The victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) and Narendi Modi as prime minister of India has been seen as pointing to a resurgence of Hindu nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiment, but the party has shed much of its sectarian fervor and divisiveness, according to several reports.
India Today magazine (May 26) reports that B.J.P.’s landslide victory, gaining an unprecedented vote share of 31.5 percent, demonstrates how the party has moved beyond identity and religious politics. The B.J.P. found strong support across all sections of the voter demographic. But a post-election poll found that Modi’s message has been less well received by Muslims, dalits (untouchables) and Sikhs as they have retained allegiance to the Congress Party. Yet somewhat surprisingly, the B.J.P. increased its popularity among Muslims by 7 percent.
The New York Times (May 11) reports that Modi had sidelined many Hindu nationalist concerns during his campaign, especially as he courted corporate investors and disavowed the protectionist policies of the Hindu right. But regardless of the B.J.P.’s disclaimers that they are not advancing Hindu nationalism, the party’s foot soldiers, many from the Hindu revival group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) insist that it is only a matter of time when Modi’s Hindu agenda will be revealed.
The RSS “has provided many of the same electoral advantages for the B.J.P. as megachurches in the American heartland do for candidates: a highly disciplined and structured canvassing force, and village-level networks of contacts.”
RSS leaders and activists hope Modi will revamp the nation’s textbooks to stress Hinduism rather than give equal space to Islam, pressure Western publishers about issuing the controversial history of Hinduism by American scholar Wendy Doniger, and finish the reconstruction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, on a spot where a 16th century mosque once stood.
(India Today, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/)