Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2014-12-18 00:00:00 Published on Dec 18, 2014
Narendra Modi came to power with an unexceptional agenda: push economic growth; transform the infrastructure; bring about a social transformation. But this agenda appears to be in danger of being drowned out by a cacophony of voices from Hindutva organisations.
Modi must moderate the Sangh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power riding on the crest of a wave of nationalism. Across the country, and, indeed, the world, Indians rallied to him as the person who would cut through the divisions of the past, fight corruption, energise India's foreign policy and provide the impetus to economic growth that would make India great again.

The PM's and his government's agenda have been unexceptional: push economic growth; transform the infrastructure of the country; bring about a social transformation that will make India a nation of better educated, highly-skilled people with clean streets and a good environment.

But this agenda appears to be in danger of being drowned out by a cacophony of voices from Hindutva organisations, with ideas that seek to not only divide the country, but to take it to a place which they think existed in the mythical past. Where the PM is emphasising a "new nationalism", the Hindutva outfits insist on what can politely be termed "cultural nationalism."


Having bested the Opposition parties at the hustings, Modi is finding his real headaches are coming from within the Sangh Parivar. This extensive family includes the parent Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh and autonomous organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, along with a clutch of organisations that pop up in these times like the Dharm Jagran Samiti and the various cow protection organisations.

The RSS agenda is well known and strongly articulated by its leader Mohan Bhagwat - that India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva is its identity. The other organisations have taken up issues ranging from conversion and genetically modified food, to Hindu girls allegedly being seduced by Muslim boys in a "love jihad."

Lending colour to all this are people like Dina Nath Batra and the new ICHR chief Y Sudarshan Rao, whose ideas of history are based more on imagination than fact, and plain kooks who believe that the Taj Mahal was a Shiv temple, that ancient Hindus cloned humans and developed nuclear weapons or that Gandhi's assassin was a patriot of some kind.

Their Hindutva upsurge arises from a sense of triumph in the Sangh Parivar based on Narendra Modi's election victory. They are now convinced that the time has finally come to put in place the agenda they have collectively been pushing for the past century.

But for Modi, this represents a dilemma. He knows that the support of these vociferous elements has been important for him, but he also knows they alone have not brought him victory; it is the support of the ordinary folk in India who want to better their conditions and want better healthcare and education and good jobs for their children.

In line with this, the Modi government has adopted the middle path. In his travels abroad, Modi has sought to showcase India's potential in a bid to attract investors and reach out to friends and adversaries all with a view of promoting and protecting Brand India.


Within the country he has taken the high road, avoiding divisive issues and, instead, advocating "nation-building" themes in his "Mann ki Baat" speeches such as the Swachch Bharat (Clean India) campaign, women's empowerment, and combating drug abuse. He has travelled to troubled peripheries like J&K, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura to spread his message of reconciliation and national development.

At the governmental level, Modi has adopted the incremental approach, tweaking policy, rather than coming out with bold new initiatives. In line with this, the government has opened up or increased FDI in railways, defence and realty.

The process of easing labour laws has begun, and the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has promised reform in the area of Goods and Service tax, insurance, land acquisition and coal.

In the last two areas, what the government is doing, Jaitley has pointed out, is undoing bad measures of the past.

So far Modi has not said anything about the RSS sarsanghchalak's pronouncements. He has actually gone out of his way to get his ministers to coordinate policy with the RSS brass. However, he has not hesitated to pull up his own team.


In the wake of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti's controversial remarks, Modi reproached his partymen strongly and privately he gave vent to his anger. But will he be equally blunt with those seeking to rake up the issue of conversions?

The issue of "Ghar Wapsi" (or the reconversion of Muslims and Christians to Hindus) is based on the belief their ancestors were converted to those faiths by force or chicanery in the past. This has been an old staple of the Sangh Parivar, notwithstanding the fact that there has been little mass conversion activity in India since independence.

But conversions are not the issue, the Parivar activists are seeking to stoke the fires of communalism by pushing the agenda of re-conversions.

Given the locus of many of these activities in UP, it is clear the aim is to utilise them to create the space for the BJP to displace the Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj parties in the next state assembly elections in 2017.

Victory in UP would be a capstone of Modi's electoral achievement. But that it could be at the cost of sectarian strife in the country should give him reasons to pause.

As of now, ordinary Muslims have an open mind on Modi, because they support his agenda of growth and development. But if they are humiliated and marginalised, there can only be bad consequences for the country.

Modi has ridden the Hindutva tiger to victory, but he should take care that he doesn't end up in its belly.

(The writer is a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a Contributing Editor, Mail Today)

Courtesy: Mail Today

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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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