Outfoxing the foxes

Contrary to what some politicians say, I do not believe the Sangh Parivar’s latest stress on Hindutva is a nine-day wonder that will disappear with the Kumbh Mela. I have reason to be convinced that it is a clever, well thought out strategy and that those who are propagating it know even as they call for the Ram temple in Ayodhya that the temple issue is a self-defeating goal.

Yet, why should Mohan Bhagwat add his clamour to that of former Vishw Hindu parishad chief Ashok Singhal’s when he is a more astute political animal and risks having the BJP lose the 2014 elections on that plank? My guess is that it is for precisely that reason that Bhagwat would want the BJP to play up Hindutva, a vote which has largely fragmented since h demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. The temple has no resonance with either the young or the older voters anymore, all of who are now only interested in development.

Now there is someone within the Sangh Parivar who is offering aggressive development as a poll plank to the masses and this is just the cleverest attempt to put that person in a quandary. Before Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi lit upon development as a better poll issue than killing off Muslims by the dozens, he was clearly the RSS’s mascot for all time to come for that very reason of being an unabashed and unapologetic baiter of all those who believed in a secular agenda as he seems to be doing now. But you cannot live on just fresh air and Hindutva alone, which is why before the December assembly polls in Gujarat, Modi went full blast for sadbhavna along with development, though he was careful not to annoy the RSS big wigs by overtly wooing Muslims, as senior BJP leadr L K Asvani had done when he declared Mohammad Ali Jinnah as secular.

Modi was clever enough to recognise that nothing would redeem him in the eyes of the RSS were he to display a secular face to the world. In addition he would also lose his core voger base if he ever apologized for th Gujarat pogrom of 2002. And so he turned down the offer of a Muslim cap during his sadbhavna fast as also, while hoping for the Muslim vote, did not give out too many tickets to the minority community during the Gujarat polls.

So far so good. But then there are other reasons why Bhagwat and others in the RSS will not forgive Modi in a hurry. Apart from his largely acknowledged role in the CD scam against Sanjay Joshi who was also hounded out of Gujarat by Modi, Bhagwat also believes his other pet, Nitin Gadkari, was unduly hounded by leaders in the BJP as the say so of Modi. Then, again, Bhagwat is very unhappy at the fact that Modi has eaten alive every tenable leader in the BJP in Gujarat – take away Modi and it’s not just the Congress which is leaderless in that state.

It did nothing when Modi went a-begging to Nagpur to call off the RSS and VHP men working actively against him during the elections – had that not been so, I am convinced, Modi would have won far more than the 115 seats – two less than his previous tally – than he did in the assembly this time round. For the kind of campaign he ran and the charisma he had, he should have swept at least 130-135 of the 182 d seats and the Congress alone was not responsible for “limiting him to 115,” as union finance minister P Chidambaram so eloquently put it on the day of counting.

But even more eloquent than that were some BJP and RSS leaders the same day when they described Modi’s victory as both modest and moderate and I am sure even Modi knew at that instant what he was up against. But while the Gujarat chief minister might be a clever cookie, always turning things to his advantage, I am beginning to admire Bhagwat who seems to have an even more unsurpassable strategy up his sleeve, each time the BJP or the RSS is faced with a threat or a crisis.

This time round the threat clearly is Modi himself — things are not as hunky dory in Gujarat as it may seem and I had a BJP leader tell me soon after the Gujarat polls that Modi “is desperate to get out of Gujarat, before Gujarat catches up with him.”

So I was not surprised at Modi’s show at the Sri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi impressing quite a few young minds with his development agenda, never mind the planning commission statistics on malnutrition, lower agricultural growth, high costs of electricity to the common people, fall in investments and all the other indices that belie the Gujarat growth story.

So, I belieive this return to strident Hindutva now is to confine Modi to Gujarat and not allow him to lead the BJP campaign in 2014. If Modi insists on doing that despite everything, a reluctance to accept the aggressive Hindutva which he wants to seem to leave behind in the race to the PMO, is certain to trip him up both ways, It is Bhagwat’s double edged sword for Modi – if the Gujarat CM embraces Hindutva, it will lead to a certain polarisation of votes and defeat for the BJP, autmotically signing him out of the race. If he he does not, the RSS would have legitimate ground to reason that, like Advani, he has moved away from the core Sangh Parivar beliefs and is not to be countenanced for any greater role in the party.

When the RSS had similarly forced Advani out to pasture, I had said the BJP patriarch was an old fox and would not give up easily. In a way I felt sorry for the man, considering it was he who had propelled the BJP from two to 85 seats in the Lok Sabha and, though, I did not agree with his methods, I felt that at least the Sangh should have acknowledged what he did for the party. Advani has returned to the fore again and again in various ways and, I believe, Modi, too, will put up a fight with the RSS to seek his desired due role at the Centre.

But Bhagwat, now though far younger than both, appears to be the wilier fox of the three and is unlikely to let go of his control over the BJP so easily. It will the, be very interesting to see who outfoxes whom in 2014 – and if the Congress proves the proverbial monkey who ran away with the cheese as the cats fought over the cream!

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