Shrikant G. Talageri: I keep deciding I will not write any more articles on political parties, and only stick to writing articles on my particular historical (AIT-OIT) and civilizational (different aspects of Indian culture) subjects or on music (and films if the occasion demands). But then I keep breaking that resolution when, every other day, some new news item or the other arouses my fury. Incidentally, after the last Lok Sabha elections, I completely stopped watching TV news channels and reading newspapers, and (after our last 3-year subscription to Hindustan Times ended on 31/12/2022) I don’t even get any newspaper in my house. But I do go on the internet and do read my emails, and some news item or the other flashes on to my attention, and all my good intentions melt away like ice on a frying pan.
Actually, it is a waste of time to write and keep on writing about the BJP’s treacheries, since it does not make even a jot of difference to anyone or anything; and what is fated to happen will happen anyway: my writing about it will not do anything more concrete than allowing me to give an outlet to my strong feelings (and as giving an outlet to my strong feelings does not result in any change in the situation, I only end up spoiling my own mood). But there is one question that BJP supporters keep raising again and again, and I cannot in conscience stop, once and for all, writing about the BJP’s shenanigans without first giving my own answer to that question. The question is “what is the alternative for Hindus if not the BJP and Modi“?
This question was also asked by someone on the Manushi program on Balraj Madhok a few days ago:
In fact it is a question which comes up again and again in any discussion on Hindus, Hindutva, and the BJP, and everyone seems to feel that the only answer to the question is: “There is No Alternative” (i.e. TINA) for Hindus to the BJP. In the above program also, Madhu Kishwar and Sushil Pandit, after a bit of hemming and hawing, assured the viewers that they were just pointing out some errors of the BJP and not advising anyone on whom they should vote for or not vote for. And this is the crux of the whole situation: it is not that no-one is aware of the continuous back-stabbing and treachery of the BJP; everyone who has not completely lost the ability to use their brains can see what the BJP is doing, but, as I rather euphemistically put it (as early as in “Time for Stock Taking ¾ Whither Sangh Parivar?“, VOI, 1997, pp.223-4), “…the Hindu plank on the national level has been totally appropriated by the Sangh Parivar….when the Sangh Parivar starts taking Hindus down the garden path, conscious Hindus are caught in a real trap. Supporting, or going along with, this suicidal course is a travesty of all that they believe in, and opposing it would constitute the dreaded sin of playing into the enemy’s hands. Either way, they are, in a sense, stabbing Hinduism and Hindutva in the back“.
The Hindu Mahasabha had become electorally irrelevant long ago, in spite of having a stalwart like Veer Savarkar behind it. Even then, the Parivar does not tolerate rivals in the “Hindutva” sphere, and, after coming to power as part of the Janata Party government in 1977, the Parivar stalwart Nanaji Deshmukh had publicly called for a ban on “communal” parties “like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League“!
After Bal Thackeray took up the cudgels for Hindutva, in the early eighties, the BJP had heated intra-party discussions (reported in the media) about why they should not have any alliance with the Shiv Sena, because it would alienate “minority votes”! Ultimately, better electoral sense prevailed and the alliance was formed. It must be noted that this “better sense” had a very practical basis: the Shiv Sena’s first electoral foray in the name of Hindutva was in the bye-elections to the Vile Parle assembly seat in Mumbai, where the Shiv Sena single-handedly defeated the two rival candidates by a massive margin. The two rival candidates were from the Congress and the Janata Party respectively, with the Janata Party candidate being supported by every single opposition party from the two communist parties to the BJP! The Shiv Sena was not yet, then, a party recognized by the Election Commission for the purpose of assembly elections, as it had never before won any assembly seat (other than the single earlier victory of Wamanrao Mahadik in a 1969-70 bye-poll to the Parel assembly constituency in Mumbai). The Vile Parle seat was now won by the Shiv Sena candidate (officially an “independent”) Ramesh Prabhoo, and the very clear taste of what happens to the BJP’s Hindu vote-banks when another party strongly takes a Hindutva stand compelled the BJP (after the above referred intra-party debate) to align with the Shiv Sena.
