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Merchants who serve secularism

Merchants who serve secularism

Author: S.Gurumurthy
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: January 23, 2008
URL: http://www.newindpress.com/column/News.asp?Topic=-97&Title=S%2EGurumurthy&ID=IE620080122214811&nDate=&Sub=&Cat=&

"Narendra Modi's stunning victory will change Indian politics decisively, perhaps dramatically, possibly desperately." "In Modi, the BJP has discovered" that "it can win a majority on its own". "Of course, Advani will continue as its prime ministerial candidate, but Modi is the future." If NDA allies do not accept Modi, that does not matter, because "with Modi at the helm, BJP could get majority on its own". But will the Modi magic work outside Gujarat?

If Moditva is defined as combining "strong personal leadership and integrity, with an appeal to regional pride or robust nationalism" with "strong communal undertones" and "stress on development", there is no reason "why it can't translate throughout the country." This is how, in a leading national daily, a well-known secular journalist diagnosed the fallout of Modi's stunning victory.

His diagnosis is clear. Nothing seems to de-risk against the danger of BJP coming to power. More dangerous, nothing would stop Modi as the future of BJP. So his prescription is that all secular forces must unite under Sonia and face Modi. As he sees it, this course is unstoppable. Concluding his article, he says, "Only the sudden removal of Narendra Modi can stop this. For he is the agent forcing this change. And whilst he's with us, he will do just that."

The implication is clear. The choice before the nation is: either Modi is removed from the scene suddenly, obviously meaning that he must be eliminated, or that the seculars must unite under Sonia Gandhi. Stated differently, Sonia has to be accepted by all, unless Modi is eliminated. Otherwise, there is no way the feared diagnosis could be averted. "Whilst he (Modi) is with us" - meaning so long as he is alive - the columnist reinforces, he will just force this course, namely unite all secular forces under Sonia. This is the sum total of the diagnosis of the disease and the prescription for it from the pseudo-secular school. This article has not been objected to by any one from the secular establishment which only establishes their silent acceptance of its logic.

This analysis and diagnosis, dangerously explicit about how the pseudo- secular establishment's true intent about those who, like Modi, dared them, testifies to the meaner levels to which secularism has descended in debate. Secularism has been defined and redefined in Indian politics in the last six decades to mean what it means today from godless secularism of Pundit Nehru to vote bank secularism of Indira Gandhi; from the minority appeasement of Rajiv Gandhi to anti- Hindu secularism of the Left and its allies. And now even rationalising the elimination of leaders who defy the seculars and ask them to account for their words and actions has become integral to the secular ethos. With secularism demeaning into its pseudo version, political defiance to pseudo-secularism began in late 1980s.

Till the late 1980s, the seculars were accustomed only to questioning others. No one ever dared to question them. They were only used to demanding others for account of their words and actions. And they have hardly been asked to account for their action ever. They never felt answerable to the people for what they said or did. Once a person called himself secular, he was not to exert himself any further to become acceptable to the secular school. His self-serving statement as a secular person immunised him against all disqualifying elements in politics - murder, bribe and even terrorism included. It was the Ayodhya movement of late 1980s and Advani's Rath Yatra from Somnath in 1990 that challenged this political correctness. The massive public response to the two events took the seculars by surprise.

The effect of all this was the partial, though not full, restoration of balance in the equation between pseudo-secularists and those who dared to question them, but, at a great cost to themselves. The Ayodhya movement shocked the seculars to realise that some would ask them also to account for their words and actions. Otherwise, any one who dared to ask the seculars to account for their conduct instantly became their target. The questioner, who dared to step out of the line, was instantly presented as communal, anti-secular, dangerous, that is, as a villain. A decade ago Advani defied the seculars and demanded them to account. That made Advani a villain. Now it is Modi who has taken Advani's place as the villain. And as he becomes the villain, in the secularist dictionary Advani is a moderate.

But the pseudo-secular lobby, unlike those who dare it, is strategic. It knows that Indian politics has to live with the BJP. To blame the entire BJP as communal and anti-secular would narrow and reduce the secular space in the national affairs and publicly make the seculars clients and retainers of all those opposed to the BJP. So they have devised a strategy to get out of such a contingency. The strategy is: invent a moderate in the BJP and also a villain, to contrast the two, and to prefer the former and despise the latter. So, they invented a moderate in Vajpayee by labelling Advani as the villain. Now they are inventing a moderate in Advani out by removing from the list of Hindu extremists and by placing Modi in that list in bolder letters. This exercise of projecting Modi as a villain that has been going on for too long peaked during the Gujarat elections.

The seculars in politics and outside virtually wrote the political obituary of Modi, well ahead of the elections. But he defeated all of them including those in his own party who stand charged for their role in the 2002 riots and whom the secularists co-opted to fight Modi and serve the higher cause of secularism.

The result is for all to see. Modi, whom the seculars had charged as a murderer has won the heart of the people of Gujarat. And the seculars are still contingently writing his physical obituary and on how national politics would evolve if Modi were alive or if he were suddenly eliminated! But, no one dare will abuse them as merchants of death because they serve the secular cause. This is Indian secularism today.

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