By picking an extreme, anti-Muslim, anti-non Hindu cleric as the UP CM, Modi and Amit Shah have stopped hiding behind 'development'
A performer takes a selfie with PM Modi at an event organised on the occasion of Telugu New Year, Ugadi, in New Delhi on Sunday. Pic/PTI
After all that talk about development and India taking its rightful place in the world (the top, duh), we now reach the main focus of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its electoral victories: Hindutva.
In fact, there should never have been any doubt about this. The BJP's core voter strength and identification is Hindutva. It is a public embrace and effective dispensation of Hindutva that made Narendra Modi the Chief Minister of Gujarat several times over. And Hindutva is why Modi and the BJP won in 2014.
Yes, there were people who truly believed the promises of "development" such as we had not seen for 70 years. Some of these unfortunates were voters. Some of these even more unfortunates belonged to India's religious minorities, who were tired of the status quo, of being "appeased" and of their religious leaders being given prominence over their own hopes and aspirations.
Modiji was going to deliver. India was going to look like all those photoshopped images of Gujarat that every gullible hopeful voter swallowed up. No matter if the pictures were of Singapore or San Francisco.
What development have we got? We are still reprising old UPA bills and acts and ideas, from the National Rural Employment Guarantee to the General Services Tax to the unique identity number mission. All these schemes were fought tooth and nail by the BJP and no less by Modi himself when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Now, they have been repackaged and recalibrated to become BJP ideas. And worse, the unique identity number is being enforced in insidious ways.
The other promise was "maximum governance, minimum government". But whatever you may think about the overnight demonetisation of 86 per cent of Indian currency, you ought to be able to see that it has increased the power of the government and the banks over you, starting with the Income Tax department. And more, recently, have a look at the Finance Bill which sneaked through Parliament as a "money bill", without debate. That's all government and no governance.
Of course, there's Clean India - how does it look outside your window, there's Clean the Ganga - which the courts have eviscerated as thousands of crores have vanished into Ganga sinkholes and the bogus plans for "Smart Cities". That is, any number of cosmetic schemes which have led to not even cosmetic changes.
And so, Hindutva. BJP president Amit Shah bombastically declared during the Bihar state elections that if the BJP lost, "Pakistan would celebrate Diwali". In UP, he made sure that the BJP would not lose. The agenda was set when the Prime Minister thundered about how UP needed more cremation grounds not more graveyards for Muslims, and Hindus should get more electricity during Diwali than Muslims get during Ramzan. Truth has nothing to do with election campaigns - which Shah himself also told us - and yet, there may be a chilling message in Modi's words.
By picking a rabid, anti-Muslim, anti-non Hindu cleric as the Chief Minister of UP, Modi and Shah have stopped hiding behind "development". It is as it always was: Hindutva. The first targets have been Muslims - butchers, meat exporters. The next target has been men and women who do not fit in with Hindutva's ideas of morality and how men and women should behave. Free rein has been given to vigilantes and core Hindutva groups on the pretext of "protecting women".
Many assumed that this huge mandate for Modi and the BJP in the 2014 general elections and in UP this month would lead the BJP to really establish itself as a national party beyond the narrow, divisive, petulant demands of Hindutva. But between the assumption and the reality falls the shadow as TS Eliot put it.
For the BJP, the way forward till 2019 and beyond is clearly Hindutva. The "masks" - as an RSS ideologue had evocatively put it decades ago -have all fallen away.
Renowned lawyer Fali Nariman has chillingly warned us that we cannot depend on the courts to save the idea of India as a democratic republic. The onus then falls on civil society to stop India from becoming a religious state.
Meanwhile, a minister in the BJP government in Rajasthan informs us that cows are the only animals that inhale and exhale oxygen. Chew the cud on that one if you think we are not in any danger.
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona. Send your feedback to email@example.com
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