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Excessive liberalism leads to excessive conservatism.

Since decades, a narrative has prevailed that anything Hindu is ‘communal’ and anything Islam is ‘secular’. Governments after governments have ridden the secular waves. Cursing the government and speech against the union is freedom of speech and expression. Accusing the army everyday for everything is a norm. Being asked to stand up for the national anthem is a violation of right to choice. Supporting Pakistan in an India vs Pakistan cricket match is intellectualism.

All of this is excessive liberalism, and each of the examples has created a segment of voters who are excessively conservative. Voters who were very much at the centre have shifted to the right. But, a ‘communal government’ isn’t the reason.

Years of minority (muslim) appeasement, and frequent anti-Hindu statements and actions of the two UPA governments have done something that perhaps no one had thought would happen. The BJP put all its strength to consolidate Hindu voters in and around the decade of 90s, but it failed to get significant results. The Congress served the consolidated Hindu votes to the BJP on a platter a decade and a half later.

When Narendra Modi contested in 2014, corruption of UPA was the primary issue. The Mandir Mudda was played alongside. The next few years changed things in ways that in 2019, Prime Minister Modi is as if invincible.

Corruption at centre since 2014 is non extant and the government is performing well on other indicators. This made it difficult for the opposition to find issues to raise. In difficult times, they stuck to the tried and tested formula of secular politics. Only this time, it backfired.

2017 could be remembered for the rise and revivalism of Hindutva [politics]. Congress is on a [softer] Hindutva track in Gujarat. If (despite all odds) it succeeds, it will have a template to replicate across the nation. Who would have imagined this five years ago?

It was all started by the Congress itself. One day after the new Prime Minister’s swearing in, minority communities across the country were worried. Their rights were being snatched away and their lives were being interfered with, their faith was being attacked. There was intolerance across BJP led states. The Congress saw all these and much more. Occasional faux pas from the government (including the beef ban) encouraged them further.

But, Congress failed to observe the reactions to its actions. Its overuse of secularism hurt and aroused conservative Hindu sentiments, which were already at a life-time high. Congress had made the biggest of the blunders.

Uttar Pradesh election was possibly the wake up call for Congress. The unprecedented victory was something that even the BJP was not expecting. Among various reasons, a major factor was the coming together of Hindu voters against the ‘secular’ forces. Something that both the BJP and the Congress read correctly. Yogi Adityanath’s appointment and Rahul Gandhi’s ‘janev’ are both direct results of it.

After Gujarat results, we could be entering an era of ultra-right wing Hindutva politics and Hindu appeasement. If the Congress wins, the model will be repeated almost everywhere else. The BJP will also move further right and Hindutva just may become its prime agenda thereafter, pushing ‘New India’ to the back seat.

The fight to reclaim Hindutva between the two sides will also create a vacuum – the now emptied secular space.

Next few months will be interesting. The Supreme Court will begin hearings for the Ayodhya case next week. The judgement, whatever it may be, may not stop the temple from being built. If Hindus turn into vote banks, a lot will be at stake, except the Mandir.

21st century is different. Every one year of it has changed the world in ways that decades of earlier centuries did not. In this age of information, decades old politics had to change, and change it did.

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