[13th December 1987 was a historic date. I had attended the massive pre-election Shiv Sena rally at Vile Parle on 11th December 1987, and still remember Bal Thackeray quipping in his speech that the off-season rain which occurred during the rally ─ but failed to disrupt it ─ was a sign from heaven that the Gods were showering their blessings on the Hindutva agenda].
Nevertheless, the BJP, throughout the tenure of the alliance, tried its best to stunt the growth of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, and it was only after the 1992-93 riots and the stellar role played in that crisis situation by Bal Thackeray catapulted the Shiv Sena chief to the unchallengeable position of a “Hindu Hriday Samrat”, that the BJP was compelled to tone down its pressure tactics on the Shiv Sena and, in fact, had to themselves kowtow to the Shiv Sena chief.
Subsequent splits in the Shiv Sena (mainly the formation of the MNS by Raj Thackeray in 2006), and finally the unfortunate demise of Bal Thackeray himself in 2012, paralleled by the meteoric rise of the image of Narendra Modi as a Hindu leader before, during and after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, provided a new impetus to the “wipe-out-all-Hindutva-rivals” strategy of the BJP, and, with a much weaker new leader (Uddhav Thackeray) at the helm of the Shiv Sena, the BJP started a program of downsizing the Shiv Sena in different ways (e.g. under-representing the Shiv Sena in the Union cabinet, making every effort to cut into Shiv Sena vote-banks, etc.), and finally, after the 2019 assembly elections, the squabble over Chief Ministership split the alliance. The Shiv Sena formed a government in alliance with the Congress and NCP, but the BJP managed to engineer a split in the Shiv Sena, and finally this unwanted rival to Hindutva claims was cut down to size (if not effectively decimated) once and for all.
[The BJP of course managed to engineer the split in the Shiv Sena with the fascist use of state weapons like the IT department, the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI, etc. But Uddhav Thackeray in truth had no-one but himself to blame. The arrogance of power led him to refuse to resurrect a united Shiv Sena with his estranged cousin, to treat other Shiv Sena leaders with disdain, and go all out to promote his son as the main power center in the party. His callous remarks when the two sadhus were killed in Palghar alienated many Hindu voters. His alliance with the Congress and NCP in itself was a minor point (after all, Bal Thackeray himself had been the only Opposition leader to support Indira Gandhi’s Congress during the Emergency and in the elections that followed), but he allowed his alliance partners to ride rough-shod over other Shiv Sena leaders and only concentrated on strengthening the position of his son].
So now, the BJP is the be-all-and-end-all of Hindutva claims, even if every act of the party and the Parivar negates Hindu ideals and principles, or grossly violates Hindutva interests, and even though it is only the cacophony of the sheep of this Animal Farm chanting “Four legs Good, Two Legs Better” which constitutes the twisted “Hindutva” element in the BJP today.
In these circumstances, while small groups of erstwhile BJP supporters are simply keeping away from the polls or voting NOTA (“None of the Above”), by and large a majority of conscious Hindus, even when many among them are very vocal in their criticism of the BJP’s treacheries (which multiply by the day), finally go and cast their votes for the BJP.
Politics has some very obvious and natural rules: if doing something is very profitable for a political party in many ways, and if it also, at the same time, can alienate some of its traditional voters and result in significant loss of votes, the political party will think twice, thrice and a hundred times before doing that thing. If however, the political party knows that, however much their voters get disturbed by their actions, there will be no significant loss of votes, then the party does not even have to think once before doing that thing: it can eat its cake and have it too. The BJP (now, and in all its earlier avatars like the Jana Sangh and Janata Party) has consistently been getting absolute and unshakeable testimony from its voters that stabbing Hindus in the back does not make any dent in their fervent Hindu vote-bank as long as there is a parallel disinformation campaign (carried on simultaneously both by their active supporters and their alleged foes) keeping up the refrain that they are a Hindu communal party!
