The online support, which the person who refused to accept a vegetarian platter from a Muslim delivery boy, showcased how ineffective Narendra Modi’s appeal has been for winning the vishwas (trust) of the minority community.
In any event, there is little doubt that the Prime Minister’s entreaty was directed at the saffron brotherhood, for pleas of this nature emphasizing a pluralist outlook are not needed for the Left Liberals.
To them, the multicultural concept is a way of life in sync with India’s ancient heritage. But this isn’t so for the saffron brigade who continue to see India as a land of, by and for Hindus where the minorities – Muslims, Christians – are, or should be, second class citizens.
Modi apparently wants to change this mindset. His first attempt to do so was made at the beginning of his first term as PM when he coined the slogan, ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ or development for all, irrespective of caste or creed. Now, five years later, he has added ‘sabka vishwas’ to the mantra evidently to underline his point.
But, if the latest events – the shunning of a Muslim delivery boy or the act of covering one’s eyes by a Hindu participant in a television show to avoid seeing a Muslim presenter – are taken into account, his efforts have been in vain. The Hindutva votaries remain as intolerant as ever.
What is more, whenever a group of citizens point out such examples of Islamophobia, a rival pro-government lobby counters them by describing the complainants as being guilty of a “selective outrage” as they do not refer to other incidents of violence in states not under the BJP.
It is evident that in the view of the government “stooges”, as they have been called by a social and political activist, any protest against, say, an instance of mob lynching has to be accompanied by a list of all such cases over a long period of time if the protester does not want to be accused of presenting a “false narrative”.
The BJP’s advantage is that it has a dedicated army of trolls as well as distinguished representatives of Bollywood and also television anchors who are ever ready to jump into the fray in the government’s defence against those they regard as virtual traitors engaged in defaming the country.
Although the Left Liberals are more active than before, having learnt their lesson from the saffronites, they are still no match for the prompt and aggressive responses of the Hindutva activists.
This deficiency of the secularists shows up in politics, too, as the BJP continues to win elections, with the Tripura panchayat polls being the latest example where the Left has come a cropper.
It is odd that the saffronites can ride roughshod over their opponents not only in the political field, but also in the social sector where the Hindu Right simply ignores Modi’s words of advice.
As a result, they continue to provoke vulnerable individuals by first asking them to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and then assaulting them if they hesitate. What was, therefore, a friendly form of greeting in the Hindi heartland for decades has become a communal “war cry” as those who have been accused of maligning India have said in a letter to the prime minister.
The only effective counter to the Hindu Right’s incendiary tactics is an effective political offensive. But this is out of the question in today’s dismal scenario where droves of the opposition party members make a beeline for the BJP in search of the loaves and fishes of office.
To stop the haemorrhage, the opposition will have to search high and low for a leader who is capable of presenting a vision for the future. Of all the parties, only the Congress can be said to have the potential if it can stop the infighting in its ranks – Ashok Gehlot versus Sachin Pilot, Kamal Nath versus Jyotiraditya Scindia versus Digvijay Singh – but, as of now, the 134-year-old party does not seem prepared to douse its internal fires.
Of the others, the communists who dreamed in the 1950s of ruling India are fading away. Mamata Banerjee, too, is on the way out as her over-dependence on the thugs in her party has tarnished her image.
The promise which Akhilesh Yadav once showed as a personable young man has proved to be false dawn while his one-time ally, Mayawati, is too busy guarding her Jatav flock to play a larger role.
The BJP, therefore, has nearly everything going for it – a charismatic orator, an overflowing war chest – except for the antics by the Hindu Right with their toxic anti-minority outlook. In course of time, this viciousness can have a damaging electoral effect on the BJP.
Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal.