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Does BJP’s beef ad betray its desperation to win Bihar polls?

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New Delhi: Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s staunch critics would second him when he, during his whirlwind election rallies, aptly emphasizes that development ought to be the way forward for India and Hindus and Muslims, instead of fighting each other, should wage a war against poverty.

‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas (development for all)’ is the motto of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Well, who doesn’t want development?

But, alas, there seems to be a dichotomy between the thoughts and actions of the ruling party and the Prime Minister. For, while PM Modi talks of ‘vikas’ in Bihar to woo potential and existing voters, the BJP seeks to polarize the society along the lines of religion by placing full-page advertisements in leading newspapers featuring a girl hugging a cow and lashing out at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on his “silence” over statements made by his allies on beef just on the eve of the final phase of Bihar assembly polls.

This apparent attempt to polarize Bihar by the leading party to score political points over the Grand Alliance in an election that is being seen as a verdict on PM Modi’s 17 months in power reeks of nothing but the desperation to win the polls, by hook or by crook.

Beef has always been a sensitive issue for India’s Hindus and Jains because the Holy cow is revered as ‘mother’. But what is condemnable is to seek votes in its name by pitting one community against another, thus sowing the seeds of hatred among people who, more or less, have same issues.

I am a non-vegetarian Hindu and I have never had beef in my life nor do I intend to have it in the future. But that’s my choice. At the same time, it will be sheer hypocrisy on my part if I, despite being a non-vegetarian, condemned someone for having beef. What others eat and believe should be none of my concern in a democratic country like India.

But beef is no more about the religious aspect of the populace; rather it has quietly, with intended negativity, wandered into the cheap political theatrics.

Doesn’t polarization help when it comes to polls? Oh yes, it does. It surely does, in every single election. Can anyone deny that there was polarization in Gujarat following 2002 riots? Can anyone dispute the fact that incidents like Muzaffarnagar riots polarized people in Uttar Pradesh before Lok Sabha polls?

Bihar has a literacy rate of 63.82% and has long been considered among the ‘bimaru’ states. Verily, there is no dearth of issues that people of Bihar face be it unemployment, poverty, ignorance, lack of good roads, schools, and hospitals. And it was expected that just one day prior to the day of voting, the leading parties in the fray would talk about the real issues. But, it is a pity that the ruling party, rather than talking of the ways to deal with the abovementioned problems chose to spread hatred in the name of Holy cow and thus indulged in the politics of polarization.

Is this a ploy to influence an uneducated person’s uncultivated mind? An educated youth of Bihar, I am convinced is mature enough to make his choice but what of the former. Arousing his passions and love for the religion could just do the trick.

In the words of Karl Marx,

“Religion is the opium of the masses.”

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)