Book Review: A nationalist narrative – Anirban Ganguly

Hindu Nationalism

Dr Anirban GangulyAwakening Bharat Mata: The Political Beliefs of the Indian Right by Swapan Dasgupta. Published by Penguin Viking. Pages 440. Price Rs 699. Available on Amazon.

Swapan Dasgupta’s magnum opus, Awakening Bharat Mata: The Political Beliefs of the Indian Right, comes across as an inspiring, fascinating, thought-provokingly rich tour d’horizon which articulates and delineates the contours of the nationalist political narrative in India.

The prefatory chapters discussing the political context of the book, the delineation of the rise of the Hindu political narrative, the logical and cogent argumentations, the wide sweep of references and parallels, the analysis and contextualisation of conservatism and its examination in the Indian cultural and political milieu make the reading of this opus an exercise that is challenging and yet enriching.

The reader is bound to emerge elevated having partaken of the flavours “of the different attitudes that have characterised interventions of the right in public life”.

With the advantage of having a close view of momentous political developments over the last three decades, having prolifically written about these, and articulated and interpreted their ramifications and unfolding, Swapan Dasgupta’s interpretation of the evolution of the political narrative of the Indian “right”—read nationalists—is both interesting and authentic.

If the author’s aim was “to narrow the apparent mismatch between the Indian right’s political clout and the disdain with which it is viewed in the citadels of intellectual power”, then he has amply succeeded in that effort. India’s right too had its share of intellectuals.

Many of these intellectual giants were deliberately “airbrushed from intellectual imagination”, this volume, through masterstrokes of thoughts, contemplation and interpretations, has revived those airbrushed intellectuals and has again placed them at the centre of our discourse, our intellectual struggle to shape a New India.

Swapan DasguptaThe author almost lyrically states his objective of the need for a cultural self-recovery, of a restating of the political thought-world that gave life to the nationalist narrative and then to channelise it to propel the quest for a New India.

He writes, “The themes that preoccupied conservative thinkers quietly resisting colonial encroachments are no doubt important as history. But many of these preoccupations did not die out with the onset of Independence and the recovery of national sovereignty.

“They have persisted as guiding forces in contemporary India. The idea of national resurgence is as important in a globalised 21st-century setting as it was in the India of the mid-19th century. The ideas that drove Indians of an earlier age have persisted in one form or another in shaping contemporary politics. The quest for a New India has invariably involved the rediscovery of an Old India.”

True, it is not a comprehensive documentation of the ideational world of Indian nationalist thought but it gives a wide sweep by including seminal personalities and their key texts and writings.

The selection made from Bankim Chandra, Sri Aurobindo, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Sister Nivedita, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, to Ramananda Chatterjee, R.C. Majumdar, RG Bhandarkar, Sardar Patel, Sita Ram Goel, N.C. Chatterjee, Jadunath Sarkar, V.S. Naipaul, Nirad Chaudhuri, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, Girilal Jain and S. Gurumurthy, exactly does that which the author has argued. It demonstrates how the foundational ideas for national resurgence in its many dimensions persisted through the ages and continued to shape discourse to the present times.

The author could have included a text from M.S. Golwalkar, though he does discuss Golwalkar, focusing on his discarded text We or Our Nationhood Defined.

The essential Golwalkar is to be found beyond that callow tract. One also misses the inclusion of Dharampal, a contemporary of Sita Ram Goel and one who was among the most prolific articulators of this quest for a national resurgence. But perhaps these could be included in a sequel that must naturally follow such a volume.

For those who had asked where are the intellectuals of the Indian right, this is a must-read volume. For those who wish to embark on a deeper quest to internalise the essence of the evolution of the narrative of Bharat Mata, this is one work that cannot be ignored or omitted. – The New Indian Express, 1 September 2019

Dr Anirban Ganguly is the director of the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.

Awakening Bharat Mata Cover


The Liberal Mafia: Entitled, assertive, vindictive and deeply biased – Minhaz Merchant

Narendra Modi

Minhaz MerchantThe liberal mafia is ruthless with ideological opponents. It hunts in packs. It tries to intimidate those with contrarian views. It boycotts and it disparages. – Minhaz Merchant

You can recognise them by their body language: deliberate, entitled, assertive. Most come from solid middle-class backgrounds. They studied hard, became journalists, historians, politicians, filmmakers and activists.