The only time the BJP lost its voters was in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, where the party had openly abandoned all the pro-Hindu claims that they had been making before 1975 (although their back-stabbing had never been absent during any phase of their earlier history). The Hindu voters (who want words, if not actions) abandoned them, and the results were startling: the BJP (in its first Lok Sabha foray after becoming the BJP) got only 2 seats out of 582 seats in the Lok Sabha. And the two seats were Mehsana in Gujarat (only because that seat had never before in its history till then voted for the Congress, and the BJP was the only major non-Congress party in the fray in that seat) and Hanamkonda in Andhra Pradesh (only because of an alliance with NTR’s party Telugu Desam, which was so sweepingly victorious in that election that his party had the second biggest representation in the Lok Sabha after the Congress). In short, the BJP was completely decimated, and the 2 seats they won were actually tantamount to 0 seats.
After that, they did a quick course-correction: the VHP which had achieved all-India success with its “Gangajal Ekatmata Rathayatra” in 1983, was quickly harnessed to the BJP’s activities, and Sant Sammelans were organized all over the country. The alliance with the militant Bal Thackeray led Shiv Sena consolidated its image of a Hindutva party. The anti-infiltration agitation in Assam (1979-1985) and the uproar over the Shah Bano judgement (1985), and finally, the biggest “card” of them all: the Ram Janmabhoomi movement (which also gathered force around that period and led to a long series of public “yatras” by the VHP and BJP, culminating in Advani’s ratha yatra in 1990 and the final demolition of the structure in 1992), finally took the BJP from 0/2 in 1984 to 85 in 1989, and after that the party has never lost momentum.
From all this, the BJP has learnt one lesson: harness all the Squealers of the Indian Animal Farm to keep on shouting that the BJP is a Hindutvavadi party, see that the anti-Hindu forces also coordinate their shrill accusations about the BJP being a Hindu Communal party with the claims of the supporters, and then you don’t have to bother to do anything for Hindus or Hinduism, and in fact can indulge in any amount of back-stabbing without any fears of repercussions (in the form of loss of Hindu votes).
So we are in a very vicious circle: Hindu voters will keep on voting for the BJP in spite of all the backstabbing because “There Is No Alternative“, and the BJP sees no reason to stop backstabbing Hindus because they know that Hindu voters will continue to vote for them whatever they do on the ground that “There Is No Alternative“.
So what is the thinking Hindu to do? [I am not talking about the bhakt Hindu who does not bother to think, and only wants to see his God-like leaders sitting on thrones and eating the loaves and fishes of power, whatever may happen to Hindus, Hinduism, India and Indian culture].
I could start by going a bit biographical in order to show what I have been doing all my life long in this respect, and what, other things remaining the same, I am likely to do in future:
I was born in 1958, and the voting age (till the amendment in 1989 reduced it to 18 years) was 21 years. As I completed 21 years in August 1979, I do not remember whether or not I had registered myself as a voter before the Lok Sabha elections in January 1980. However, our family was generally non-Congress and we had voted for the Janata Party (of which the present BJP, the erstwhile Jana Sangh, was a constituent) in both 1977 and 1980. The BJP was formed in April 1980 three months after the Lok Sabha elections.
[My earliest memory of elections was of the historical 1967 Lok Sabha elections, when George Fernandes defeated SK Patil of the Congress in our Bombay South constituency. Our whole middle class group of friends and family friends at that time had voted for George Fernandes in that poll, and I remember a childish incident when, as our large group of mothers and children made their daily way to Chowpatty (there was no TV at the time, and the evening session at Chowpatty was the highlight of our evenings ─ it was a simple and happy period of existence), we rubbed off a chalk-drawn symbol of the Jana Sangh lamp on the road with our feet. At that time I knew nothing of politics and the different parties involved, and, although I had become a Hindutva-minded person on my own thinking right from my earliest days in school, I was not aware that the Jana Sangh was supposed to be a Hindutvavadi party. I found this out a few years later, and then became an ardent fan of the Jana Sangh. But it was during the Emergency, ironically after reading the book “Freedom at Midnight” by Collins and Lapierre, that I became aware of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha and became determined to become a member of both. After Emergency was lifted, I searched out the Bombay offices of both organizations and started becoming actively involved with them].
