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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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People Have Faith in Modi Government to Handle COVID-19 Crisis

Over 83% trust Modi govt will handle COVID-19 crisis well

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Modi government
The Narendra Modi-led central government is leaving no stone unturned in fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic. Wikimedia Commons

As the Narendra Modi-led central government is leaving no stone unturned in fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, 83.5 per cent people from various states “trust in government” in handling the crisis.

The findings came out in the IANS-CVoter exclusive tracker on COVID-19 Wave 2 survey conducted during last seven days among 18 plus adults nationwide. The findings and projections are based on Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI).

Replying to a question “I think Indian government is handling the coronavirus well”, 83.5 per cent people agreed that they trust in government’s steps being taken in fight against the deadly disease, and 9.4 per cent expressed their disagreement. The survey was conducted on March 26 and 27. Of the 83.5 per cent who showed their trust in government, 66.4 per cent strongly agree with the opinion and 17.1 agree with the view.

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A similar survey on the same question done on March 17 and 18 showed that 83.6 per cent people expressed their trust in government in fight against the pandemic which so far has claimed 29 lives and over 1,000 conformed cases. A total of 13.7 per cent people expressed their disagreement.

Modi government
83.5 per cent people from various states trust the Modi government in handling the COVID-19 crisis. Wikimedia Commons

As per the tracker, the data is weighted to the known demographic profile of the states. Sometimes the table figures do not sum to 100 due to the effects of rounding, it says. “Our final data file has socio-economic profile within plus 1 per cent of the demographic profile of the state. We believe this will give the closest possible trends.”

The Tracking Pol fieldwork covers random probability samples during the last seven days from the release date and that the sample spread is across all assembly segments across all states. This survey covers all states in India and was conducted in 10 languages as part of our routine OmniBus, it says.

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“This is a thorough random probability sample; and we are ensuring a proper representative analysis by statistical weighing of the data to make it representative of the local population as per the latest census and or other available demographic benchmarks.”

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The data clarified that it strictly follows the WAPOR code of conduct (World Association of Public Opinion Research) for our ethical and transparent scientific practices and have incorporated the PCI (Press Council of India ) guidelines as our SOP (Standard Operating Procedures). (IANS)