They call themselves liberal.

They are anything but.

Liberalism’s first law requires open-mindedness. Their minds are closed. Liberalism’s second law demands even-handedness. They outrage selectively. The third law of liberalism is the one they flout most flagrantly—tolerance.

Tolerance—not to injustice or wrongdoing, but tolerance to contrarian points of view.

Their overpowering hate for Prime Minister Narendra Modi poisons their arguments.

I believe—and have written so unequivocally over the years—that Modi has erred grievously on economic reforms, failed to control louts in the BJP, robbed institutions of their independence, and indulged those in the party with regressive views on science.

That doesn’t mean everything that Modi does has to be viewed through a prism of prejudice.

There are shades of grey and areas of nuance that escape the clogged minds of those who pose as liberals but who fail the fourth law of liberalism—balance.

The liberal mafia behaves like, well, the mafia. It is ruthless with ideological opponents. It hunts in packs. It tries to intimidate those with contrarian views. It boycotts and it disparages.

This is graphically illustrated by the open letter addressed to the Prime Minister by 49 “eminent” citizens.

The letter has received a response from 62 well-known citizens. The matter is open for a broader debate on the truly liberal approach to the issues both letters address.

Take politics first.

The BJP is certainly not a liberal party. It has a narrow view on LGBTQIA+ rights. It stutters over an open economy in order to protect its trader vote base. It uses communal and casteist elements in the party to polarise the electorate. It is obsessed with global rankings on innovation, ease of doing business and sundry other parameters, betraying an insecurity complex.

But the BJP is fortunate that the Opposition is even less liberal—the Congress violates every principle of liberalism by placing loyalty to the Gandhis above merit. Regional parties like the TMC, SP, BSP and RJD use religion and caste even more damagingly than the BJP.

In this hopeless miasma of ill-liberalism, the duty of “public intellectuals” is to raise the level of debate, not resort to ideological score-settling. The criticism of well-meaning citizens would be taken more seriously if it was more balanced.

Of course, Muslims and Christians need protection from the mindless lynch mobs that take the law into their own hands. But the criticism loses credibility if it is one-sided.

Terrible violence afflicts states like West Bengal. And, yet, few “public intellectuals” write stern open letters to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Similarly, none of these public intellectuals has written open letters to the Abdullahs or Muftis on the near-genocidal exile of four lakh Kashmiri Pandits.

It is a severe indictment of these intellectuals—the definition sits uneasily on many of their heads—that they don’t realise how ineffective their criticism is rendered by targeting a narrow ideological strain.

Many criticisms of the BJP are valid. The party has not done enough for mainstream Muslims, though Muslims themselves have contributed to their own plight by being willing political pawns for the Opposition.

The BJP and Modi need constructive criticism to keep a majority government in check, demand accountability and ensure good governance. We also need to hear from more voices within the government besides Modi and Amit Shah.

As they did in the triple talaq Parliamentary debate, more BJP MPs must be encouraged to speak up. Of the party’s 303 MPs, it would be a challenge for most voters to identify more than 30 by name.

The last thing India needs is the BJP mutating into the Congress with its feudal high command culture, voiceless MPs, sycophancy, nepotism and arrogance.

Over decades of feudal Congress governments, an ecosystem of entitlement has been created. Modi and the BJP have used the wrong strategy to create an alternative ecosystem based on fairness and equality, not nepotism and favouritism. For example, the focus on promoting Hindi is fine in principle but neglecting English, the world’s lingua franca, is a mistake. Correcting history textbooks is again good in principle—but replacing outdated colonial and Mughal versions with mythology is regressive.

What liberal intellectuals—those who are really liberal and really intellectual—need to do is support issues, not ideologies based on false Left and Right paradigms.

Here are two illustrative examples:

On LGBTQIA+ rights, freedom of expression and gender equality, lean Left.

On free markets, an open economy and foreign investment, lean Right.

In short, don’t be trapped in a left-wing or a right-wing bunker. Be a liberal on social policies and a liberal on economic policies.

What about religion and caste? India is unfortunately hostage to both. But in an evolved democracy, the only litmus test for liberalism is to be caste-agnostic and religion-agnostic. Condemn violence wherever it occurs, whoever be the victim and whoever the perpetrator.

