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Secularism doesn’t have a constituency

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By Ajaz Ashraf

It will be a fallacy to judge the popular pull of secularism — or, more appropriately, the idea of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood — the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. That is because Opposition has largely refrained from ideologically challenging Hindutva’s anti-minority prejudices or mobilising people against its policy of impairing Hindu-Muslim relations. With Hindu-Muslim unity not offered as an alternative imagination to Hindutva, secularism cannot even be said to be an electoral issue in 2019.

The Opposition has, instead, offered the public the option of choosing between caste and Hindutva. This choice has emerged out of the Opposition’s strategy of building state-based alliances to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the proponent of Hindtuva. A state-based alliance, typically, aggregates each of its constituent’s support among different castes to create a social base that matches the BJP’s in the Hindi heartland. From this perspective, the anti-BJP alliances have deployed the rhetoric of caste to contest the Hindutva philosophy.

Battle for Muzaffarnagar reflects Oppositions use of caste to trump Hindutva in LS polls; secularism not on ballotRepresentational image. Reuters
In addition, the Congress has evolved a two-step strategy to take on the BJP.

The first of these involves borrowing Hindutva’s benign elements, which is precisely why the Congress has harped on the Hindu identity of its leaders.

The second step focuses on governance issues, such as falling farm income, rising unemployment, a sluggish economy and corruption, to criticise the BJP’s rule.

Yet, neither of these strategies explain why Hindu-Muslim unity has a civilisational value and is, therefore, a politically desirable goal. Neither has tried to imagine for the electorate the destructive consequences of communal amity being shattered. Neither has vociferously critiqued Hindutva from the perspective of humanism and mobilised people against the violent actions of the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh’s affiliates.

When anti-BJP formations haven’t cared to reconfigure composite nationalism as an........

© The Kashmir Monitor