A cause for concern

By Kajal Basu

The first thing you notice is that the (long-delayed) BJP manifesto for the 2014 general election is replete with cut-from-the-same-cloth mottos: The manifesto opens with “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” (‘With All, Development for All’), and runs through “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat” (‘One India, Divine / Noble / Superior / Precious / High / Grand India’) on its way to the conclusion, “Amritmay Bharat” (‘Immortal / Nectareous India’). So far, it’s jingoistic but inoffensive.
Mostly, what the media has been calling the ‘Modifesto’ reads like an occasionally bombastic, sometimes tepid rundown of actionable themes minus an action programme. It could be an oft-repeated Congress manifesto, with a scattering of official-sounding Mānak Hindi terminology thrown in. It’s only on close reading and parsing that the manifesto throws up its unconcern for inégalités. And this is putting it mildly.
I’ll anatomise only a few indicative instances.
First, there is no mention in the ‘Preface’ (or anywhere else) of the spacious Mughal period (1526-1857) in India’s history. It’s as if it never happened. There is a passing reference to India’s “wealth, which attracted the foreigners — from Alexander to the Britishers”, but, for all purposes, India seems to have jumped straight from “down up to the eighteenth century” to the present, with a few unnecessary, devastating deviations, such as Congress rule. This selectivity of back-story marks the manifesto’s core.
Second, perhaps the most controversial of the proclamations is in the section ‘Foreign Relations – Nation First, Universal Brotherhood’ (page 40): “India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here.” It Indianises Moshé Machover’s analysis of Israël’s intent to become a “state of the entire Jewish ‘nation’: Not just of its own Jewish citizens, but all Jews everywhere”. This India-as-the-planetary-Hindu-haven is an RSS line that has made it into a BJP election manifesto intact – for the first time.
The RSS has long held that practising Hindus outside India are under a permanent state of siege, and that neither Nepal (which turned from a Hindu kingdom into a secular state in May 2006, to the BJP’s displeasure) nor Mauritius (which is Hindu-majority, but strenuously secular) are capable of sheltering the world’s “persecuted Hindus”. Asked how many persecuted Hindus there are in the world, the BJP has long waffled in its answers.
Another instance where the RSS’s heavy hand shows is in the manifesto’s description of India’s Muslims as “a large section of the minority”. Not “one of the minorities”. Only one section in the Indian Constitution pertains to minorities – Article 30 – and it speaks of them in the plural. Essentially, the BJP manifesto pushes the longstanding RSS argument that no more than two peoples constitute India: Hindus, and the rest en bloc. If a follow-through is attempted on this exclusivist definition, all manner of developmental issues could arise.
Third, given the BJP’s habit of fulminating against India’s neighbours – all but Nepal, which gets a free pass – the section, ‘Independent Strategic Nuclear Programme’, makes intriguing reading:
*Study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times.
*Maintain a credible minimum deterrent that is in tune with changing geostatic realities.
*Invest in India’s indigenous Thorium Technology Programme.
Aside from that “geostatic” is probably a misspelling of “geostrategic”, the manifesto suggests that India’s nuclear weapons doctrine is in for a change. (The Congress government had laid the first stone of an upending of India’s baseline NFU – no first use – policy in October 2010 when National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon spoke of it as “no first use against non-nuclear weapon states”.) Given the bellicosity of the BJP’s regional policy, revising and updating the nuclear policy means sharpening the blades.
All these signal climacteric alterations in governance.

–Kajal Basu is the Contributing Editor of Governance Now