In the end, the two qualities that define the true liberal are fairness and balance.

On that count, the 49 letter-writers fail the test. – Daily-O, 29 July 2019

› Minhaz Merchant is the biographer of Rajiv Gandhi and Aditya Birla. He is a media group chairman and editor, and author of The New Clash of Civilizations.

The Ill-liberal 49ers


Video: Dr Swamy’s Election Strategy – Rajiv Malhotra

The majoritarian myth – Minhaz Merchant

Indian Pluralism

Minhaz MerchantAcross much of the world, majoritarianism now holds sway. In Trump’s America it is reflected in the hostility to immigration. In Britain, it manifests itself in xenophobia, a retreat to Little England. Both Britain and the US unabashedly declare themselves Christian-majority countries. … In India, by contrast, “majoritarian” Modi breaks bread with Muslm clerics and Christian bishops. – Minhaz Merchant

Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May 2014, prophets of doom have made three prophecies: first, that India will be wracked by communal riots; second, that dissent will be stifled; and third, that India’s global reputation as a liberal democracy will be irreparably damaged.

All three predictions have proved false, both empirically and qualitatively. That doesn’t mean Modi escapes blame entirely. The Prime Minister has been a good executor of innovative schemes in sanitation, financial inclusion, digitisation, infrastructure, rural electrification and many other sectors. But a strange dichotomy has pervaded his prime ministership.

Modi has proved a closet Nehruvian by relying on the public sector to drive the economy. Instead of privatising white elephants like MTNL and Air India, the government has poured more good money into them. Worse, instead of modernising the bureaucracy, Modi has doubled down on a corroded IAS hierarchy to run key ministries like finance, defence and civil aviation. Institutions have been stunted by placing favoured ideologues in them rather than individuals of true merit.

However, what Modi-baiters feared most—a sharp rise in communal riots on his watch—has not transpired. Examine the evidence. According to IndiaSpend, a fact-checking site, communal incidents spiked 28 per cent between 2014 and 2017 (an annualised increase of 9 per cent) with 822 “incidents” recorded in 2017 alone. However, this was lower than the decade-high figure of 943 communal incidents recorded in 2008.

Incidents of lynchings over cow slaughter and the free rein given to gaurakshaks, especially in polarised Uttar Pradesh, have led the Opposition to argue that while widespread communal riots have not occurred on Modi’s watch due to fear of majoritarian reprisals, an atmosphere of hostility against Muslims has been deliberately built up by incendiary communal statements by BJP MPs and MLAs.

The actor Naseeruddin Shah reflected this view when he declared:  “There is complete impunity for those who take the law into their own hands. In many areas, we are witnessing that the death of a cow is more significant than that of a police officer.”

Three years ago actor Aamir Khan’s wife Kiran Rao declared her intention to leave India (she hasn’t so far) owing to the growing atmosphere of intolerance. Meanwhile, dozens of websites have sprung up over the past three years tearing into the Modi government on a daily basis. In a vibrant democracy strong criticism of the government, however motivated, is better than fawning sycophancy that several mainstream media outlets have adopted.

Dissent in Modi’s India, contrary to the prophecies of doom, is alive and well though it often degenerates into personal abuse of the prime minister. Much the same happens in mature democracies like Britain and the United States where Prime Minister Theresa May and President Donald Trump face vituperative abuse from public and press. They take it in their stride as should Modi.

And the third prophecy? If the Modi government hasn’t sparked communal riots or stifled dissent, surely it has damaged India’s global reputation? Not quite. China has retreated from its confrontational position with India into a warm embrace.

Beijing recognises that an increasingly hostile Washington will make India the balancing global power in the evolving geopolitics of the future. Sri Lanka and the Maldives are back in India’s camp. With the political influence of post-Brexit Britain likely to decline and both France and Germany immersed in domestic problems, India’s global role is set to expand.

Meanwhile, across much of the world, majoritarianism now holds sway. In Trump’s America it is reflected in the hostility to immigration. In Britain, it manifests itself in xenophobia, a retreat to Little England. Both Britain and the US unabashedly declare themselves Christian-majority countries as former British Prime Minister David Cameron said publicly in 2015 and President Trump says repeatedly at every rally.

