Gujarat Has Posed the Question, India Must Find the Answer


LAST WEEK, commenting on Vajpayee’s belated Ahmedabad visit in ML Update, we had described it as adding an insult to injury. The proceedings of the BJP national leadership’s Goa session and Vajpayee’s public speech have only added more insults in a language that even the most liberal admirers of Vajpayee should be able to understand. While Vajpayee vilified and demonised Islam in a manner that one has come to associate more readily with President Bush and his ilk, the BJP not only refused to touch Modi, but also asked him to go ahead with his idea of holding a snap poll in Gujarat. There could not possibly be a more macabre method of manipulating an electoral win.

Meanwhile, the call for removal of Narendra Modi is being echoed from all corners of the country and from almost all quarters of the non-BJP political spectrum. The more the BJP tries to brush aside the whole demand as an internal affair of the party and the parivar, the more it threatens to upset the NDA’s apple cart. For the first time since the 1999 elections, the TDP has struck a discordant note. The Trinamul Congress has joined the TDP while rumblings can be heard in sections of parties like the Lok Janshakti and even Samta Party. Whether or not Chandrababu Naidu really chooses to pull the trigger now, the BJP cannot count for long on the TDP’s support. Devoid of the TDP’s backing, the BJP’s only hope for survival lies in buying support from Mayawati’s BSP and Jayalalitha’s AIADMK. And the BJP knows it only too well that it is not exactly an easy and enjoyable proposition! By all accounts, therefore, what we are seeing now is the beginning of the end of Vajpayee III. The countdown is on.

In Goa, the BJP called upon its ranks to get ready to face the challenge from the Congress. But what has the Congress done so far except winning the elections in Punjab, Uttaranchal and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, and refusing to play ball with the BJP on the issue of POTA? On Gujarat, the party has merely raised the demand for removal of Narendra Modi, but within the state the party is mortally afraid of hitting the streets on this issue. Restoration of law and order, and not justice, security and equal status for the minority Muslim and Christian communities, remains the central plank of the Congress. Historically, it is this opportunist, defensive response of the Congress to the Sangh Parivar’s aggressive brand of majoritarianism that has enabled the BJP to grow through the late 1980s and 1990s to its present position of strength.

Gujarat has clinically unmasked the fascist agenda of the BJP. The press and the electronic media played a key role in conveying the horror of the holocaust in Gujarat and almost all institutions of the nation-state have censured and condemned the Gujarat developments. It clearly shows that there are still pockets of resistance left within the system and the ruling classes remain divided on the BJP’s communal fascist agenda. The BJP will also have to face some amount of international criticism and isolation on this issue. An internal report of the British High Commission is said to have stressed the pre-meditated nature of the ongoing anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat. But democracy in India cannot survive merely on the basis of some half-hearted resistance from within the system or on the indignation of some international institutions.

Fascism can only be vanquished through popular resistance. However much, the BJP may try and whip up communal frenzy in Gujarat, peace remains the foremost concern of the people in the state. And all over the country, there is a growing popular mood for change, for freeing India from the fascist prison of the saffron brigade. Left and democratic forces must harness this growing sense of disillusionment into a resolute resistance against fascism.

Gujarat has posed the question in a most compelling manner. India must find a firm and convincing answer. Over to the people of India.