By M D Deshpande
The BJP won a full majority in the Lok Sabha in 2014, with 282 seats out of 543, which would have been considered impossible until that time. The BJP won many state elections after that, but suffered huge defeats in 2015 in Delhi and Bihar, which were due to a combination of many factors, which included Opposition unity and media hit-jobs, such as the lie that Modi promised to deposit Rs 15 lakhs in everyone’s account (which he never did), or that his suit cost Rs 10 lakhs (while it cost less than Rs 10,000) or that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat asked for end of reservations (while he had openly supported them).
For some time after the 2014 Lok Sabha results, the Congress and other parties of the Opposition and the mainstream media went into depression and were left stunned with the wins of the BJP. But gradually they recovered, and started their campaign for 2019. While there are indeed many blind supporters of Narendra Modi, there are also many supporters who are not blind. The BJP’s enemies in the media and the politicians have always spread two mutually exclusive views about the party- that it is a rabid fundamentalist (‘communal’) party which will turn India into a theocratic Hindu State, and that it is an opportunistic party which merely uses religion for coming to power & is not serious to build Ram Mandir or for Hindutva.
It is quite a remarkable achievement on part of the BJP’s enemies to be able to spread both these views simultaneously and antagonize some people for both these things simultaneously. Many right-wing Hindus have turned opponents of the BJP on the second ground, falling for the claim that the BJP is an opportunist party not committed to the Hindu cause and has not done anything for the Hindus except lip service, while ‘secularist’ opponents have opposed the BJP Government as ‘authoritarian, majoritarian, anti-minority’ citing examples like killings of some people accused of slaughtering cows. That is reprehensible, since ban of cow slaughter can never be a license for human slaughter. But that was blown out of proportion by the media, a few isolated incidents were played up far too much. Of course, the reality is far closer to the second theory, of the BJP being a party more of lip service to the Hindus than actual work; it is by no means a ‘communal, authoritarian’ party.
Therefore, the BJP must now do many things for the cause of the Hindus which it claims to uphold, not only for the society but also for the sake of its own electoral win in 2019, for its supporters who are getting increasingly disillusioned. The things to be done are:
1. The Lok Sabha must pass a law to build Ram temple. A similar law called ‘Places of Worship Act’ was passed in 1991 in the Lok Sabha which said that all religious places in India will remain as they were on 15 August 1947, thereby denying the benefits of Independence to Hindus, and effectively refuting the Hindu claim on Kashi and Mathura. This law will have to be repealed or amended for Hindus to claim Kashi and Mathura. In this law, Ayodhya was left out on the excuse that the matter is in courts.
It is a fact that the courts give judgments not on whims of judges but on basis of laws passed by Parliament, and thereby the law passed will ensure that any court will have to support Ram temple in Ayodhya. There have been a few statements in recent times by some leaders, such as RSS General Secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi that the ‘Ram temple will be constructed in Ayodhya after the SC judgment’ as if the judgment will be for a temple. What if the judgment goes against the temple? If the present BJP Government at the Centre does not pass a law to build Ram temple taking the matter out of the hands of the courts, it will lose all credibility on Ayodhya forever. A lot of credibility was lost due to the behavior of the Vajpayee Government (when BJP did not have a full majority, but only 182 seats and needed ‘secular’ allies’ support like TDP, DMK, MDMK, PMK, JD(U), RLD, INLD etc.), but if the BJP does not use this full majority in the Lok Sabha, the whole Parivar will lose all credibility. If the temple cannot be built despite the Lok Sabha passing such an act, no one will fault the BJP for having done everything possible but an effort has to be done.
2. The BJP Government must amend the RTE Act which exempts minority institutes from it, they must also be included in it, or scrap the Act totally. This is a typical instance of discrimination on Hindus, minority institutes must not be exempt from this law. This UPA era Act is continuing for the past 4 years and no one in the BJP seems to have given even lip service on it.
This is quite similar to the issue of Article 30 of the Constitution, which gives the right to establish and manage educational institutes with government aid only to minorities and not to the Hindus, a privilege which led to the Ramkrishna Mission claiming non-Hindu status (unsuccessfully) in 1984, tired of government interference. Imagine a state where the majority wants to become a minority!
3. There was a book written by Dr. Koenraad Elst titled “BJP Vis-à-vis Hindu resurgence” published in January 1997 by Voice of India. In it, at the end, Shreerang Godbole wrote a chapter and said that the BJP has had governments in some states, like in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra (with Shiv Sena at that time) but an anti-conversion law has not been passed in these states till that time. This law had been passed by non-Congress Governments in 1967 in the states of Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. Subsequent Congress Governments had not repealed this law in either Odisha or Madhya Pradesh.
It was only in 2002 that this issue again came in the limelight when the late Jayalalitha passed an anti-conversion law in Tamil Nadu to save Hindu religion, which was a step ahead of even the BJP, which had not passed such a law. After this, Venkaiah Naidu, the then BJP chief praised her and said that his party fully supports such a law, and will pass it in BJP ruled states. But why the BJP did not do so despite having governments with full majorities in many states, like in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan etc. till 2002 was beyond comprehension, and why the Hindu organizations like VHP did not demand this law, and criticize the BJP on it with at least 10% of the extent of the criticism over Ayodhya is beyond comprehension too. Even after that, there was no lesson learnt. In December 2003, the BJP won Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Perhaps the law was in force in Madhya Pradesh but certainly not in Rajasthan. Rajasthan did not pass this law until 2006, and only after conversion controversies arouse in 2006 did it pass such a law, which was not given assent by the then Governor Pratibha Patil of the UPA who later became President of India. Actually, a Governor can also return a Bill only once, after which it is binding on her to give assent. But had Rajasthan passed such a law when the BJP-led NDA Government was at the Centre in 2003-04, it would have had the Governor’s assent immediately. But the UPA led by Sonia Gandhi managed to stall successfully this law from being passed in Rajasthan through its Sonia-loyalist Governor. Same was done by UPA when Chhattisgarh passed this law in 2006.
BJP Governments have passed this law in Uttarakhand in 2018 and in Jharkhand in 2017. BJP Governments in all other states everywhere must now bring an anti-conversion law on lines of Jharkhand and Uttarakhand e.g. Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh (again) and Assam. Large parts of the country would be free from the danger of illicit conversions by missionaries if this is done. Now with Governors also of BJP, this law must be passed as soon as possible in every state with a BJP Government. Just like it is in Gujarat. This must be done before 2019; else UPA Governors will try to stall such laws even with BJP Governments.
There are many other things also. But unless the BJP acts on the above 3 things, its supporters may feel that there is no difference between the BJP and the Congress, and the BJP may face not just a defeat, but a rout in 2019 (and it would deserve it too, if it does not utilize the full majority in the Lok Sabha which has been got due to hard work and sacrifices of thousands of workers over more than five generations). Is the party listening?
It is quite possible that the party is not listening. But it is here that the social media must be used. In the past, when the BJP has done blunders like giving a contract to NDTV, the party’s supporters on the social media have rightly raised a hue and cry, which forced the party to notice. If today the party is deaf to these issues including very doable issues like passing anti-conversion laws in its state governments and amending the RTE Act, it is only the supporters of the party on the social media and Hindu organizations who can pressurize the party into taking notice of this.