In India, by contrast, “majoritarian” Modi breaks bread with Shia clerics and church bishops. Ironically, it is secular Hindus who have succeeded in instilling fear in minorities. They alienate the Hindu majority by appeasing rather than empowering Muslims. On Modi’s watch, the attitude of the average Hindu has hardened against Muslims because he sees a conspiracy between self-declared secular Hindus on the one hand and Muslim-appeasing political parties like the Congress, SP, NCP and RJD on the other.

A strong cabal in media, civil society and Bollywood uses the myth of majoritarianism as a bludgeon. Actor Kangana Ranaut put it bluntly: “I am the most liberal person I know. Self-proclaimed liberals can’t rattle me by trying to seek attention. Their agenda is to go against the government, protest against the national anthem, but how are they standing up for the country? Our situation needs to be rectified by a strong set of ideals. The earlier government played on dividing the majority and minority because the latter sticks together and votes flock in. Governments can’t be partial to either side. Our religions are beautiful but we must subscribe to nationalism to bind us together.”

Muslims themselves are divided. Shias, Bohras and Memons, traditionally mercantile, feel no fear from majoritarianism. It is the nexus between self-appointed secular Hindus, Sunni fundamentalists and political parties fishing in troubled waters that have given rise to the myth of Indian majoritarianism.

»  Minhaz Merchant is the biographer of Rajiv Gandhi and Aditya Birla. He is a media group chairman and editor, and the author of The New Clash of Civilizations.

Modi with Muslims


BJP still the favourite to win in 2019 – Jay Bhattacharjee

Narendra Modi

Jay BhattacharjeeIt is quite obvious that the rag-tag opponents of the current government, ranging from Sonia Gandhi to the Yadav clan and Mayawati’s group, have a feudal mindset that is as far removed from 20th and 21st century socio-political ideologies as can be possible. The think tanks of the Indic civilisation forces must continue to emphasise this and highlight it in the run-up to May 2019. – Jay Bhattacharjee

The electoral jamboree in five states of the Republic ended a few days ago and has understandably generated the usual hoopla in political circles and the media. Although one understands the compulsions of the in-house pundits in the newspapers and TV channels to come out with instant homilies, it is also necessary for some of us to reflect carefully before issuing Homeric pronouncements.

In May 2014, this commentator, in the good company of a large number of confreres, was sufficiently enthused like some observers of milestone events like the French Revolution (or even the Russian Revolution) that had caused seismic regime changes. Admittedly, we didn’t go as far as Wordsworth’s poetic effort of “bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven’’.

However, on a prosaic level, we all felt that the stench of graft and criminality of the previous UPA lot and its predecessors was overwhelming and the new lot in Raisina Hill, led by the charismatic Narendra Modi and his lieutenants, seemed like a breath of fresh air.

Inevitably, such high expectations led to disappointments in a number of areas. Nevertheless, the replacement bunch did carry out some major course corrections that were long overdue. The score card was reasonably positive on the whole but the new team also shot themselves in the feet much too frequently. More on this later.

In the last four and a half years, the path of the “saffron” administration, as the ever-critical Western media and the home-grown media labelled it so glibly, was hardly strewn with roses. The residual legacy of the previous lot was so tainted that an enormous cleansing effort was necessary. This was where Modi and his colleagues hardly breasted the tape. Even the baby steps they took were resolutely thwarted by the opposition both in the form of political opponents and more importantly, in the form of institutional frameworks that the country had progressively developed since independence and even earlier.

As sociologists and historians have said for centuries, if any system is so venal and mothballed, partial or gradual change is never a solution. This does not mean that reform must be in the form of drastic jettisoning of every element in the old order. That happens only in the case of revolutions. Nevertheless, in democratic structures, it is possible to bring about radical reform if the successor regime is focused, determined, efficient and resilient. If the leadership of the successor regime is somehow compromised or insufficiently motivated to throw out the junk and the skeletons from the rotting cupboards, then the morass continues.

This is what happened to the new dispensation that took over in May 2014. Most of the systemic and structural changes they tried to initiate were attempted very hesitatingly and tentatively. In hindsight, it seems that the amateurish and ham-handed performance by the new administration was also because of the inbuilt forces that were opposed to any drastic change in the national governance system. These residual elements were remnants of the old order—classic examples of rear-guard forces that displaced regimes invariably leave behind, in order to sabotage the successors who have succeeded them.

