Friday, January 17, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


The Modi effect on Indian polity

THE article “The Modi effect on Indian polity” (Jan 10) by Hari Jaisingh tries to answer the present riddle of the Indian polity — the unexpected and sensational victory of the BJP in the Gujarat Assembly elections and its mysterious fallout in other states. Besides this, the writer focuses on the present demoralisation of the Congress party also. But Mr Narendra Modi should not be glorified as he spat only venom during the election campaign in Gujarat.

Everybody knows in this country that the BJP leader whipped up communal sentiments and targeted the minorities at each of his election rally. That was not a positive trend in the Indian polity. No doubt, he is a messiah among the BJP workers today and the BJP will try its best to replicate the Gujarat experience in other states also.



Earlier, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr L.K. Advani and Mr Bhairon Singh Sekhawat kept the ship of the BJP afloat and now the latest discovery is Mr Narendra Modi (perhaps the most powerful hero of communal forces of the present times). This is also true, as the writer argues, they speak in different voices. They continue blowing hot and cold throughout the year.

Now look at the Congress and other national political parties. For the Congress, Mrs Sonia Gandhi is the supreme and undisputed leader. There is no dispute about the national President of this party but its state units are very badly divided. For instance, in Haryana alone, there are several Congress parties. Mr Bhajan Lal, Mr Bhupendra Singh Hooda, Mr Birender Singh and Mr Shamsher Singh Surjewala continue opposing one another. By and large, the story is the same in other states also. When elections are announced, the Congress party has never its would-be-Chief Minister or Prime Minister. For weeks together, a bitter infighting takes place on the allotment of the ticket. And when they lose elections, they stop moving among the common people.

Then, the Congress should not pander to the “soft Hindutva” line in order to counter the effect of the BJP in the country. Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and his colleagues are doing that job also most convincingly. The Congress President will have to strike an alliance with the Left and secular parties in the larger interest of the common people of India if she wishes to survive in politics for a long time. In the present contest, the common people don’t see much difference between the BJP and the Congress party. Both are being supported and funded by big industrialists and rich middle classes.

In my opinion, the entire political scenario of country stinks, it does not have anything positive to offer. It is fostering corruption, corrupt practices and perverted human values. The success story of Mr Modi points to the bitter truth of the present-day India — the politicians will continue befooling the masses here for decades in the name of religion and casteism.

R.B. YADAV DEHATI, Fatehabad

Remove artificial masks

Mr Modi’s victory at the hustings was no doubt due to his open call to the majority community to rally behind him. Does it amount to using the religious card? And what did others do?

The Punjab Chief Minister was deputed to address exclusive congregations of the members of his community in Gujarat and some religious leaders of the minority community from Delhi were asked to issue appeals to the members of their community. Is it not using the religious card?

Why are the political parties trying to befool the people by wearing different “mukhautas”? Why don’t they remove their artificial masks? And above all, why is it considered improper to woo a particular community as long as no ill-will for others is meant?

Wg Cdr C.L. SEHGAL (retd), Jalandhar

Positive discrimination

It will be evading the truth and harsh reality if one assigns the BJP’s thundering success in the Gujarat Assembly elections to the party’s aggressive postures and communal rhetoric or to Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s lack of understanding of the Swadeshi grassroots and the Congress being in the grip of a few sycophants. The fact is that the people in general have accepted the message, as conveyed by the Modi style of canvassing, that the majority community’s interests could not be undermined, overlooked or sacrificed in the name of secularism.

Any undue appeasement of the minority communities in the name of “positive discrimination” creates its own type of imbalance and discontent. The educated middle class, not just in Gujarat but throughout the country, feels that the majority community stands to lose, socially as well as politically, in the dirty vote-bank and caste politics being pursued by the likes of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and other Muslim leaders. The policy of secularism turns out to be no more than a poor and transparent mask and a hoax when all dos and don’ts are preached to the majority community.


Momentary phenomenon

I read with interest Hari Jaisingh’s article focusing attention on Mr Narendra Modi’s dazzling electoral victory in Gujarat just recently. To my mind, not only the Congress but also the BJP leadership was stupefied by the unexpected election results in the state in question as a very telling cartoon by Mr Sandeep Joshi (“In passing”, Jan 12) shows.

However, I think that the Modi phenomenon is just momentary and freak and that it would not last for long.

TARA CHAND, Ambota, (Una)

No smooth sailing

One thing that I could infer from Hari Jaisingh’s article is that Mrs Sonia Gandhi and her party do not seem to have any viable answer to counter the Modi effect. The party is almost clueless about the options it would exercise in the forthcoming elections after its poor showing in Gujarat. However, It will not be a smooth sailing this time for the BJP as it did in Gujarat owing to the “Hindutava card”. The anti-incumbency factor can play a vital role in these elections. We shouldn’t forget the outcome of the recent Assembly elections in Punjab where a party like the SAD fought the elections purely on communal grounds and failed miserably due to the anti-incumbency factor.


Congress is confused

The Modi effect has done more than just transform the BJP’s electoral fortunes. It has altered the language of electoral discourse: choose the enemy and attack him. It has redefined what is acceptable and unacceptable in the electoral arena: forthright Hindutva is in, wishy-washy secularism is out. Indeed, there is today no one in the BJP who hasn’t borrowed from the Modi lexicon. Phrases like Hindutva, minority appeasement and pseudo-secularism that the BJP had shelved under pressure from the allies are back with a vengeance.

The BJP’s biggest advantage is its ability to switch roles whenever it chooses to do so; the BJP can queer the pitch with Hindutva. After all, its core ideology is right wing — politically, culturally and economically. From the anti-cow-slaughter campaign in the sixties to the Babri demolition in 1992 to Gujarat in 2002, the party’s name has changed but not its ideology.

Where does all this leave the Congress? In a confused state, as the author has aptly remarked. If the BJP seems destined to rise, the opposite would seem in store for the Congress. It doesn’t look as if Sonia Gandhi is quite equal to the Sangh brand of aggressive politics. For all that Mrs Gandhi has matured politically, a heartening glimpse of which we saw recently in J&K. She is still a far cry from the elder Mrs Gandhi.


New role model

Mr Narendra Modi is a new role model for short-sighted politicians who are always on the look out to grab vote-banks without going into the consequences. Modi exploited the communal divide and reaped rich dividends. The same can’t be true in all parts of India. Himachal will never go the Gujarat way. The Hindutava factor is once again ruling the minds of the BJP think tank. They want to cash in on the Modi factor while donning secular masks.

KARNAIL SINGH, Ranjit Sagar Dam


Gender discrimination in religions

THE front-page news in your paper (Jan 3) that the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, has taken a public stand about women devotees being allowed to participate in all acts of seva, including the cleaning of the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple, Palki Sahib seva and performing kirtan inside Harmandar Sahib is a path-breaking revolutionary step.

Gender discrimination against women in religious affairs is a rueful phenomenon in all religions since centuries. In Hinduism no woman has ever ascended to any of the seats of Shankaracharya or similar other seat of sublime height or has been accepted as a Sant except for a Mirabai here or a Sahjobai there acceptable to the establishment as singing hymns to the glory of the Almighty.

Even Sikh women would have to be satisfied with what the Jathedar of Akal Takht has assured to strive for them. They might have to wait long for any active role in religious or spiritual matters.

I think many would agree that women who have given birth to all the Shankaracharyas, saints, prophets and popes should be given full freedom to play their rightful roles without any restraint or embargo in the spiritual and religious domains. It would certainly lead to more compassion, piety and humbleness in religions and will stem the atavistic tide of fundamentalism in religions.

R.C. KHANNA, Amritsar


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