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Modi’s inner circle in electoral panic: Is the Hindutva agenda losing its allure?

31st May 2024
Modi’s inner circle in electoral panic: Is the Hindutva agenda losing its allure?

M Ghazali Khan

Having vented his anti-Muslim venom in the ongoing election campaign in India, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has now claimed to have “Divine Origins.”

In an interview with one of his favourite channels, News18, he said: “When my mother was alive, I used to believe that I was born biologically. After she passed away, upon reflecting on all my experiences, I became convinced that God had sent me. This energy could not be from my biological body but was bestowed upon me by God. I believe God has given me abilities, inspiration, and good intentions for a purpose… I am nothing but an instrument. That’s why, whenever I do anything, I believe God is guiding me.”

To everyone’s surprise and amusement, in the same interview, Modi presented an angelic and saintly side of his personality, denying that he has ever practised sectarian politics. “I neither said Hindu nor Muslim… I will not be able to be in the public domain the day I start doing politics of a Hindu or Muslim. I see everyone equally,” he said.

The man whose hateful speeches have been reported by the Indian press and are available on social media for anyone to listen to and draw their own conclusions, went as far as claiming that in his youth he lived in a mixed locality and celebrated Eid with Muslim friends.

“In my house, there were Muslim families all around me. Eid was also celebrated in our house. Food was not cooked in our house on the day of Eid; it came from all the Muslim families. When Muharram started, we participated in the Taziah. I grew up in that world. Even today, many of my friends are Muslims.”
In another interview, he informed a team of his favourite Hindutva journalists that despite being presented in India as anti-Muslim, he had sent a representative to Israel to convince Prime Minister Netanyahu not to wage war during Ramadan. As a result, “except for a day or two, there was no war during Ramadan.”

It is difficult to say whether the notoriously self-admiring and delusional politician truly believes in what he has claimed in his interviews or if it was just an election gimmick. Many commentators are suggesting that Modi’s confusing and contradictory statements stem from intelligence reports indicating that his position on the ground is quite weak, contrary to the general belief that he will win a third term.

As the Chief Minister of Gujarat (2001 – 20014), he left no stone unturned in polarizing the atmosphere, winning provincial elections, and occupying the highest post in the state three times in a row.

However, when he contested the 2014 parliamentary election, he attempted to whitewash his Islamophobic image by pretending to be a pro-development politician and gave the slogan of, “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas” (everyone’s support, everyone’s development).

After assuming the Prime Minister’s seat and being welcomed and rewarded on international platforms, including by Muslim countries, he found out that he was unnecessarily afraid of how he was perceived outside when everything was normal.

This experience emboldened him, and he unashamedly continued with his Hindutva agenda by turning blind eye to the lynchings of Muslims, attacks on their mosques and religion, changing the Muslim names of cities and towns and enumerating his achievements before mass gatherings, including one in America, he told his religiously charged supporters that he had fulfilled his promise. “Ram Temple construction done. Tripple Talaq, done. Article 370 done,” he said.

However, reports from India indicate that his anti-Muslim rhetoric is not selling well with voters, whose economic hardships remain unaffected by his so-called achievements. With nothing substantial to show to voters, he has once again resorted to his most tested and useful trick: polarization.

On April 21, 2024, addressing a public meeting in Rajasthan, he warned that if Congress came to power, it would: “…snatch the gold of the women and distribute it among the people.

When Congress was in power, Manmohan Singh had said the first right over our resources is that of Muslims. They [the Congress] will not spare even your Mangal Sutra [a necklace given by a groom to a bride at their wedding]. They will take your money and give it to those who have more children, to the illegal immigrants… They will distribute it to Muslims, who they said have the first right to resources. They will go to the extent of not sparing even your Mangal Sutra”

In this 35-minute speech, Modi exclusively spoke about Congress and the Muslims for 15 minutes.

Despite being conscious and overly cautious about Modi’s allegations that they “appease” Muslims at the expense of Hindus, all non-Hindutva parties are now avoiding mentioning Muslims in their manifestos or speeches. There is no mention of Muslims in the Congress manifesto either, yet soon after Congress released its manifesto, Modi condemned it as the “manifesto of the Muslim League.”

In an interview with The Times of India on April 29, he said: “We should not consider this sinister plan of the Congress party as an idle threat. The threat is very real and stands to hurt our nation irreversibly.”

In his latest outburst, addressing a rally in the capital on May 23, he attacked Congress for restoring the minority (Muslim) character of the world-renowned Jamia Millia Islamia University. Strangely, he could not even pronounce the name of the historic institution that played a vital role in the country’s independence, calling it “Jamia Millia Ismailia.”

As if Modi’s comments were not poisonous enough, his Home Minister and accomplice in the 2002 Gujarat Muslim Genocide, Amit Shah, told an election rally in Madhya Pradesh: “After the Congress manifesto was released, people’s inclination towards the BJP further increased because, in its manifesto, Congress has repeated its old habit of appeasement [of Muslims]. The Congress manifesto speaks of taking [Muslim] personal law forward. I would like to ask Rahul Gandhi; will this country now work as per Sharia?

With full impunity and no action by the Election Commission of India, Amit Shah told a rally in Uttar Pradesh: “This election is between the one who constructed Ram Temple and those who opened fire on Ram Bhakts.”

Out-bragging Modi and Shah about his anti-Muslim policies, on May 23, the Hindutva Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, told an election rally in Maharashtra: “Now, no one dares to offer namaz on the roads of UP. The mosques have removed their mikes. In the next five years, people will forget about the Adhan [call to prayer] from mosques.”

There are reports that despite Modi’s and his party’s desperate bid to sell the Hindutva-lollipop to voters, they are refusing to buy it. In an interview with NDTV, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said: “The trend we [the alliance of opposition parties, INDIA bloc] are seeing shows that we will stop the BJP from coming back to power. I cannot say [how many seats we will get]… 273, 280, 290… [but] we are getting a lot, yes. We will come to power.”

Amid widespread allegations that the BJP has been tampering with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) since 2014, reports are also circulating on social media, with video evidence, showing voters in Muslim-dominated areas have been prevented from casting their vote. Modi’s and his coterie’s desperation suggests that this time round, the Hindutva-lollipop is not selling, and the Hindutva party may be in for the biggest shock of its life.

The author is a freelance journalist and an English/Urdu blogger, ghazalikhan.com

Photo: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also the head of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), addresses a gathering at an election campaign rally in New Delhi, India on May 18. (Credit: Amarjeet Kumar Singh/AA)

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