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‘BJP divisive impulses are test of India’s plurality’

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The 12 per cent increase in the BJP’s vote share at the national level between 2009, when it secured 18.8 per cent, and 2014, when this rose to 31, showed that a fairly large section of those who did not constitute the party’s traditional support base had voted for it. The reason for their support is known– Narendra Modi’s promise of rapid economic growth.

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Two questions are relevant here; one is how many of those who chose the BJP, probably for the first time, have remained with it? the other is whether the party’s traditional supporters, who seemingly have less interest in the economy and development than in a pro-Hindu outlook, are influencing the party’s agenda.

According to a recent survey, Modi’s approval rating remains high. However, it is a curious feature of present-day politics that support for the Prime Minister cannot ipso facto be equated with support for his party. This strange outlook of the voters was highlighted by the Delhi assembly elections where the BJP was badly mauled.

But, otherwise, the party was able to hold its own in states like Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand and even made inroads in Jammu and Kashmir. The outcome of the civic elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka has also underlined the BJP’s continuing influence.

Although the party appears to be well-entrenched, there is at least a section of its non-traditional supporters who may have become uneasy about some aspects of the government’s policies.

To be fair, such disillusionment is normal in any democracy where no ruling party can boast of cent per cent support. Even then, there are bound to be some in the party’s 12 per cent ‘extra’ supporters who are currently engaged in mental balancing acts between the government’s positive and negative features.

While they will be hoping that it will pursue the promised economic reforms, they will also wonder whether an increasingly prosperous India will not also harbour intolerant sectarian elements.

What is more, these may not be driven by anti-Muslim sentiments alone as at the time of the BJP’s emergence from the margins of politics to centre-stage in the 1990s, but by attitudes involving minorities other than the Muslims which can also open up a divide between sections of the Hindus themselves, such as between vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

It is not surprising that Mumbai, with its cosmopolitan mix of communities, should be a focal point of such competitive parochialism and varying dietary preferences with the compulsively vegetarian Jains being sought to be placated with a ban on the consumption of meat during one of their festivals and a counter move by the Shiv Sena and Navnirman Sena to oppose the prohibition.

The controversy has been largely defused by a judicial directive allowing the sale of meat. But what the uproar has shown is how the BJP’s record can be hit by the various divisive impulses which are coming to the fore.

Mercifully, the apprehensions of communal acrimony have subsided because the government has apparently compelled the saffron hotheads to cool down. The attacks on churches have stopped though not the killing of rationalists.

But other issues which should have been allowed to remain very much in the background have raised their heads. Vegetarianism is one of them and the promotion of Hindi another. An RSS mouthpiece, Panchjanya, has argued that English should be ‘chased away’ and Hindi encouraged ‘to become an organ of Bharat’s self-respect, progress and pride’.

Although the Panchjanya remembers the anti-Hindi agitation of the 1960s in Tamil Nadu, which made Jawaharlal Nehru say English will remain one of the official languages as long as the non-Hindi speakers want it, the magazine tries to circumvent the episode by saying that ‘conspiracies were hatched to organize other Indian languages against Hindi’ without advancing any credible evidence of such sinister plots.

Probably, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will ask the newly-appointed saffron apparatchiki in the Indian Council of Historical Research to unearth such proof. As a member of the Hindutva lobby has noted in the context of the saying that history is written by victors, ‘the so-called Hindu Right is the victor and a history will get a new coat of paint and varnish and also numerous designer alterations’.

If such observations are regarded as not representative of official views, this cannot be said of union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma’s statements on imposing a ban on the sale of meat during the nine-day Navratri festival, making Hindi compulsory in schools and including Ramayana and Mahabharata in the school curriculum, but not the Bible and Quran since these do not reflect India’s ‘soul’.
His most quotable quote, however, was the observation that the former president, APJ Abdul Kalam, was a nationalist “despite being a Muslim”.

Carrying on from where the culture minister had left off, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has ordered that all files should be signed in Hindi.

It is yet to be seen whether these diktats are floaters intended to test the public mood. But the non-saffron supporters of Modi cannot but be concerned about the articulations of important people in the government which contravene the country’s pluralist norms.

