Swati Chaturvedi: It Was BJP Who Made It Mamata vs Modi. Too Far
NB: There is another comment on the recent election in the same portal, by Ashutosh, which avers that the RSS will be happy with Mamata's victory because it wants to Hinduise Indian political culture. This is how he puts it: "Modi and BJP are political entities. Their endgame is winning elections, forming governments. But for the RSS, capturing power is not the ultimate goal, it is to make India a Hindu society. Their target is to raise Hindu consciousness and make every Hindu realise that they are a proud Hindu...".
There are many contestable statements in the article, but I will summarise my objections. India is already a Hindu society, but with many syncretic features. How much more Hindu do they wish India to be? And why? The answer lies in the crucial difference between a complex Indian culture and one duly purified - purification being the obsession with intellectual fanatics: note the shift from Jai Siya Ram to Jai Shri Ram; Khuda Hafiz to Allah Hafiz, etc.
There is a difference between Hinduism and Hindutva - they are not the same. Gandhiji was a pious Sanatan Dharmi - their hatred for him is no secret, even though they are expert at speaking in different tongues. Their hero V. D. Savarkar, coined a slogan - his favourite slogan in the 1940's: Hinduise society and Militarise Hindu-dom! The militarisation of civil society was a widespread political goal in 1930's Europe, and there is evidence the RSS was strongly influenced by this trend.
Their aim is an ideocracy - the tyranny of an ideology. This is the feature they share with the infamous totalitarian movements of the 20th century. This assessment should be apparent from the manner in which they have gone about silencing the media; neutralising the justice system to ensure impunity for crimes committed by their ideological allies; and engaging in shameless incitement toward communal polarisation. They are also openly sabotaging the most crucial feature of a liberal democracy - the institutional separation of powers. There is ample evidence for all these phenomena. And we must not forget that the BJP, VHP, ABVP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini, BMS, etc. are all front organisations of the RSS.
So I will rephrase Ashutosh's analysis: "for the RSS, capturing power has always been the ultimate goal. It has always sought to control state institutions and use them to transform popular Hinduism into Hindutva, their notion of a civil religion." In this aim they are no different from the Leninists, Stalinists, Maoists and Islamists whom they claim to oppose.
Here is a comment I made in December 2020, when too much democracy became a matter for debate: "Let us note the statement of the RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat: China has risen and doesn't care what the world thinks of it. The so-called Sangh Parivar is a delivery vehicle for corporate capital. They would like to see democracy demolished in order to realise their dreams of 'hard reforms' and great-power status. This is why they envy the totalitarian dictatorship of the People's Republic of China."
Returning to the RSS investment in the prospects of the BJP, we could begin by reading or listening to these arguments:
From nowhere to everywhere - how RSS grew in West Bengal to benefit BJP
How Dattatreya Hosabale is paving the way for new RSS & helps BJP win election after election
Nationalism is dishonest atheism, and Hinduism is not Hindutva. Gandhi was a devout Hindu as were millions of Indians who loved him and still do. The Sangh wanted him out of the way. The RSS dream is not Hindu pride, it is total and eternal power. Their selfish and polemical reaction to the worst civic health crisis in Independent India shows that nothing matters more to the RSS and its 'parivar' than total power. Nothing - not even the terrible human tragedy unfolding before our eyes every day - changes their single-minded focus on power. The sooner our democratic-minded citizens understand this, the better they will understand what is at stake. DS
Swati Chaturvedi: It Was BJP Who Made It Mamata vs Modi. Too Far.
Mamata Banerjee will be Chief Minister of West Bengal again - for a historic third time - after defeating the BJP in a thriller of an election. The BJP had made it Mamata vs Modi; not only has she trumped the Prime Minister but she is the only woman Chief Minister in the country and very much in a league of her own. To understand the enormity of Banerjee's audacious win, consider what was at stake.
The Election Commission ordered a never-ending eight-phase election which seemed designed to help the BJP. Union Home Minister Amit Shah was the election strategist for the BJP and had virtually opened offices of the central BJP in Kolkata. Two five-star hotels were commandeered and the entire IT cell under Amit Malviya moved base to Kolkata. The BJP office was opened to Trinamool defectors (more than 40) with office-bearers including Shah providing a personal welcome to all comers. Even BJP leaders talk in hushed tones of the lavish supply of funds made available to Kailash Vijayvargiya, Shah's trusted lieutenant in the elections.
Modi held a record number of public meetings (20) and so did Shah (50 ); BJP chief J P Nadda held 40. Every top BJP leader including Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath campaigned in West Bengal. Modi issued a toxic cat call against Banerjee hissing "Didi-o-Didi" at every meeting and upping the ante of polarisation by asking why "Banerjee was allergic to Jai Shree Ram". I am a political analyst by profession but as a woman, the Prime Ministerial cat-call made my skin crawl. It certainly did not befit a leader who is PM of India.
Banerjee was positioned by her election advisor Prashant Kishor as the little guy / didi or "Bengal ki Beti" against mighty outsiders. The sub-regionalism worked. In the early stages of the campaign, Banerjee was attacked and fractured her foot. In what became an indelible image from the campaign she addressed public meetings across Bengal in a wheelchair - truly the little guy in her crumpled blue bordered saree and trusty rubber chappals.
Banerjee took on the BJP's polarisation full on, reciting the "Chandi Path" on stage with aplomb and visiting temples in every constituency after campaigning. The BJP, which won 18 of 42 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, ran with its usual campaign template. This comprised of making the Dalits in Bengal feel that they had been discriminated against in welfare measures by leaders like Banerjee in favour of Muslims, who make up 27 percent of Bengal's population and have a majority presence in the three districts of Murshidabad, Malda and Utter Dinajpur. The BJP's war cry was to call Banerjee "Begum", a shrill dog whistle, and say that they would remove the "Muslim veto" in Bengal politics.
The BJP ensured that the optics were memorable. Modi with his new flowing beard seemed to be a visual nod to Bengal's favourite son, the revered Rabindranath Tagore. Shah also coopted actor Mithun Chakraborty (who had earlier worked with the Trinamool and the Congress) after an unsuccesful attempt to get former cricket captain of India, Sourav Ganguly, as his presumptive Chief Minister.
Telegraph interview with Prashant Kishore
Now, the big take-aways. The most important: the BJP is not an unstoppable force and can be defeated by a strong-rooted regional leader. The shock-and-awe Shah tactics only work with a weak opponent. Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and Banerjee have proved Shah can be defeated even with the centre's full might unleashed upon political opponents.
Second: the political pendulum is now swinging away from the BJP. The awful central handling of the vicious second wave of covid and its tragic oxygen shortage will cost Modi. So far, the BJP had created a self-serving ecosystem that separated governance from election wins. This will now end as voter anger is sweeping BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Three: the opposition to the BJP is regional as established by the results from Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The return of Pinarayi Vijayan as Chief Minister of Kerala, a state that has never re-elected an incumbent, and the win of M K Stalin prove that. The Congress and its leadership crisis are leaving it ever-weaker. Finally, West Bengal has given Modi and Shah a reality check. Prashant Kishor does not have to give up his job (as he had promised he would if the Trinamool lost). Now, over to Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for the next big fight.
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एक बात हमेशा ज़हन में सवाल खड़े करती है A question that stays with me... / Ravish Kumar's Speech at Berkeley (2019)
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: Inquiry Commission Report (1969)
Some information for Israelis (and the rest of us)
Delhi Police Archive on RSS activity in October-December 1947