'Not many in the country have cottoned on to the precise nature of the deepening hold the BJP has over the majority of the Indian people.'
'The secret is rooted in the fact that the majority of the electorate of this country, composed of Hindus, are for the first time in 70 years feel liberated, without having to conceal their identity as if it is a heinous crime.'
'Modi should not feel shy of proclaiming as the meaning of secularism regard for all religions in proportion to their numbers in tune with the spirit of democracy and adopting it as the State policy,' says B S Raghavan.
IMAGE: Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Congress President Rahul Gandhi at the Congress steering committee meeting in New Delhi, March 16, 2018. Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI Photo
Congress President Rahul Gandhi's speech at the recent gathering of the faithful is nothing short of an outright declaration of war against the Bharatiya Janata Party, presaging a campaign that will be no-punches-pulled, no-holds-barred and no quarters given or taken.
He has gone hammer and tongs at Prime Minister Narendra D Modi, in person, holding him up as a personification of corruption, and BJP President Amit A Shah as a murder accused. He has likened the BJP to the evil-incarnate Kauravas, fighting for power at all costs and by all means, and the Congress as the noble-minded Pandavas, fighting for truth.
Obviously, the Congress president has convinced himself, or been convinced, that this is the kind of campaign, hot on the heels of the shock and awe of the phenomenal serial loot of taxpayers' money by Nirav Modi and others of his ilk that is still unravelling, will touch the chords of the mass of electorate and help dislodge the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance from power in the 2019 election to the Lok Sabha.
Can it be that Rahul Gandhi has decided to play the cards of corruption and criminalised politics to the hilt in his party's forthcoming campaign? If so, he had better watch out. He may be committing a Himalayan blunder. Indeed, it will be political harakiri.
Rahul Gandhi ought not to take voters for fools. Elections all over the country since Independence have been political education for the masses on a vast scale, and by now the average voter has perfected his sense of discernment and native wisdom into a fine art.
Neither Rahul Gandhi nor the Congress can make the mud of corruption stick on Modi or the BJP or NDA, in the light of the horrendous scale on which it was practised by the UPA government.
Sonia Gandhi's attempt to condemn the NDA government for the handling of the Kashmir situation will also boomerang on the Congress. By now, the whole of India knows that the present pass in Jammu and Kashmir is entirely due to the original sin of the Congress.
People in the rest of India, of whatever persuasion, are thoroughly fed up with the duplicitous incompetence of Kashmir politicians and want the Gordian knot cut in a decisive manner.
Not many in the country -- and that includes most political parties other than the BJP -- have cottoned on to the precise nature of the deepening hold the BJP is having over the majority of the Indian people.
It may look like being based on the planks of development, a stress on inclusiveness (Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas), and its promise of basic minimum needs like housing, toilets, drinking water and so on.
A section of urban dwellers may have been taken in by Modi evocatively plugging for smart cities, cashless society, or digital India.
Aficionados of management and public administration may be impressed with the progress being made in the laying of roads and rail tracks, as also in project construction.
Businesspersons may applaud the country being pushed up by nearly 40 ranks in the ease of doing business.
In the overall, there is widespread appreciation for Modi's readiness to take bold decisions and determined pursuit of goals, evidenced by the Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation, and his commitment to bring ease of living within the reach of every citizen.
But these are not the unstated secret of his, and his party's, appeal. These are winning him some votes, but not all the votes.
Rahul Gandhi, immature in many respects and unversed yet in the art and science of politics and politicking, somehow stumbled on to the hazy glimmerings of the secret when he flaunted his sacred thread and embarked on darshans of deities during his Gujarat campaign.
The secret, in short, is rooted in the fact that the majority of the electorate of this country, common, simple, plain folk, composed of Hindus and being proud of that fact and its magnificent heritage, are for the first time in 70 years feeling liberated, without having to conceal their identity as if it is a heinous crime.
In the process of liberation, as if a cork in a champagne bottle released, there is occasionally unwelcome fizz from the frenetic, fanatic, fringe, but that is only to be expected.
Hitherto, the Hindus in this country had been like flies tightly shut in a bottle, with no place to go other than minuscule Nepal, and were made to grovel under all sorts of guilt complexes and humiliations, while those of other faiths enjoyed, in the name of secularism, unabashed State patronage and were pampered in all manner of unacceptable and inequitable ways to the majority's detriment.
For the first time in 70 years, there is a feeling of the balance being redressed.
The misguided 'secularists' -- whether among the Hindus or other religions -- are putting up a rearguard action, trying to foul up the atmosphere.
The answer to them is not to waver or vacillate in what conduces to the national interest, bearing in mind its demographic profile, but make it unambiguously clear that it is the duty of the minorities to take into account the well-being and happiness of the practitioners of the faith constituting the largest number.
That is what the presidents of Russia and the USA, and prime ministers of Australia, Canada, France and other European countries, committed to secularism, have done with respect to their polities and that has in fact helped in keeping those countries free from sectarian violence and brought about social harmony.
So, my advice to Narendra D Modi, if he wants to win the coming Lok Sabha election with a percentage of votes and a number of seats larger than those of any government in the past, is that he should not feel shy of proclaiming as the meaning of secularism regard for all religions in proportion to their numbers in tune with the spirit of democracy and adopting it as the State policy.
The corollary of this is to go unhesitatingly for legislating a common civil code and abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution and resettling and rehabilitating the Kashmiri Pandits back in the land of their birth and providing them with all means of security, protection and self-defence.
The government will find that once it stands up firmly and unyieldingly for the nation, the vested interests, both domestic and foreign, will back off.
B S Raghavan is a former member of the Indian Administrative Service who was also the secretary of the National Integration Council during the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi, and worked closely with the freedom heroes.