A few months ago, this writer studied various aspects of regime change and how clearly defined pressure groups / interest groups worked in tandem to oppose the new administration. These forces saw that their vital positions were under threat and they utilised all means, fair and foul (mostly the latter) to protect their bailiwicks.

It is useful to list out, once again, these forces that are resolutely united in their opposition to the Modi government:

• Sections of the bureaucracy at all levels, who feel threatened by the measures taken recently to introduce some semblance of accountability in the administration.

• Certain eminences in the judiciary.

• Crony capitalists ranging from the top business groups to the local kirana shop owners, all of whom thrived on tax evasion and looting the financial institutions.

• The managers of rural—often caste-based—vote banks, who do not want their roles as intermediaries to be diminished.

• Religious pressure groups, often financed from abroad, whose allegiances and loyalties are to institutions based outside India.

• Academicians and “intellectuals” who had long supped from the deep pool of resources supplied by the previous rulers, and who were being marginalised after May 2014.

• Small / regional political parties that have acted as power brokers in some parts of the country and have built up critical mass and a war-chest of funds.

Logically, in the next four to five months before the national elections, the BJP-NDA strategists should target these forces in their campaigns. The country’s citizens have a long list of grudges against the forces listed above and there is a ground-swell of resentment, that has developed over many decades, against these elements. This resentment needs to be used to the advantage of the Indic forces.

History has demonstrated time and time again that the forces of status quo who have run private fiefdoms for centuries and resorted to lies, half-truths and fabrications to buttress their power and privileges must be fought resolutely. It is folly of the highest order to adopt a wall-flower stance with these satraps. In my recent essay in Swarajya, this point has been highlighted strongly.

In fact, George Orwell’s epic dictum needs to be remembered in the Indian context: from 1947 onwards, the ruling Congress satraps had established such a complete control over the mindset of our country’s citizens that most of them were prepared to believe “that two and two made five”. In fact, it is quite obvious that the rag-tag opponents of the current government, ranging from Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to the Yadav clan and Mayawati’s group, have a feudal mindset that is as far removed from 20th and 21st century socio-political ideologies as can be possible. The think tanks of the Indic civilisation forces must continue to emphasise this and highlight it in the run-up to May 2019.

In the final segment of this essay, it must be emphasised that the BJP led alliance must highlight its “wish list” clearly and unambiguously in its campaign for the 2019 hustings. The following is a logical list of plans and programmes, not necessarily in any order of priority, that the Indic forces should project before the national electorate:

1. Better governance, including bureaucratic and political accountability;

2. Meaningful judicial accountability, particularly in the case of the Supreme Court and the High Courts;

3.  Bringing in an iron-fisted approach to corporate offences, economic and business crimes;

4. Turbocharging the economy, with special emphasis on employment generation;

5. Looking after our armed forces, defence and national security, and making sure the babus do not downgrade and demean the nation’s sword-arm;

6. Preserving, promoting and defending India’s civilisational and cultural heritage, leading eventually to a national renaissance, and

7. Combating the critical health and environmental degradation issues.

As a long-time follower of Ogden Nash, I feel he should have the last words that are clearly meant for the denizens of 10 Janpath and 24 Akbar Road as well as their accomplices elsewhere:

I’m an autocratic figure in these democratic states.
A dandy demonstration of hereditary traits.
My position at the apex of society I owe
To the qualities my parents, bequeathed me long ago.

While this poem summarises the Lutyens Zone cabal perfectly, the biting sarcasm is not at all applicable to Prime Minister Modi and his team. And, ideally, the latter should appropriately leverage the underlying sentiments of the great satirist with the Indian electorate in the next few months, so that they are given a renewed mandate. – Swarajya, 14 December 2018

» Jay Bhattacharjee is a policy and corporate affairs analyst based in New Delhi.

Sonia & Rahul


BJP’s Lok Sabha majority is alienating the party from its Hindu base – R. Jagannathan

Narendra Modi & Amit Shah

R. JagannathanThe Modi government, despite having a Lok Sabha majority, has actually done little to push any Hindu agenda, leave alone a Ram temple. – R. Jagannathan

With the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backing the idea of promulgating a law to enable the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Narendra Modi government has been pushed into a corner. It will be damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t.

