By Kusal Perera –
A much awaited and speculated decision was announced to the media in New Delhi on Friday 13th September, 2013, 06 months before the next Indian Lokh Sabha elections in 2014. With the decision made after much friction within the leadership, the controversial Narendra Modi got on stage in Rewari, Haryana, as the Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, 2014. Former Indian army chief, General (Rtd.) V.K. Singh who was with the Hazare anti corruption campaign was on stage, waving to the massive 01 lakh crowd gathered to hear Modi. A loud roar of a “Lion” was played on the amplified sound system when Modi came on stage. The crowd, though largely ex servicemen, Modi had a clear message to all Indians on where he stands and for whom. That message has ring tones for Sri Lanka too.
A few quotes from his militarily well dressed speech would direct us to where he would head.
- This is the land (Rewari) of a 100 martyrs in every war in this country.
- I salute all the ex-servicemen across India, not just those gathered here.
- Wherever I worked for the BJP, I visited cantonments and interacted with soldiers. They became my extended family.
- The threat of internal security: India has lost more Jawans to bullets from terrorists than enemies from across the border.
- You can’t selectively deal with terrorism. All humanist forces should come together for world peace and progress in the developing world.
- We must create an atmosphere where joining the Army becomes a matter of pride.
- Strong Army, Strong Leadership, Strong Country – these are the dreams we must achieve.
Make no mistake. He is projecting himself as a strong leader, with unquestionable support from the forces. With plenty of “nationalism” bandied in different middle class forums including the Indian media after the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack, there is a tendency to project the army as a “patriotic force” and defence as a “national security” necessity. Also the long tenure of PM Singh as a non aggressive, non assertive head of the UPA government being dictated by the mother – son combination in the Congress party, seeing many riots in many States, has created a middle class psyche, asking for a stronger leader. Modi is certainly mixing them all together.
Make no mistake. When he says threat of internal security, he means “terrorists”. And Narendra Modi will not be dealing with “terrorists” selectively, he says. Yet for him, Indian soldiers had died of local terrorism than fighting across borders. In larger Hindu India, who are “terrorists” other than Muslims ? Just the way the larger Sinhala psyche saw a “terrorist” in every Tamil, most Hindus in India would see a “terrorist” in every Muslim, when Modi gets going.
His projection of a strong leader therefore will be symbolically “Hindutva”. Modi certainly is the choice of the “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh” (RSS), in the larger Hindu constituency. The 2002 anti Muslim riots that killed 790 innocent Muslims in Gujarat and forced over 61,000 Muslims to flee their homes while Modi was its Chief Minister, is therefore no baggage adversely heavy for him, in the face of “Hindu nationalism” projected as “Indianism” that embraces all.
The fact that BJP is very much entrenched in RSS ideology will not go missing with Modi. A voluntary organisation since 1925, begun to educate youth to be good Hindu citizens, the RSS still remains a voluntary organisation supporting social needs especially in calamities. The RSS ran into trouble with Mahathma Gandhi’s assassination. Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic was known to have been a RSS member, though the Courts could not prove any RSS link in the Mahathma Gandhi murder. Decades later, Nathuram Godse’s brother Gopal talking to the “Frontline” magazine admitted that all four brothers were RSS members. Nathuram Godse denied his link with RSS after arrest, because M.S. Golwalkar the “Hitlerite” idealogue and his RSS were suspect in Gandhi’s murder, Gopal Godse told “Frontline”. In fact RSS was banned and for the first time, after the Gandhi assassination.
The second time ban by PM Indira Gandhi was when RSS opposed her emergency rule. The post independence Gandhian type leader Jayaprakash Narayan who came out openly to challenge PM Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule worked in tandem with the RSS and in most places it was RSS workers who were arrested. This campaign saw the RSS playing a political role and proved it has the organisational muscle and a gel like ideology to mobilise greater Hindu population.
RSS with many front organisations called, “Sangh Parivar” claims a membership of about 06 million, though denying having any membership lists. Their Hindutva ideology the BJP is very much into, has led to many violent off-shoots. After many attacks on selected Muslim targets, the term “Saffron terror” came to be coined for anti Muslim attacks carried out by Shiv Sena type fanatical groups. That’s very much like the “Saffron robes” here, on a violent march against Muslims and other Christianity sects. Just as much the Rajapaksa regime plays deaf and distant from Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and Ravana Balaya (RB), so does the BJP with every anti Muslim attack across India carried out by these fanatical groups.
The RSS’s most versatile and ideologically assertive leader M.S. Golwalkar in his famous book “We, Or Our Nationhood Defined” considered the base for modern Hindutva ideology explains that India is “Hindustani” and belongs to Hindus only. Identical to the Sinhala ideology that father of “Jathika Chinthanaya” Nalin de Silva and his Sinhala extremist followers preach, Golwalkar in his book says, [quote] The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture… in a word they must cease to be foreigners; Or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges. [unquote]
This Hindutva ideology is ground that Narendra Modi would start tilling for his election campaign, The whole concept of the new Indian State he dreams with a “Strong Army, Strong Leadership” for a “Strong Country” on Hindu nationalism, is designed for the 04 million new rich middle class who believe India needs a strong arm to discipline society for future prosperity. A message that Rajapaksas too keep driving into the urban middle class. Its an extension of the argument for a “benevolent dictator” put through in this part of Asia with a patriotic sheen, after Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew.