(Amulya Ganguli, IANS )

 

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Know How Grammy Award Winner Inspired by PM Modi to Dedicate Music to Environment

From songs like "Ganga" - depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians - to his Grammy-winning album "Winds of Samara" - which speaks of peace and global harmony

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grammy award winner, modi
"What was to be a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister turned into an hour-long discussion with him on environment. He spoke on the impact music could have on society and inspired me to make music on environment," Kej told IANS in an interview here. Wikimedia

A chance meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2015 in New Delhi inspired Bengaluru-based Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej to dedicate his life and music to the cause of environment.

Since then, Kej, who has represented India on global fora, performing at venues including the United Nations General Assembly in New York and UN Headquarters in Geneva, has been using music to flag ecological issues to policymakers and public the world over.

“What was to be a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister turned into an hour-long discussion with him on environment. He spoke on the impact music could have on society and inspired me to make music on environment,” Kej told IANS in an interview here.

From songs like “Ganga” – depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians – to his Grammy-winning album “Winds of Samara” – which speaks of peace and global harmony – Kej’s music connects with all — from world leaders to the man on the street.

With the aid of compelling visuals, Kej’s music, and collaborations with global music artists, highlights the deleterious consequences of urbanisation, climate change and human-animal conflict.

modi, grammy award winner
From songs like “Ganga” – depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians – to his Grammy-winning album “Winds of Samara” – which speaks of peace and global harmony – Kej’s music connects with all — from world leaders to the man on the street. Wikimedia

“There are so many issues in India like child labour, gender inequality and poverty, which none seem to be reflecting through music. We see that music has lost the identity of being an art form and has become a profession,” he lamented.

Kej, 37, bagged Grammy in 2015 for the ‘Best New Age Album’ for “Winds of Samsara”, created along with South African flautist Wouter Kellerman. He is also recognised as the ‘United Nations Global Humanitarian Artist’ for his music with environmental consciousness.

The subjects of Kej’s music include, the rising air pollution in global cities and towns, the perils being posed to wildlife due to urbanisation and the story of Republic of Kiribati, an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean off Fiji, whose coasts are receding each year due to rising ocean levels due to global warming, among others.

With 15 studio albums released internationally, 3,500 commercials, three feature films in Kannada and over 100 music awards in 20 countries to his credit, the conservationist-musician’s album “Shanti Samsara” was released by Modi and then French President Francois Hollande at the United Nations Conference of Parties (CoP-21) Climate Change Conference in Paris, held from November 30-December 12, 2015.

The album, conceived after his meeting with Modi, had Kej collaborate with about 500 musicians from 40 countries, for songs like “Ganga”, throwing light on the pollution plaguing the river, and on “Earth and Water”.

“Politicians and policymakers are used to statistics and numbers, but when one approaches them through art, it makes a lot of difference. I have seen politicians change their perspectives towards environmental causes after attending my concerts,” Kej asserted.

The element of environment and nature in his work comes from his own experiences. For instance, he composed the song “One With Earth” – which highlights natural farming and the need to give up chemical fertilisers – after he lived with the tribals in Andhra Pradesh’s Araku Valley to understand their lifestyle and traditional farming techniques.

Grammy award winner, modi
“There are so many issues in India like child labour, gender inequality and poverty, which none seem to be reflecting through music. We see that music has lost the identity of being an art form and has become a profession,” he lamented. Wikimedia

Born in 1981 in North Carolina in the US, Kej moved to Bengaluru with family when he was eight, with intense love for music and nature.

“As a child, I felt music and nature were connected and found music in the sounds of nature, birds and animals. I used to look at music as a way of understanding history, cultures and emotions from different parts of the world. A lot of my education was through music,” said Kej, who was part of a rock band “Angel Dust” during his class 12th from Bishop Cotton Boys’ School in Bengaluru.

Even as Kej pursued a dental science course on his father’s advice, he continued to create music and decided to pursue it full-time on completing the degree.

“Like most musicians, I started my career with popular music and later turned to heavy metal and jazz. I finally zeroed in on world music as it connects with the people the world over, irrespective of the language they speak,” Kej recalled.

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As a professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in the renowned Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus in this tech hub, the musician believes his job is to approach environmental subjects artistically.

“Numbers don’t hit people as hard as visuals and art can. My job as a musician is to drive the numbers and data through emotions,” Kej added. (IANS)