A law, of course, won’t get the temple. Even if the Centre promulgates an ordinance to enable a Ram temple to be constructed at the Ram Janmabhoomi site, it is by no means certain that the Rajya Sabha will pass it too when the ordinance comes up for legislation. Moreover, the law will be challenged in the Supreme Court, thus bringing us back to square one. At best, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can claim that it did the best, and that is the only purpose of making such a demand before the polls.

There is also another political reality. Any temple built against the wishes, or without at least the grudging acquiescence, of the Muslim parties involved in the court challenge, will become a permanent target for terrorists and spark more communal discord in its wake. Barring a few fringe elements, ordinary Hindus will not want this to happen.

A third reality: compromise solutions are less likely with the BJP in power, unless they are driven by unconnected third parties, since it will always be seen as Hindu bullying of the minorities. The Modi government, despite having a Lok Sabha majority, has actually done little to push any Hindu agenda, leave alone a Ram temple, but it is stuck with the perception that it is doing so. The more the BJP pushes for a Ram temple, the greater will be the opposition to it. So, Congress leader C.P. Joshi’s boast, that only a Congress prime minister can get the Ram temple built, is not far off the mark. If the Congress wants to, it will fit the role of honest broker between the two sides better than the BJP for the simple reason that it is not seen as trying to shove the idea down Muslim throats. When given a choice of deciding whether the Congress or the BJP should be given the credit for building the temple, Muslims inclined to accept a compromise will most probably plump for the Congress.

Branded as a Hindu party in terms of popular perceptions, the BJP has to prove itself to be more secular than the Congress in order to hold the broad middle ground in politics. This is probably one reason why, despite having a Lok Sabha majority, the BJP managed to do almost nothing for its core constituency.

Counter-intuitively, one can say that the broader the base of your party, the narrower your policy choices, for you have to keep the interests of your diverse voter bases in mind. Conversely, the narrower your voter base, the more likely are you to keep them happy – and exercise real power.

Consider the power and clout of the Indian Union Muslim League in Kerala. With a Muslim population share of 27 per cent, the league wields more power than the Congress in the state, which is in the secular middle, and thus unable to take strong positions on any issue. The same applies to the Kerala Congress and Christian politicians in the Congress. They wield more power because they do not have to speak for the entire electorate.

When it comes to the BJP, its core Hindu vote is probably around 15-20 per cent, and it would be more powerful and truer to its base if it focused on keeping this group happy than trying to expand its base endlessly, which makes it increasingly irrelevant to its base. The BJP’s natural base, in terms of Lok Sabha seats, is in the range of 100-180 seats, and its power will increase if it can leverage this base in future parliaments. Future coalitions will be happy to have a party with this many seats backing it. It means the BJP can bargain hard for its key demands—whether it is a Ram temple or a ban on conversions or something else. Even if it does not get everything, it can get something, and its base will be happy.

At 282 seats, the BJP is forced to be all things to all people. Thus, it cannot deliver anything to its core voter base. At 100-180 seats, it will wield more power than almost any party in India in an era of coalitions. Even when out of power, its sheer size will force all other parties to agree to at least one part of the agenda.

Maybe, just maybe, the BJP should consider backing the idea of proportional representation in parliament. In the vote range of 20-30 per cent, depending on which way the wind is blowing, it will never get less than 110-170 seats, come what may. It will either be a powerful opposition voice, or a key player in government. – Swarajya Magazine, 10 December 2018

» R. Jagannathan is the editorial director of Swarajya Magazine.

Ram Temple in Court


India needs Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s visionary politics – Daily-O

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya

Daily-OPandit Deendayal Upadhyaya conceived a classless, casteless and conflict-free social order. He stressed on the ancient Indian wisdom of oneness of the human kind. For him the brotherhood of a shared, common heritage was central to political activism. – Daily-O Edit

He was born ordinary, lived like a commoner and died mysteriously, during a train journey at night from Lucknow to Patna. His body was found on February 11, 1968, by a railway man on the track near Mughalsarai station and initially nobody recognised the dead. The police would have buried it as unidentified but for a Jana Sangh worker in the crowd that collected around the corpse yelling it’s “Deendayalji”. Within minutes, the entire nation was mourning the tragedy that swamped the then second largest party in the country.

