu or Muslim nationalist, there is only Indian nationalist.” – Rehman Khan, Minority Affairs Minister, Indian National Congress

The supercharged reactions from the ‘other’ political masters, targeted at ‘the one’ among them – that was exactly what Narendra Modi, the four-time and in-office chief minister of Gujarat and Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) 2014 election campaign committee head and the de-facto prime-ministerial nominee of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), would have in mind when he decided to endorse his Hindu nationalist identity yet again, after a gap of some time – unlike what he had been trying in the recent past.

The Narendra Modi politics of his recent history was focused on adding elements to his persona and so to his identity that could improve his outreach across the ‘categories’ of the voters in a politics that survives on votebank manipulations.

One of the most telling examples of this was trying to deliver a message to the Muslim community that he was not anti-Muslim. There were Muslim invitees in his events like in his Sadbhavna rallies in Gujarat. He spoke on his projection as an anti-Muslim politician in interviews trying to clear his bad name in the community’s perception.

But that wasn’t going to change things for Modi. It wasn’t that Modi was not realizing it. And so, he never disowned his Hindu hardliner image. Instead, he has spoken about it with great emphasis. It was just that he left talking about it for some time. May be he was driven by an experimental urge to try at least to see if he could make some in-roads in the Muslim community, a significantly larger votebank in many parliamentary constituencies. Also, a warring ally (when it was the case) in JD (U) might well have been a factor as the JD (U)’s secular (read pseudo-secular) concerns and Nitish Kumar’s prime-ministerial ambitions were not ready to accomodate a communal Narendra Modi as the NDA’s prime-ministerial nominee.

With JD (U) gone and with Modi elevated in the NDA, such experiments lost their political or (personal) utility. It was well on the line that ‘the BJP or the NDA could not win the back the prime-ministerial office until it went back to the ‘Hindutva’ line’ (and not agenda, that may or may not be – ‘line’ and ‘agenda’ are to be seen as two separate concepts in the political craft of vote-pulling).

And so, this was it. First was the Amit Shah’s visit to Ayodhya. Though Shah didn’t say the BJP was going to revive its demand of constructing a temple there, the political opponents reacted on that line. Modi reiterating his ‘Hindu nationalist’ (Hindu hardliner) image is the next in line.

Like he said he likes criticism, he knew he would get plenty of that. Modi’s amazing ability to exploit the statements of his opponents targeting him hits the bull’s eye when it finds the support of his polarizing personality.

And here, at stake are the Hindu votes, Hindus who form the 80 per cent of the country’s population and so the majority of the votes.

Modi doesn’t speak about the 2002 Gujarat riots but he realizes its significance for him that makes him the most polarizing political figure in the country. It is true he is an efficient pro-development administrator and has efficiently managed to develop Gujarat after the infamy of the 2002 riots, irrespective of what the different manipulations of the statistics say. But his absolute run in Gujarat also owes much to his polarizing personality that makes him acceptable across the lines of the divided Hindu votebanks.

And taking it out of Gujarat has a political logic for Modi. What he has been able to do in Gujarat in terms of polarizing the Hindu votes would well be on the drawing board of the BJP strategists (led by Narendra Modi). Something hardline like Hindutva or religion is the only factor that can unite the scattered Hindu votebank to a particular political outfit or political personality.

And even if the BJP is not anymore a polarizing political party of that scale, Narendra Modi certainly is.

So when an Ajay Maken or a Kamal Farooqui burst in ‘political anger’ and when the political pundits hammer the computer keyboards and try to ooze fire over Modi’s remarks and when the political opponents, the TV pundits and the media analyze something from a Narendra Modi statement like this ‘puppy analogy’ (though, on going through the interview, it sounds just like a simple, spontaneous analogy in course of the conversation and Modi might not have even thought of it), each one plays exactly on the lines in the game that Narendra Modi is looking set to push further and farther.

Political opponents need to realize that targeting Modi more and more on communal lines only strengthens the brand Narendra Modi. This is something Modi is going to seek more and more in the days to come.

And going by the developments, it looks he has more than enough of the fodder available for him on the platter.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/