March 23, 2014

THE PARADOX


MODI AND VARANSI: ANOTHER CONTRADICTION IN INDIA'S POLITICAL TAMASHA

Original: World HD Wallpaper

India is a land of 'contradictions'. In our country, we see paradoxes in all spheres, be it our culture, our society or even our economics. In fact, our politics, more than anything else personifies this word. How many times have we seen political parties switch sides without any regards to their 'ideology' either to gain power or for electoral benefits. On the eve of the General Elections, our leaders seem to have no problem in switching sides; the babus who have been with a particular political party for years show no remorse while walking over to the opposition camp and mingling with erstwhile political rivals. Forget that, the voters in the world's largest democracy too can, at times, take contradictory stance while exercising the most important right guaranteed by the Constitution. In fact, I see a whole bundle of contradictions in the BJP's decision to field its PM nominee Narendra Modi from the seat of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Of course, it is easy to see why the saffron outfit took this decision. By making the Gujarat CM stand from a seat in the east, the NDA wants to demonstrate that the Modi wave spans across the country and is not a phenomenon restricted to the West. Besides, performing well in UP is extremely crucial for the party in its quest to gain power in 2014. In fact, the BJP is hoping that the move will reap benefits across the Hindi heartland. There is another section of people which thinks that there is a hidden 'Hindutva' agenda behind this, considering the fact that Kashi is an extremely holy place for Indians. Finally, there are those who feel that it is a part of the BJP's strategy to get their leader elected from a 'safe seat'. Keeping the politics apart, I too have certain views on it.

(1) The Idea of India: Located right in the heart of the rich and fertile Gangetic plain, Varanasi or Benaras is one of the centres where the great Indian culture evolved over a period spanning several millennia. It was here that the 'Idea of India' was born - a country which derives its strength from its diversity; a nation to people who worship different Gods, speak myriad languages and belong to varied races; a nation which believes in peaceful co-existence, non-violence and harmony; a country which prides itself as the torchbearer of humanity. In fact, even the demographics of the city (80% Hindus, 18% Muslims and 2% Others) is pretty similar to that of the rest of the country. Now contrast this to the image of the Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. In 2002, he failed to protect the minorities in his state, though he may not have been directed involved in the riots. While the courts may have given him a clean chit, the fact remains that the BJP's PM nominee has, on several occasions hurt the sentiments of the Muslims. His refusal to wear a skull cap during his 'Sadbhavana' fast or his puppy dog remark have been in bad taste. The saffronists may justify this saying that Modi's intentions were noble. However, a leader who aims to be the next Prime Minister of the country must learn to pick his words correctly. Considering his 'not-so-secular' credentials, the Gujarat CM's nomination is in complete contrast to Idea of India which is personified by the city of Benaras. At the same time, I need to clarify that I am in no way a supporter of the 'pseudo-secularism' practiced by the Congress or the likes of Mulayum or Lalu. In fact, playing the minority card is as dangerous as believing in appeasing the majority for the future of the country.

(2) The Old and the New India: I am not sure as to how many of you agree with me on this. Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on the Earth. While India is today considered to be one of the fastest growing nations in the world, the city along the banks of the Holy Ganga continues to hold on to its old world charm. Drenched in traditions and soaked in spirituality, the narrow by lanes lanes of the city, littered with waste on either side are shared by both, the residents and the cows. It is so much different from the big cities and metros in the country which have attracted companies and firms from all across the world. While Varanasi may still be bound by the ideals and the values of the past, for many, especially the youth, Modi represents a young and a dynamic India, poised to play a major role in international politics. His success in getting foreign investments from different parts of the world to Gujarat, his love for technology, his innovative ideas, his vision for a stronger India and his pro-development agenda has made him very popular with younger voters. Many of his supporters address him as the 'Vikas purush'. Again, I find some contradiction here.

(3) The Caste Factor: Now this is one contradiction that I am so proud of. Abode of the Lord Kashinath, Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Hinduism. According to the Puranas, it is the favorite city of Shiva - the Destroyer. Lakhs of devotees visit this pilgrimage centre each year to seek the blessing of the resident deity and take a dip in the Holy Ganga. In fact, it is believed that anybody who dies here is liberated from the cycle of birth, thereby attaining 'Moksha'. As such, the Brahmins, the priestly class amongst the Hindus yield considerable influence in the city. However, the BJP's nominee from here is an OBC by birth. Narendra Modi's humble origins are well known. He is the son of a tea vendor, who used to sell tea at the railway station in Mehsana. The very fact that a person from the so-called 'lower' caste can contest and possibly win from a seat dominated by the 'higher' castes is, in my opinion, a contradiction. Whether he wins or not or whether he becomes the next PM or not is not important. We have to appreciate the it is the vision of our founding fathers and a great triumph for our democratic values that caste lines have blurred, at least to some extent. Now it goes without saying that we need to do a lot more. At the same time, we also have to acknowledge that at least some progress has been done.