The murder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh president, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya still remains unresolved. Forty-eight years have passed, the party he nurtured has evolved into BJP, growing to be the largest in the world, and is preparing to mark the half century of the ideology he envisaged, integral humanism. And 2016 also happens to be the birth centenary of Upadhyaya. He was not a fabulous man but he influenced two generations of workers because of the intensity of his passion to transform lives of ordinary Indians. The Narendra Modi government is slated to unleash elaborate plans to mark the occasion.

Upadhyaya is unarguably the most iconic personality produced by the Sangh school of thought and his basic effort was to establish the role of ideology in electoral polity. For he lived at a time when the distinctiveness of ideological sharpness was getting blurred in the market of political pragmatism.

The historic and political significance of the massive mandate the BJP won in 2014 is yet to be fully analysed. And the role Upadhyaya’s strategic formulations and theoretical compass that laid the foundation for this will be aspects of focus in this centenary celebrations. This will be an occasion to recast, to reinvent the canvas on which the BJP ideological format was designed.

Already dozens of welfare projects named after him are running in states ruled by the BJP. NDA at the centre has launched some schemes and more are on the anvil as part of the celebrations. Upadhyaya conceived a classless, casteless and conflict-free social order. He stressed on the ancient Indian wisdom of oneness of the human kind. For him the brotherhood of a shared, common heritage was central to political activism. He emphasised on co-existence and harmony with nature. Not sustainable development, but sustainable consumption was his advise to planners. His ideas came as a fresh breeze of soothing creativity and he inspired a generation of party leaders to create a new political system which was free from the dialectics of competition and envy. He conceptualised a third way from the inertia of capitalism and communism.

Ideology has something that is immutable about it. After globalisation, the fall of communism and the end of Congress party dominance in Indian polity, the BJP has become the sole ideological pole, which is essentially Indian in its approach. As an RSS pracharak he was eager to continue in the same field. But on the formation of the Jana Sangh he was given the charge of organising the new party and after the martyrdom of Dr Syama Prasad Mookherjee, the entire responsibility of building it fell on him.

He shaped the party very different. His was a cadre-based mass organisation. Politics for him was a means to an end. Not an end in itself. For most BJP leaders trained under him this was the case.

Upadhyaya was a pioneer of many political experiments. He was the architect of the first coalition phase in Indian politics. The Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD) experiments of the post-1967 election when Congress was routed in every state from Punjab to West Bengal Upadhyayaalong with Dr Ram Manohar Lohia worked to unite all anti-Congress parties and form alternatives in state after state. During that period, communists also joined his campaign and shared power in Bihar with the Jana Sangh. Upadhyaya was an innovative politician and he created a paradigm for future politicians to follow.

The 2014 victory of BJP was a clear vindication and reaffirmation of ideology in politics. All the opposition during the poll campaign and after the formation of the new government is essentially a reiteration of the tectonic shift that has reshaped and reconstructed Indian polity. Upadhyaya’s idea of antyodaya is at the centre of this policy shift that is taking place in governance. He was an advocate of less government and more governance. He believed in self-sustaining autonomous units, more power to states and decentralised and competitive federalism, solidly cemented on the cultural mosaic of our tradition, heritage and experience of the past.

No other contemporary of Upadhyaya has left such a lasting trail on the politics as he did. This mainly was because he attracted the attention of thousands of youngsters who worked tirelessly to carry on the legacy. Perhaps, it was rooted in Indian ethos or because it was further moulded, chiselled and shaped; reinterpreted, reviewed and researched by a number of eminent social and political leaders and thinkers in the country.

M. S. Golwalkar, Dattopant Thengadi, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhairon Singh Sekhawat, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L. K. Advani, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, P. Parameswaran, Narendra Modi, Dr Mahesh Chandra Sharma and many others have further researched, practised and propagated Upadhyaya’s theory in their writings, speeches and policies, making it the relevant contemporary political philosophy in India. More research and literature is being created during the centenary year.

His basic tenet held that the cadre should never become comfort loving and the leadership status conscious. – Daily-O, 10 February 20160

Integral humanism (India)