ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Communalism and Secularism-Goals and Visions

Goals and Visions Anirudh Deshpande THE fact that the BJP, the bete noir of Indian secularists, has won a significant battle in its struggle for political hegemony over Indian society should make an incorrigible secularist and humanitarian Marxist write an open- ended article. Nothing underlines the need to raise the fundamental questions of secularism in a new context more than the recent BJP victory at the centre and the hidden agenda pursued by the Sangh parivar and the BJP's opportunist allies like the AIADMK in New Delhi. This BJP-led coalition will certainly last more than a fortnight and could significantly influence the nature of governance in India given the recently announced long-term strategy of the RSS and the openly stated ambition of 'hindutva' to change the Indian Constitution. The longer this government lasts, possibly buoyed up by favourable economic circumstances and middle class opinion flowing from them, the greater will be the damage inflicted upon the secular forces in Indian society. However, this does not necessarily mean that an alliance of casteist parties and a Congress-in-decline should somehow topple the Vajpayee government only to replace it with another undignified United Front. Instead, the BJP victory, temporary as it seems, must be viewed as an opportunity to set Indian secularism in an appropriate and contemporary context. For the moment the BJP seems to have won a tactical victory in the overall communal manoeuvre and it is for the more resolute among its enemies to see that this tactical advantage is not translated into a long-term strategic victory. In this context, the federal- regional allies of the BJP would do well to study the history of the RSS, Jana Sangh and BJP, It is in the interest of their survival to examine how first the Jana Sangh, and later its 'avatar', the BJP, expanded its base and political reach at the expense of leaders and parties willing to forge alliances with it mainly against the unitarist Congress. The socialist experience of the 1960s, the short-lived Janata alternative of 1977-79 and the National Front politics of V P Singh and company against the Rajiv-led Congress during 1989-90 highlight this fact. Since the 1960s, the RSS- Jana Sangh combine, with clear and publicly stated objectives, has followed an effective strategy of forging tactical alliances against the Congress with other centrist parties. The results of this became apparent in the phenomenal growth of hindutva in the 1980s and 1990s and the concomitant com- munalisation of the political atmosphere in India. In the absence of a Congress alternative this raised the question of secular visions, objectives, strategies and democratic decentralisation in India much before the demolition of the Babri masjid. It is a different matter that the secularists proved unequal to the tasks outlined before them by a political agenda dictated by the growing popularity of hindutva.

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