These are interesting times. We are inheritors of the idea of India which celebrates diversity. This is being subjected to strain and doubt by incorporating myth as history and by the idea of majoritarianism.
Few people will quarrel with the description of Jawaharlal Nehru as the second most remarkable personality (first being the Mahatma) of our times by the veteran journalist Inder Malhotra. It is his 125th birth anniversary. The two were so different, yet the Mahatma named Nehru as his successor and handed down India in his safe hands. It was because both of them had a shared idea of secular India.
That idea is now threatened by the ascendency of a new political dispensation at the center. It has paved the way for according legitimacy to the alternative idea of India as articulated in the vision of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which recognizes India as a Hindu rashtra.
It is time to visit the evolution of the idea of India post the twin events of independence from British rule and partition. In the middle of August 1947 two dominions were born on the basis of two nation theory as propounded by Muslim league under the leadership of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. It was celebration time for many and it was time of turbulence, mourning and misery for many others who were now christened displaced persons and refugees.
The political leadership of India led by Mahatma Gandhi rejected the two nation theory in principle though accepted the fact of partition of the country. The leadership under the banner of Indian National Congress pledged equal citizen rights to all the citizens irrespective of their religious affiliations.
Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which was founded under the leadership of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjea in 1951, adopted the idea of India of RSS. This vision found it unpatriotic as well as illogical to accept the fact of partition and the idea of according equal status to Muslims in India.
Jawaharlal Nehru campaigned vigorously against Jana Sangh during the first general election itself in 1952. He dubbed it as a communal party. He differentiated between communalism of the majority community and that of minority communities. The thrust of his campaign was that communalism of the majority community was much more dangerous and harmful to the nation in comparison to the communalism of the minority. Other political formations concurred with this view. Jan Sangh remained a fringe player in the political landscape of the country till 1967.
The alternative majoritarian idea of India seemed to have no takers. It failed to find respectability in the national consciousness. Secularism got established as article of faith of the national ethos.
It would be very instructive and revealing to trace the path of Jana Sangh and its alter ego Bharatiya Janata Party.
The continued and uninterrupted sway of Indian National Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru over The national scenario worried the opposition parties. After the demise of Nehru in 1964,there were signs of weakening of its hold. In the general elections in 1967 Congress failed to obtain majority in several states. It was against this backdrop that the idea of anti-congress front proposed by Rammanohar Lohia found credibility. Political parties professing mutually antagonistic philosophies came together to share power with the sole objective of keeping congress out of power. This paved the way for Jana Sangh to be accorded legitimacy and acceptability in the general political stream. Thereafter there was no looking back for it. It shared power with socialist and communist parties. Thereasfter ideological barriers got were no deterrent any longer.
The anti-congress campaign got transformed into Indira Hatao campaign and a grand alliance of political parties ranging from extreme right Jan Sangh and left CPM was formed. The maneuvering space increased for Jan Sangh. Following the rout of the grand alliance in the general election of 1972 and birth of Bangla Desh there was sharp increase in price of commodities and peoples disenchantment with the establishment grew. Jan sangh surreptitiously tried to articulate the dissatisfaction into protest movements. It was able to persuade the much respected Jaiprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP to lead the movement from the front. The movement attracted young people, students and political workers from across different strata of the society. The movement succeeded in destabilizing the government and ultimately led to the imposition of emergency.
In early 1977, emergency was lifted and general elections were announced. The opposition parties sensed an opportunity of lifetime. It was decided that instead of forming a grand alliance as in 1972, it would be sensible to form a single party by merger. Janata Party was born, Jan Sangh was now in the mainstream in a clandestine manner. Internal pressures were there on the erstwhile JanSanghis within the Janata Party to dissociate from their ideology, to proclaim that they do not owe allegiance to RSS ( Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). This resulted in the disintegration of Janata Party and rechristening of Jana Sangh as Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP. BJP marched from Gandhian socialism as propounded by Atal Bihari Bajpayi to Ram Mandir movement of Lalkrishna Advani and finally reinvented its identity with rejuvenated vigor.
The next defining stage was the implementation of Mandal commission recommendations; rechristening this single event triggered a chain of irreversible and unforeseen changes, even though its immediate purpose was to embarrass Bharatitya Janata party. Congress lost its social base and caste based fragile regional political parties were born. Marxist parties were made to have a relook into their class vis-à-vis caste viewpoint, resulting in the blurring of their distinct identities.
Imposition of reservations in jobs based on caste paradoxically gave a fillip to BJP. It was able to reorient itself as a response to the new situation.
In retrospect, it appears that Rammanohar Lohia’s advocacy of anti-congressism sans any ideology and Vishwanath Prasad Singh’s implementation of Mandal commission to embarass BJP inadvertently paved the way for the rise of BJP, and eventually its idea of India