However, during the Janata Party rule (1977-1979), when I had started writing articles on Hindutva in a notebook, my close association with the RSS and the different political developments involving the erstwhile Jana Sangh faction of the Janata Party soon left me totally disillusioned, and I became aware that the Jana Sangh was the most unprincipled, hypocritical and opportunistic group within the Janata Party: it was the only one of the different parties, which had merged together into the “Janata Party” in 1977, to completely abandon its alleged ideology and to go back brazenly against everything they had pretended to stand for earlier. Nevertheless, after Charan Singh and the Socialists had split the party, the sentiment in my family and indeed in Bombay was totally pro-Janata Party (and it is significant that of the 31 seats won by the Janata Party all over India, 8 were from Bombay and the Konkan, and all the other seats in Maharashtra went to the Congress).
[An example of the BJP’s brainlessness as well as unprincipled attitude was Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speech at Shivaji Park in Mumbai during the campaigning for the 1980 elections. One of his criticisms was that Charan Singh had apparently said (in an election speech) that India should establish diplomatic relations with Israel and cooperate with that nation in developing our agriculture and dairying industries. Vajpayee’s grouse was “Why had he never spoken about establishing relations with Israel before? He must explain his newfound love for Israel“, thereby implying that it was in some way an election stunt. Although during that particular election, we were pro-Janata party and anti-Charan Singh, I found this extremely disgusting: Charan Singh had never, to my knowledge criticized Israel before, or opposed relations with that nation, so what was wrong if he now spoke of this? On the other hand, the Jana Sangh had always claimed to stand for friendly relations with Israel, but after merging into the Janata Party, the erstwhile Jana Sangh leaders had suddenly become critics of Israel. It was Vajpayee who had to explain his change of attitude, and not Charan Singh!
A few days later, I also attended Charan Singh’s rally at the same venue. It became a case of “I went to boo, and stayed to cheer”: to my utter surprise, Charan Singh’s speech contained not a single derogatory reference to his foes, and was in fact a long and frankly boring speech on rural and agricultural issues. The sincerity of the man shone through, and although we continued to be against him, I felt a genuine respect for Charan Singh, especially in contrast to the playing-to-the-gallery Vajpayee.
Although this article may not be the place for this, I also remember another example of Vajpayee’s fickle or brainless “witty” speeches. During the 1977 election, Indira Gandhi had lambasted the Janata Party as a “khichdi party”, and Vajpayee quipped that Indira Gandhi had spent all her life in a westernized atmosphere and did not know how pauṣṭik (healthy) khichdi was as a food . After the Janata Party victory, party workers all over the country apparently had celebratory khichdi parties. A few months later, the assembly elections in Maharashtra followed. In his election speech in Girgaum, Mumbai, Vajpayee warned the voters not to vote for the Congress since the Janata party was in power at the centre, and it would not be good for them to have a different party in the state (the fascist tendency was clearly evident even then): “agar Maharashtra ke log apni alag khichdi pakana chahte hain to thik hai, lekin yaad rakhna khichdi sirf bimar log khate hain” was his witty pronouncement. Apparently, a few months experience as External Affairs Minister had not only made him forget about friendship with Israel, but also about the benefits of khichdi!].
In any case, we (our family) voted for the Janata party in 1980. A few months later, the BJP was formed, and it now came out with a full-fledged Secular manifesto born out of its short gestation period within the “secular” Janata Party! Every day made me more and more disgusted with the BJP, and in 1984, although the rest of the voters in our house continued to remain loyal to the BJP and Vajpayee, I firmly voted for an independent candidate, Sudhir Hendre, supported by the Hindu Mahasabha. I knew he would lose of course, but no-one had expected that the BJP would lose so badly that they would come down to 2 seats (or effectively 0 seats). [This near-annihilation made the BJP realize that to its followers it was not what they did that mattered, but what they said. Ever since, the dual policy of talking Hindutva and doing “secular” has been the secret of the BJP’s unwavering success].
