With chief minister Narendra Modi wooing the Muslim community and also projecting himself as ‘Vikas Purush’, it seemed Hindutva as a political force had run its course in Gujarat. But it cannot be mere coincidence that a large number of religious programmes — all ‘planned months before the assembly polls’ — are to be held during election time.
It seems plans are afoot to create an undercurrent of Hindutva for voters’ consumption but what is not clear is who will benefit from it this time. Social scientists are of the view that this Hindutva undercurrent will help not only the BJP but also Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat People’s Party (GPP).
Baba Ramdev’s yoga camps were held recently in various parts of Saurashtra and South Gujarat where elections are be held in the first phase. Shri Shri Ravi Shankar’s events in north and central parts of Gujarat will be held on four days around Diwali. A three-day national convention — Rashtriya Vedic Dharm Mahadhiveshan — has been organised from November 17 at the shrine of Sufi saint, Imam Shah Bava, at Pirana near Ahmedabad. The Imam Shah dargah is at the heart of a dispute between Hindus and Muslims as the dargah has devotees from both communities.
Morari Bapu will be delivering his Ram Katha from December 8 to 16 at Karnavati Club in Ahmedabad. It may be mentioned here that elections in the city will be held on December 17, a day after the Ram Katha concludes.
Social scientists, however, feel that Hinudtva is always present in Gujarati society and one has to do little to keep it alive. Religious events planned for election time and even issues like the death of two boys who were students at Asharam Bapu’s ashram, could subtly affect voters during polls. But the beneficiary this time will not only be the BJP but also the GPP, say sociologists and political scientists. Veteran social scientist Prof Rohit Shukla said that without the visible support of the VHP and the RSS, the BJP in Gujarat is feeling frustrated.
“For this reason, there are efforts to activate small religious groups which have limited following. This shows that the Hindutva section of society is moving away from the Sangh Parivar,” Shukla said. He further said that under chief minister Narendra Modi, the BJP in Gujarat had become something like a regional party.
“Moreover, there is now GPP in the fray and Keshubhai’s party too has a Hindutva image. It should not be forgotten that it was under Keshubhai’s leadership that the BJP had registered its first impressive victory. During this election, voters with a Hindutva mindset have the GPP as an alternative to Modi’s BJP,” Shukla said.
Prof Ghanshyam Shah, former professor of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, agrees that the BJP under Modi had been reduced to the status of a regional party in Gujarat.
He further said that Hindutva as a sentiment was still present in Gujarat society and that religious events held during election time may help not only the BJP but also the GPP.
“Swadhyaya activities, Morari Bapu’s Ram Katha, Asharam Bapu’s ashram and other activities which began in the 1970s have created a Hindutva sentiment in Gujarat that will continue for some time in one form or another. For this Hindutva, there is no difference between the BJP and Keshubhai,” Shah said. He, however, added that it is very difficult to say how Hindutva-minded voters will vote in the upcoming elections.