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'BJP sweep is because of Congress's weakness'

May 23, 2019 16:45 IST

'When real issues hit everybody, the frenzy of Hindutva will start fading.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party workers celebrate the sweep for the party across the nation. Photograph: ANI

On Sunday, May 19, most exit polls predicted another term for Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. However, few predicted that the victory margin for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance would be so convincing.

"The idea of Mahatma Gandhi is on the decline now and the idea of Nathuram Godse is on the rise," Kumar Ketkar, Rajya Sabha MP from the Congress and a former journalist, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.

The results show that the BJP has swept the elections. Where do you think the Congress failed?

In terms of being an electoral machine, the Congress is absolutely very weak. It was not prepared to kill the juggernaut of the BJP-RSS (Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) combine.

It is not as if the Congress doesn't have loyalists and activists. Even other Opposition regional parties have that, but I think in terms of organisational juggernaut, the BJP was much ahead. And they showed that the organisation matters and also ideology related to organisation matters.

They weren't using the ideology of Hindutva upfront, but, of course, it was an undercurrent and the message reached across the Hindus. Terrorism was synonymous with Muslims and an anti-Muslim sentiment was sweeping in the country.

The BJP's victory is more restricted to the north and west of India, but not so much in the south. Why?

They have done well primarily in north India. Even in West Bengal, they have performed well. In Maharashtra, too, they have done well. They have done well everywhere except in the south.

Will you not call it a vote for the Modi government's last mile delivery, considering he has done so much development for the poor?

A leading columnist wrote that Modi created touch-points for the people. The touch-points were Rs 2,000 which the poor people received, the insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat or housing projects of the prime minister.

Not that these schemes were successful, as nothing fundamentally has changed in their lives, but they found the confidence that something will change. I don't think Opposition parties took notice of those touch-points that Modi created.

But..

(Interrupts) I think the Opposition completely underestimated Modi's campaign through the media. The media was completely under Modi's command. And the media entered everybody's house and through that Modi too entered the people's minds.

We, as Congressmen, and the Opposition did not imagine that it will have such a massive impact.

IMAGE: BJP supporters chant slogans and play music outside the party's Maharashtra headquarters in Mumbai. Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

You come from Maharashtra where the BJP and Shiv Sena have swept the election. What went wrong for the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party?

We expected the BJP to win substantially, but we did not expect the BJP to make this kind of sweeping victory. I thinking sweeping of elections by the BJP has happened because of the Congress's organisational weakness.

Can we say the age of dynasty is over as somewhere? The people of India think that Opposition parties are dynastic parties.

Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party is winning from Azamgarh. Rahul Gandhi is winning in Wayanad. (Shiv Sena leaders) Aditya Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray are dynasts and their party too is winning.

If you say dynasties are losing, then how is it that Varun Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi are also winning as they too are from the Nehru-Gandhi clan from Sanjay Gandhi's side? Sanjay Gandhi was a dynast, so is Varun Gandhi.

I don't believe in the dynast terminology.

Some question the future of secularism in India now.

Secularism will survive, but secularism will have to fight back.

Secularism does not come naturally and Hindutva comes rather naturally for traditional societies.

Secularism is an acquired thought and is a futurist thought. It is a human and global thought, which has to be inculcated -- it is a major challenge.

Secularism will not vanish.

Has nationalism become Hindutva under Modi?

Modi and the BJP are successful in integrating the idea of nationalism with the idea of Hindutva. It is a very dangerous mix, but if you see globally in Turkey, the United States of America or Hungary, the same trend is going on everywhere. And this trend has arrived in India too.

Terror accused Pragya Thakur is winning by more than one lakh votes. What does it say about today's India, since she called Nathuram Godse a patriot?

It only says that the idea of Mahatma Gandhi is on the decline now and the idea of Nathuram Godse is on the rise.

The RSS-BJP were never part of the freedom movement. They had no respect for Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. They have been attacking Nehru, but it was a proxy attack,/strong> on Mahatma Gandhi himself.

So I think that kind of poisonous attack of Hindutva which actually campaigned against Gandhiji has won. Hindutva has won over Gandhiji's ideology today to a certain extent, and that is a very dangerous trend.

Do you think secular forces can win back the secular ground in the future?

Hindutva will not last because the idea of sanity, tolerance, sensitivity and civilisation are being challenged. How can that survive? It is frenzy and the whole nation has been driven into some kind of frenzy, but frenzy disappears after some time.

When real issues hit everybody, the frenzy of Hindutva will start fading.

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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