The next national elections in India are scheduled to be held in April-May 2019 and these polls are profoundly significant in the sense that they would determine the future character of the Indian union as well as the nature of society. In the 2019 elections in India, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would be trying its utmost to return with a thumping win while the main opposition party, Indian National Congress (INC), would attempt to deny Prime Minister Modi’s party continuity in the saddle and to win majority.
The most important aspect of the next national elections in India is that the central narrative of both the BJP and the INC along with other opposition parties be whether India would continue to exist as a Hindu-dominated state or as a secular country. In the last four and a half years of the BJP government under PM Modi, India has lost much of its whatever secular character as the most important religious minority Muslims and even other communities have been extensively mistreated. Modi ostensibly is attempting to contest the upcoming elections on a chauvinist Hindutva ideology whose believers find solace in hostility toward Muslims in India, as well as towards Pakistan. The fact of the matter is that PM Modi during his rule has largely been unable, if not failed, to fulfil the promises he and the BJP had made to the Indians to put in place a vibrant system of good governance and achieve higher levels of economic development. Over the years, the economic growth in India has slowed down. Resultantly, most of the Indians are quite disenchanted with the performance of the incumbent government and the prevalent circumstances. The BJP leadership is quite cognisant of the situation and is, therefore, trying to use the Hindutva ideology that is premised on Hindu revivalism. Because it is the only guarantee that the BJP would retain state power. At the same time the opposition INC and other political parties like the Janata Dal along with many regional parties would contest the national election to restore the secular character of the Indian state.
Having said this, it must be mentioned that Indian secularism since the birth of the country in 1947 has been confined to theory with no practical value. Yes as a value and a slogan, secularism has kept the Indian society to a certain extent intact. However, the religious, class and regional fault lines have been so numerous in India that the mantra of secularism could not reconcile all segments of society. In fact, in the past the INC has been considerably responsible for negating the avowed secular character of the country. India is a great country with splendid religious, cultural and social diversity. However, the successive governments’ failure to provide purpose and direction to the common Indian has prevented the state from achieving great power status. Today, the only gelling agent in India is Hindutva, which at least gives a sense of purpose to the dominant Hindu population. However, it comes at the altar of solidarity of Indian society where religious minorities are feeling increasingly disillusioned and disenchanted.
On its part, it is difficult to reconcile with the argument that the BJP has been in politics and seeking state power to establish the model of good governance, democracy and attain high levels of economic development. Rather the very raison d’être of the BJP has been to take the ideal of Hindu revivalism to its logical conclusion and same has been the very purpose of the party to be in politics and to get governmental power.
So in case the BJP would win a landslide victory in the 2019 elections, it would try this time decisively to transform the basic secular character of the Indian constitution and would take measures and steps to push the Muslims and even Christians and probably Sikhs to the wall in every field resulting in aggravating the communal and religious conflict in the Indian society.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2019.