In most new rich countries, China included, the new and growing middle class is heavily materialistic. They have their own single track interest in governance. Taxes, rising cost of goods, increasingly shrinking comforts in life and corruption in ruling regimes they think, is what effects their comforts. It was this we saw in Kisan Baburao (Anna) Hazzare’s unbelievably sudden rise to fame. This middle class would accept Modi as a pro business “developer”, Gujarat under him taken as the model for future India. Modi a shrewd politician has also made it clear, he is there to deliver on economic growth and jobs for all. The middle class thereafter would not bother Modi increasingly leaning on military support with Hindu nationalism to curb rights of minorities, if voted to power on the strength of the heavily polarised Indian constituency. Modi has the advantage of a Hindustani world, increasingly wanting to look after internal security against Muslim terrorism linked across borders, to be the “strong leader” he says and the middle class agrees, India needs now.
Just as much the UNP is now, the old Congress will not be dissociating itself of such communal politics. It does not even now distance from this sentiment which in effect is Hindutva. Apart from communal riots in Delhi and now Muzaffarnagar in UP where 31 were counted killed and all parties, Samajwad Party, the BJP and the UPA government MLAs accused of complicity, the Congress is dominated by a pro Hindu, dynastic leadership syndrome. Dr. Manmohan Singh was thus kept only as a proxy PM. A more dynamic Pranab Mukerji was moved as President to India’s roof top, to give Rahul Gandhi an entry. The most senior of the whole lot in the Cabinet of this UPA government at present, Palaniappan Chidambaram, a corporate lawyer, a product of Harvard Business School, is not even talked of as a possibility. He is a South Indian, a Dravidian and therefore less qualified to be a prime ministerial candidate in a Hindu nationalist India. A Hindu constituency defined by RSS, catered to by Modi and meekly compromised by the Congress party leadership, Rahul therefore becomes the prime ministerial aspirant in 2014 from the UPA, all allies agreeing.
What does this mean here in Colombo ? Six months from now, the Rajapaksas will in most probability, deal with a BJP leader, who speaks identical language. A leader who may have Jeyalalitha or her AIDMK from TN in his cabinet. Modi has kept good rapport with Jeyalalithaa so far and her TN politics has never before accepted the pan Tamil slogan of a greater Thamil Eelam and thus in no contradiction with Hindu nationalism. She had therefore been an ardent anti LTTE politico as a rule. She has no reason to keep out of that political stand, given her chances to be in the Centre government with BJP. That for her, would marginalise her arch rival, the DMK and give her the opportunity to have much needed financial support for TN.
Any way, BJP has never been adverse on Rajapaksa and had not showed much interest in SL, except for Swashmita Singh’s guided tour, taken care of by the Rajapaksa regime. The Centre government under Modi would therefore read almost the same paper on the Tamil political issue as Rajapaksa. That would mean less hurried trips to New Delhi for the Rajapaksas.
The more important question thereafter could be, will the TNA have a leverage in New Delhi with Modi, to pressure Colombo for full implementation of the 13th Amendment that include police and land powers ? Will the Modi administration accept the Gandhian crafted “Indo – SL Accord” as a valid bi lateral agreement to compel the Rajapaksa regime to stick to, or sit to discuss changes ? So far, despite the UPA government’s resentment over Rajiv Gandhi’s murder, the Congress leadership was accessible to the TNA and the Congress leadership could not simply give up on the Indo – SL Accord. Will TNA have that same space at least, with Modi in the Centre ? The fringe groups in Tamil Nadu asking for a referendum to establish a “Thamil Eelam” somewhere in their dreamland, will also have to change course, with Modi in the Centre. Far worse it certainly would be, if Jeyalalitha gets into Modi’s BJP government.
Narendra Modi for now does not seem to deviate from the winnable racist equation, Mahinda Rajapaksa formulated for the Sinhala South when he was first declared the presidential candidate in 2005. He did not talk of war. He did not rule out negotiations. He spoke of a vibrant, single sovereign country for all. He projected himself as a leader with a strong arm and promised a booming economy with jobs and comfortable living. He said he would have “home grown” solutions to the Tamil conflict. Rajapaksa’s “Mahinda Chinthana” manifesto said all that. The Sinhala South knew what he meant. Did India hear anything different in Modi’s Rewari speech ? Did they hear the “Lion” roar loud enough, when Modi entered the stage ? Hindustan will be woken up for a louder roar, with a UNP style lethargic Congress party unable to provide a different narrative for a future India, except another Gandhi.