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Is Democracy Squeezed between Religion and Politics?

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Is Democracy Squeezed between Religion and Politics?

By: M.R. Lalu
Two significant events in 2024 would go into the annals of history. Understandably, their impact is going to be long lasting. We will witness them generate a cultural churn and would also see them alter into a political storm. Both are deeply interconnected. It is predicted that the rightwing conservative Hindutva forces in politics will hugely benefit from their impact. What are these events and why would they become defining moments in 2024? The present political scenario in India is ripe and intense for its nationalistic upsurge which is an obvious outcome of meaningfully woven narratives and initiatives manifested in an ideological setting named ‘Nation First and Party Next’. This ideological articulation was absent in Indian politics for decades. This has helped the present government at the centre for creating a distinctive image of nationalistic identity. Evidently, the clout of the government led by Narendra Modi has pushed him through an unprecedentedly growing popularity, which has gone beyond the boundaries of the country and gained international accolades. His ascent for the third time will have a pronounced meaning and impact on his global popularity. Modi’s frequent prediction about his hat-trick comeback would be seen as a massive strategy kicked off with the omnipotent support of the beneficiaries of the schemes that he launched.
But the two events I earnestly indicated in the beginning would become remarkably instrumental in the Modi rise in its third term. First is the Ram Temple which is going to throw its golden doors open for the public in January in Ayodhya and the second is the year long centenary festivities of the RSS to commemorate its wrapping up of a century. Ever since its inception, the BJP gained consistent support from the RSS and the saffron outfit with its century long initiatives has had golden moments of success to brighten its cultural identity. Both these events are equally important for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Its prospects depend on, though not totally; on the impact of the activities that the RSS takes up on the ground and the temple in Ayodhya is deeply connected with its existence and its inauguration a reason for elation.
It is not only inaccurate but also immature to make predictions on anything in advance. But for the opposition of Modi, the ferocity of their attacks on the Prime Minister doesn’t turn you clueless about their desperation. A visible downsizing of the meaning of their existence is apparently active and their relentlessly inaccurate involvement in badmouthing the man of the moment has dwarfed their political eminence further. Now what happens in disgust and disappointment is mere shadowboxing.  The dilemma of the Congress and some of the parties in the INDIA block would alarmingly intensify their heartbeat. This is mostly due to their historic stand on the temple movement which was totally pessimistic and their ill-conceived notions on the existence of Lord Ram. Whatever, they seem to have failed to pass a justifiable reason behind their negation. The after-effect of the temple inauguration would help the Modi government to increase its power and also to personally magnify Modi’s spiritual persona. The government’s decision to invite leaders from various political parties deserves appreciation. This indeed, is a calculative move from a trickster’s perspective. The move probably would help the BJP to expose the parties that remained fortune-sellers of the religious minorities making minority appeasement their familial enterprise. The BJP and its leaders would come out hammer and tongs to publicly expose the list of parties that turned their faces away in denial to the goodwill gesture of the ruling regime for the temple inauguration.
Ram Madhav, an RSS veteran brings a remarkable perspective to what the social reach of the RSS should mean to Indians. The organization will have completed its activities for a century by 2025 and it would certainly set its agenda for an ideological overhauling. Though criticisms are showered on it frequently, its efforts to reframe its Hindutva narratives with critical ideological changes were evident. Look at the statement of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat. Probably opposite to its early stand, Bhagwat brought out the vision of oneness that he thinks would only fructify with the religious minorities, especially the Muslims being taken to the fold. This has been the change, says Ram Madhav which was both intellectual and complex. When Bhagwat says “No Hindu Rashtra without Muslims”, what he literally indicates is a compulsion, a necessary accommodation of the minority feelings that its political affiliate the BJP would require to keep for its sustainable winning spree. And for the RSS, it is sure to gain a remodeled reputation, consciously diluting its notorious envy for the Muslim minority, a permanent stance it is accused of. Stretching its hands further the organization is understood to have taken up outreaching activities to further fill the electoral casket of the BJP and bring its man back to the throne for a third consecutive term. But it is doubtful if this cultural shift in the ideological framework of the RSS would help the BJP to inflate its fortunes. This is because the RSS traditionally believed that it is an organization which is meant to unite the Hindus and the Hindus alone. But the Bhagwat philosophy turns its traditional view down. If his words are to be believed, all those who are born in India are Hindus. Perplexity holds you tighter as you fail to comprehend this ideological hotchpotch. The RSS is appreciative of a culturally inclusive scenario in India viewing all religious factions being consolidated under one Hindu umbrella. Ultimately, it needs various religions to assemble for a single nationalist cause. But its fight against the conversion menace and various forms of Jihad gains it a ruthless enemy status among the minority congregation.
As the date of the inauguration is drawing closer, the CPI (M) has formally declined the government’s invitation to the event citing its strict disagreement on the BJP’s strategy of mixing politics with religion. The Congress is undecided and its response is awaited. But it has a solid reason to not to damage its already broken prestige further. It is known for its diminished self-respect and lost credibility and taking the Marxist line on the temple inauguration would again deteriorate its prospects in the Hindi heartlands. The blemish on its questioning the relevance and existence of Lord Ram had gone deeper, doing irreversible damage to the party. Historically Nehru’s stand on the Hindu cause was not different. The resurrection of Somnath temple had stumbled on some occasions as Nehru was bitter about a state assisted revival of a temple. But for Sardar Patel, the resurrection of Somnath was akin to a major surgery that was performed to remove the cancerous memories of barbarity on a peaceful civilization. This is a labyrinthine situation for all parties that existed on the plank of habitual appeasement. Their secular activism by denouncing Hindutva and its renowned symbols of cultural expression would extensively pull their chances.  Enormous complexities in the judicial processes had not only dragged the problem from gaining a solution for long but also consistently dampened down the patience of multiple generations of believers that venerated Lord Ram in essence and ethics. Presumably, the year 2024 would be the year of prospects for the BJP and perils for its opposition.
(The author is a Freelance Journalist)

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