By Tushar Mangl:
The Bhartiya Janta Party was founded by intelligent men, many of whom were upper class Hindus. The three biggest promises that the BJP ever made to the masses, were:
1) A Ram Temple at Ram Janambhoomi Sthan, Ayodhya
2) Repeal of Article 370
3) Uniform Civil Code
Narendra Modi, in 2014, brushed aside these issues, made development and governance his chief agenda, and secured a handsome victory for his party and self. But with a simple majority, comes a complex challenge of paradox. You can sweep aside old timers, but you cannot sweep out deep-rooted ideologies so easily. He, himself, claims to be a Hindu nationalist, a disciplined party worker, etc. Now, he will be hounded with these issues – although not highlighted by his campaign, but nonetheless, they’re the corner stones of his party’s ideology.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee faced a similar problem when he ruled India for 6 years. Even he could not find a solution to these issues. For he did not have a clear majority with him, and his allies weren’t as enthusiastic about these issues. So, these were thrown in a corner, as Vajpayee focused on governance and other reforms.Â But Modi cannot hide behind that excuse. Not only will he have to face these issues head on, but also, given the high expectations from him, will have to resolve them. Even though he can say that these issues don’t count much for brownie points, for the party could not attract much people to these issues.
The media and the so called intelligentsia dismisses these issues like a fly hovering around a tea cup. Who cares for the Kashmiri Pandits? Have they ever got their due? Who cares for the sentiments of Hindus? No one. They just hurry down to paint the BJP as some big Hindu party waiting to devour people of all other religions.
Still, Article 370 is really not only about religion. It is a law that grants special favor to the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. So, the state does not fully come under the Indian Constitution. Why such favor to one state be given as against the 25 + other states? Especially in the case when a large portion of Indian taxpayers money is being spent on that particular state as economic packages or defense expenditure? The media and the intelligentsia of the country may not take this issue up aggressively but the questions should be asked. Narendra Modi should now deal with an iron hand in the matter of Kashmir.
The international media may label the BJP as a Hindu Party. But its demand of Uniform Civil Code is actually a complete opposite of its image. As opposed to the idea of the Congress Party (which the media prides to be a secular party), of having different rules of marriage, inheritance, etc., for different religions, the BJP lists a uniform civil code as its promise. The debate that started way back in the colonial era should find a conclusion now. Modi might not have pushed for it while drafting his campaign plans, but he will be expected to come through with this now.
Another debate that rages on since the colonial era or before, is of the Ram Temple at the Ram Janambhoomi Sthan in Ayodhya. This will be the one issue where Modi will be cornered again and again. His detractors are still gunning for him for the 2002 riots. The media may now tone down their demonization of him, but he still is seen as the RSS poster boy. But not all Hindus – devout or not, are members of the RSS or VHP or BJP. Even so, they want the Ram Temple that has been promised by these organizations for years now. With an impressive majority in the Lok Sabha, he will be in a position to do something about it. But, with the matter being in courts, he may pass the buck to the Supreme Court.
Modi came to power on issues like water, good governance, special packages, populist schemes etc. The wish list of the voters is too long. But these three issues will ultimately determine his mantle of leadership, and not the routine regular issues of the common man. And there lies the challenge of the Paradox for Modi.