2014: Secularism & Governance

By Prabhakar Timble
26 July 2013 20:38 IST

The early bird gets the worm. On the run up to the 2014 general elections, right now, it is advantage Narendra Modi led BJP. The anti-incumbency factor, stains of corruption with no detergent in sight, sluggish economic growth and falling calibre of the Congress and its leadership provides  a lead at the startup stage to the BJP. The only relief for the Congress is the NDA losing a major partner i.e. Janata Dal (U) and the reluctance of other political outfits to align with the BJP. The picture at the terminal stage of the race to the new Lok Sabha could be different if Narendra Modi, the strongest asset of the BJP as perceived by a faction of the BJP and the RSS top brass turns out to be its major enemy.  The chances of this happening are no less promising.  

Trumpet is blown

As of now, it’s the image of a ‘nationalist’ visionery on the move. As a Chief Minister of Gujarat, he is regarded as one who can make bureaucracy work. Corporates view him as one wielding the extra power which can bulldoze dissent and opposition to projects. Though the claim of Gujarat as the best developed and governed state during Modi’s tenure is disputable; statistically and qualitatively. The largely accepted facts are of reduction in corruption levels, accelerated investment inflows and high pace of infrastructure projects.  If Modi is accused of communal flames in Gujarat 2002; the counter-accusation on the Congress is on the events in New Delhi 1984. If you paint him as authoritarian, the warrant also draws Indira Gandhi, Mamta Banerjee, Jayalalitha and Mayawati.

Modi seems to be clear in his election management despite the initial internal speedbreakers. The important point is that the campaign has begun ahead of all others. With the plan focussed on economy, development and governance, the BJP is setting the agenda of the game. The off the cuff remarks and rehtoric are to feed those birds in the majority community who consider themselves to be nationalists.  Modi wants to reassure these birds that their agenda is also kept on track. On the other hand, it is meant to kill those birds who consider themselves to be the sole proprietors of secularism.  The dig is towards the Congress and other outfits under the UPA to forcibly tie them to the bogey of secularism thereby projecting to the electorate that these political parties have no economic and empowerment agenda. This is what exactly happened when Narendra Modi planted the comment that “secularists hide behind the burkha” and the whole election debate got compartmentalised into Secularism or Governance. There may be more such saplings which would be fixed to satisfy or itch the nationalist and secular birds at planned intervals.

Hindutva Governance!

Secularism would not stand as an election plank if used to package bad governance and corruption. Just as a bad and stale product is unfit for human consumption, the wrapping of the so perceived secular parties even though attractive and inviting could repel the voters. Similarly, the crafty showcasing of communalism as nationalism and the cunning dumping of secularism as appeasement of minorities cannot be construed as good governance. Good governance and development should coexist with special safeguards and treatment of minorities in a diverse democratic society. Secularism cannot be replaced by the philosophy of justice to all and appeasement of none. In addition to equality, non-discrimination, freedom of religion and tolerance; secularism would involve greater protection to minorities and recognition of minority rights.

Secularism should not be tied to the apron of the Congress and stoned or crushed as pseudo and hidden pacification. Hindutva, whatever it means or is supposed to mean is an antithesis of secularism. The Supreme Court interpretation of Hinduism as a way of life and tolerance of all faiths cannot be used to justify Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra. The connotations and vision of the proponents of Hindutva run contrary to  the elucidation done by the Supreme Court.

The fundamentalist organizations whether of Hindus or Muslims or Christians stand to strengthen communalism and weaken nationalism. Hindu collectivism as nationalism is unacceptable. For anything to be nationalist, it needs to be first secular. Communalism weakens nationalism, democracy and freedom. Hindu communalism would mean that Hindus would lose freedom of speech, expression and creativity to a bunch of fanatics who will call the shots and determine the path to nationalism.

It needs to be said to the credit of the majority community that it does not exhibit or promote communal tendencies. However, there are intelligent attempts to spread intolerance, hatred and suspicion by groups belonging to the majority community. These numbers are not sufficiently large but vocal and assertive. The minority communities bend towards communalism to a significant extent.  However, there are progressive groups in the minority communities which are fighting these tendencies. These groups are not so visible and vocal.  The votaries of communalism in the majority community use these trends to justify the desecularisation of the country.  Hence, the issue before political parties and the government should be both secularism and governance.

Pluralism

Forming the next government at the Centre is a different calling. In this context, Namo could be a liability because the values of pluralism, democracy, dissent, reconciling conflicts and adapting to diversity cannot be imbibed overnight. These values are integral to development and governance. The RSS led BJP leadership is not knaive not to comprehend this. Right now, the strategy seems to be to gauge the independent strength leveraging the perceived popularity of Narendra Modi. A year back, Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal were no less popular. The ‘face value’ popularity is PR driven and commerce motivated media created including a big-push from social media. The intrinsic value of the metal would be out in the open as the polls near. As the election campaign enters the full gear, the perceptions that would dominate the skies would determine the colour of the  rains gushing from the energized clouds.

Blogger's Profile

Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Previous Comments

I agree and appreciate with the observations of Chetan Prabhu Desai. Just one point: Minorities as envisaged are religious, cultural, linguistic.

- Prabhakar Timble, Margao | 30 th July 2013 05:56

 

Merriam-Webster definition is “indifference to or exclusion of religion and religious considerations”. According to Katju, secularism means that religion is one's private affair unconnected with the State, which will have no religion. Amartya Sen in his book concludes that there must be a basic symmetry of treatment to religions and the members of different religious communities in secular country. So it does not matter what definition of secularism one uses, there is no basis of separating communities based on religion and calling them as minorities. Hence author’s assertion that ‘secularism would involve greater protection to minorities and recognition of minority rights’ does not have any basis and can only be described as pseudo-secularism. Moreover, I do not see how ‘justice to all and appeasement to none’ or the Supreme Court’s definition of Hindutva is anyway conflicting with secularism. There may be a perceived threat felt by certain sections of society from Hindutva advocates and also from Modi, and their credibility and seriousness to implement the intent of secularism. But that does not mean we have any grounds to refute the policy of non-appeasement and tolerance to all faiths, except on ad hominem grounds.

- Chetan Prabhu Desai, Paingin/ Toronto | 29 th July 2013 07:52

 

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