Hindutva is the new political tabula rasa for opponents of the BJP. Rahul Gandhi’s costume parade across various temples, churches and mosques in Karnataka is prompted by the Congress performance in Gujarat in December 2017. Journalists were happy with ‘soft Hindutva’ since they are always looking for a new spin. And the Congress has realised political seventh heaven lies in God’s hands.
Siddaramaiah, the Karnataka chief minister and former atheist rediscovered Hindusim, and went a step further to create a new religion. Now Mamata Banerjee, aware of the rising saffron tide in Bengal, has discovered that Lord Ram is a Bengali and has allowed Ram Navami processions to carry along weapons—an incendiary decision in a state heavily polarised, thanks to her pandering to the minorities and mullahs.
Any successful formula is inevitably plagiarised. After weary decades of Secularism, Nehruvianism, Marxism, and Socialism, political Hinduism swept onstage in 2014 as the new ninja. For years, Indians hadn’t seen anything new in politics. Then came along Narendra Modi and the Modi-fied BJP. He brought with him the velocity of Hindutva reshaped in his image as “NaMoste India”.
If invention is the mother of necessity, reinvention is the father of obscurity. Now every political party wants to be Hindu. Even the Communist party has decided that religion is the cocaine of the masses— during festivals in Kerala, party rallies have mixed effigies of Marx and Lenin with Hindu gods. Modi and the BJP changed the narrative of Indian electoral politics, and the copycats are multiplying. The minorities are understandably alarmed, since their historical protectors seem to be converting to a disagreeable political faith.
The saffron party has never claimed to be secular. Modi is hell bent on reforming Islam in India; after successfully junking the Haj subsidy and banning triple talaq, his next targets are polygamy and ‘Nikah Halala’—practices that are anathema to any democracy. And understandably the new political Hindus are not crying saffron wolf.
The depressing thing about Indian politics is that no leader or party has had a single original thought for decades. Election ploys are reservation, improvised reservation and reckless reservation. Modi is the parent of political invention—in his 2014 campaign, he used holograms. Later he made radical moves, controversial moves like demonetisation and GST. He invented super cool slogans like Swachh Bharat, which found resonance among the youth. He used the hitherto ignored but powerful medium of the radio to reach the masses, especially students. Apps in his name made his ear accessible to ordinary people. He unleashed surgical strikes against Pakistan. All the while, without wearing Hindutva on his sleeve; it was already assumed. As 2019 gets closer, both supporters and opponents are waiting to see what new rabbit he would pull out of his hat.
Politics thrives on novelty. Narendra Modi’s greatest gift to India are new ideas. Controversial or not, they’ve changed the way we perceive democracy. The Opposition needs to abandon their newfound Hindutva path, and conceive an agenda that sets them apart from the BJP. For nearly a century, in various avatars, the BJP has stuck to its core beliefs. Regional leaders have their local dynamics to fall back on. The so-called Indian National Congress needs a fresh idea and ideology if it has to survive the next decade.