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Can BJP win Lok Sabha elections without hard Hindutva narrative? Narendra Modi has the unique capacity to adapt his policies to meet the challenge


By Mriganka M Bhowmick


Since 1989, when the BJP adopted Hindutva as an ideology in the Palampur Resolution, it has consistently propagated it in elections. The RSS has significantly contributed to the evolution of Hindutva as the cultural identity of the nation. With the advent of Modi in 2014, new economic policies, social welfare schemes, a shift in foreign policy, and the consolidation of strong cadre-based organizations have begun assimilating with this ideology. It is largely perceived as part and parcel of Hindutva Politics, even though many of them do not directly correlate with Hindutva ideology. Opposition Politics has started building on the opposite pole to counter Hindutva politics, which essentially encompasses the other policies of Modi. Thus, a bipolar Indian Politics has started embracing the Hard Hindutva narrative at different occasions and, of course, during elections.


The recently concluded assembly elections in five states, with an emphasis on three Hindi Heartland States, tell a different tale. The spectacular win of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh had little to contribute to the hard Hindutva narrative. A holistic approach combining welfare schemes, organizational restructuring, and ground mobilization of party workers, both from the BJP and RSS, has had the last laugh. A new metamorphosis has taken place in politics where Modi or BJP's policies and politics are only seen as Hindutva politics, and many times they do not have a communal overtone. A religion-focused hard Hindutva narrative seems to be taking a back seat for the time being. Mind it, Twitter's right-wing narratives are not BJP's actual narratives.


When it comes to Madhya Pradesh, the BJP's central leadership did not attempt to rebrand Shivraj Singh Chouhan to try the party's luck. Sensing voters' fatigue, they infused central leaders and ensured fair ticket distribution. The focus was on highlighting welfare schemes like Ladli Behna and Ladli Laxmi, and more on the future welfares of and infrastructure. It was a BJP election with the support of the RSS, with grassroots worker mobilization, not essentially a re-election of Shivraj Chouhan. No firebrand Hindutva leader delivered any communally divisive speech. Dog whistles against minorities were absent. BJP did not find it necessary to prove again that it is a Hindutva party. Dodging caste politics in the wake of Congress's caste census, BJP was able to consolidate both upper-class and OBC votes. As Congress tried to assimilate soft Hindutva and caste census together, voters got confused. Without the alleged Hindu-Muslim narrative, BJP won 164 out of 230 seats.


Chhattisgarh is the state where Congress was fully confident of making a comeback to power with Bhupesh Singh Baghel. It appears that they were clueless about the on-ground anti-incumbency sentiment of the government. The fact is that BJP did not use the hard Hindutva narrative to consolidate its vote bank; rather, Baghel set the tone of soft Hindutva through the ‘Ram Van Gaman Path' initiative. The election was fought over Congress' poll promises versus Modi's guarantee and corruption charges. Although the state has a considerable population of OBC and ST, Congress's call for a caste census failed to consolidate the desired vote bank. Instead, promises like providing LPG cylinders at Rs 500, an annual aid of Rs 10,000 to landless agricultural labourers, and a proposed grant of Rs 12,000 annually to married women might have resonated better with voters. Political divide along Hindutva lines was a non-issue.


Rajasthan was a sticky wicket for Congress, hoping hard to break the trend of power change in every five years set by Rajasthan voters. The party was rattled due to infighting between the Gehlot and Pilot factions, with charges of REET paper leaks, crimes against women, and rampant corruption in government departments. It was June 2022 when the killing of Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor from Udaipur, created a communal overtone in the political narrative. However, that tone ebbed down over time, and as the election approached, the issues of good governance and corruption took centre stage. Modi's guarantee card once again played well in Rajasthan with his outreach to women, Dalits, and farmers with a bouquet of promises. A strong hand of central leadership managed the factionalization of BJP by controlling Vasundhara Raje and other senior leaders. A delayed campaign and incorrect ticket distributions added more buoyancy to Congress's defeat. BJP won spectacularly with 115 seats, and communal narratives were absent.


Looking into the political manoeuvres of BJP in elections and the choice of its new chief ministers, one may argue that Modi has elevated BJP into a forward-looking political party with zero lean towards old party leaders and legacy. The party is now trying to identify with New and New Political Optics with Hindutva at its core. The opposition's key standpoint to fight BJP's Hindutva need fresh review, whereas much more energy is needed to counter the holistic opposition to Modi's policy in respect of social sector initiatives.


Come the 2024 general election, BJP does not need a hard Hindutva plank to consolidate its vote bank. Instead, it can play with a holistic approach encompassing leadership, women, farmers, social welfare, and anti-corruption. These would be multiple stand-alone policy matters and will not always gravitate to the hard Hindutva line. It entails a detailed political framework to be constituted by the opposition. With the limited appeal of caste census and Congress's decision to go solo in the recently concluded state polls, INDIA bloc parties have to make a drastic review of their electoral strategy at the next meeting on December 19.. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the unique capacity to reinvent and adapt his policies to suit the needs of the changing demands of the political situation. INDIA constituents are still lagging behind to prepare their response to those initiatives of Narendra Modi.


The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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