The only losers are Hinduism and Indian culture ─ and thinking Hindus who perpetually find themselves in a quandary as to how they should vote.
After 1984, the BJP’s quick turnaround (Assam infiltrators, VHP, Bal Thackeray, Shah Bano judgement, and finally Ayodhya) was so brilliant that I once more fell into the trap of thinking that, whatever its treacherous and mercenary tendencies, the BJP was now completely trapped in its own Hindutva rhetoric, and would surely have to end its treacherous behavior and try to fulfill the expectations of its Hindu voters. My guarded infatuation with the BJP (mainly sustained by the militancy of Bal Thackeray and the VHP) lasted from 1985-1996, and this was the only period of my life when I actually voted for the BJP.
Within days after the BJP was first voted to power in 1996 (for a very short period), it started showing its fangs and claws, and after that (except in two elections in 2004 and 2019) I have always either not voted at all in subsequent elections or (after the introduction of that rather half-hearted and ineffective facility) put my stamp on NOTA. In those two elections, each time after experiencing a full five years of the BJP’s treacheries, I voted for the Congress as “The Only Alternative” (in my South Mumbai constituency) to the BJP. Raj Thackeray, who in my opinion is one of the most intelligent and outspoken politicians today (though an unsuccessful one, and with some negative points), in his election speeches during the 2019 elections, made a very intelligent and perceptive remark: he pointed out that when the Congress is in power, we curse and criticize the Congress government without restraint, but when we experience one term of the rule of an opposition party, we realize that the Congress government was actually the lesser of the two evils. [Note: Now that he is more friendly with the BJP, he may not reiterate this sentiment].
But what I did in the past (not voting at all, or voting NOTA) may not be the ideal answer to the question: “So what is the thinking Hindu to do?. It was the only alternative for me in the past, and may be the only alternative for me in future as well, but it is not a logical electoral solution for the future of Hinduism, Hindutva, and Indian culture and Civilization.
The only logical alternative is for Hindu voters to show with their votes that they are not satisfied with the Hindutva of the BJP. In 1984, and then again (to a lesser extent) in 2004, Hindu voters showed their total disenchantment with the pseudo-Hindutva of the BJP by voting the Congress back to power. Now, again after 20 years, history is not going to repeat itself, for three reasons: (a) the Congress is a totally spent force, and its only electoral effect is to strengthen the TINA factor for the BJP: the Gandhi family is now being the biggest electoral asset for the BJP; (b) thinking BJP voters have now largely been replaced by bhakt voters; and (c) the BJP is now a much more powerful fascist force in being able to ensure electoral victories. It is almost certain that the BJP is likely to come back to power with greater numbers, and in that case it will throw out all its pretensions of Hindutva and come out in its full bhasmāsur-rūp for the destruction of Hinduism and Indian culture. The voters will have given them full license to continue on their present course with no compunctions of any kind.
In the circumstance, there is only one solution: all Hindu political and intellectual forces disillusioned with the BJP’s treacheries should come together and form a new, truly and genuinely, Hindu political party with a full-fledged and truly Hindutvavadi agenda, and stand for elections as a new political force (having alliances, wherever possible, with smaller caste or regional parties, if any, who have no objection to Hindutva ideology).
“But this (if it turns out to be in any degree effective) will surely cut into the BJP votes, and help the secular parties?” But yes, that is the main objective. Unless the BJP finds that its Hindu vote-bank is being adversely affected, it will never bother to stop its treacheries. Once such an alternate Hindu party enters the election arena on an all-India level with a potential to cut into the BJP’s votes, the BJP (if it has the slightest sense) will have to have an alliance with this party (if it manages to show sufficient electoral strength) and will then be forced to do something for Hindus and Indian culture. This is the only solution.
The two very big obstacles are:
1. The different personal egos, vested interests and other prejudices of the different Hindu-minded people and groups which will prevent them from coming together and successfully following such a course.
2. The powerful weapons in the hands of the BJP (the IT dept, ED, CBI, etc.), the powerful legions of mindless bhakts that have been created all over India in the last decade, and the Breaking India forces (for whom a BJP government is actually the most ideal situation), all of which will then train all their guns on the new Hindu alternative and destroy it in its formation stages itself.
Whatever that may be, this is the only solution to save Hinduism and India from a dark future. Otherwise, of course, not voting and voting NOTA are still there as (admittedly very ineffective) options.
[As a footnote, let me add that for me personally, Hindu-Hindutva issues are one of three equal concerns, the other two being Ecological-Environmental issues, and issues of Socio-Economic-Justice. The BJP stands opposed (in its attitude and policies) to all three of these, and I really cannot envisage any possible scenario in which there could be an alternative political formation to whom all these three issues would be important. Even hoping for, let alone expecting, such an alternative to emerge is an impossible situation. So I have confined my article to only the first of the three sets of issues].
Epilogue: The Parivar Brigades Start Striking: Added 3-2-2023:
I wrote in my article above about “the powerful legions of mindless bhakts that have been created all over India in the last decade, and the Breaking India forces (for whom a BJP government is actually the most ideal situation), all of which will then train all their guns on the new Hindu alternative and destroy it in its formation stages itself.“
After this, I will ignore the barking of the dogs of the BJP Animal Farm (for those who think I am using the word “dogs” here as a pejorative, please read George Orwell’s Animal Farm). But as it is the first relatively mild shot fired at me, I take cognizance of the following tweeter who has chosen to attack me within a day after my article was put up.
After ranting against the article, and referring reverently to the BJP as having “used every trick in the political book to correct blunders, learn and grow“, he accuses me of having “the strange trait of the Hindu Middle Class“: “They know hard work, commitment, sacrifice, reflection, self-improvement – begets success. But the moment they see this in others, they want to bring them down“. And then ends with:
If there is one thing that the tweets show, it is that the tweeter very definitely represents the Spirit of the Parivar (and not the Spirit of Hindutva): Guru Golwalkar (and that too at a time when the Parivar, if not its political wing, was definitely more genuinely Hindutvavadi than it is now) had advised the RSS swayamsevaks not to waste their time reading anything and just to participate in RSS activities and put faith in the organization. This tweeter has clearly taken that advice very much to heart. He has not bothered to read the very widely publicized anti-Hindu activities of the BJP government which (each one of them) has been very widely criticized by genuine Hindus repeatedly in all the social media. If he still does not know what is meant by a “Hindu agenda“, if he thinks the BJP has been correcting its “blunders” (the only blunders they have corrected are the one made in 1984 of openly admitting that they had abandoned the Hindu agenda, and the one they made in 2004 of telling their followers not to stress on Hindu issues and concentrate exclusively on stressing “India Shining” issues), and if he thinks that the BJP have a record of “commitment and “sacrifice“, then he is a perfect example of the most naïve of the blind bhakts who have formed active brigades in the social media.
postscript: I am very sorry, but I could not resist this one: here is a tweet someone sent me which goes to an extreme level of viciousness combined with extreme stupidity:
Yes, believe it or not! This self-styled AgentSaffron (logically it should be AgentSaffronGreen) wants to punish me, for criticizing his political Gods, by “boycotting” the OIT!! How exactly does one “boycott” the OIT? Tomorrow if one of the Shankaracharyas criticizes the BJP, this prophet will ask his followers to “boycott” Adi Shankaracharya, and if some Hindu group criticizes the BJP, he will ask them to boycott Hinduism!! As a matter of fact, by militantly backing the BJP’s anti-Hindu acts, such people have already mentally “boycotted” all Hindu issues (including the OIT), but even then this open declaration of intent is amazing.
post-postscript: I am told in two comments by readers that the tweet by AgentSaffron was a piece of sarcasm against the bhakts, and that AgentSaffron is not really a bhakt himself. If that is true, then I sincerely apologize to him for my above postscript.