A post has been doing rounds in Facebook nowadays. It tells India revisits the decade of the 1990s with people like Jagmohan Dalmiya, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt, Nawaz Sharif and Narayana Murthy returning to prominence. It also mentions that India's GDP has gone back to 5 per cent, something which also resembles the 1990s. A further addition can be made to the list: Indian politics is again showing signs of revisiting the days of polarisation, particularly on communal lines, something which was a regular feature in the early 1990s.
Are we going back to those dark days? One can not rule out the possibility. But a significant aspect of the polarisation which is currently gaining pace in Indian politics is that the so-called 'secular' forces are trying to give it a final shape. Making Narendra Modi the border line, the 'secular' forces are busy making pre-emptive strikes at their ''communal opponents while projecting themselves as the true servants of the country and its well-being.
This is in sharp contradiction with the polarisation of the 1990s when the right-wing forces effected extreme division on religious lines to garner political mileage outside pseudo-secularism.
It is a big irony today that the brain behind the politics of polarisation then, Lal Krishna Advani, has been acknowledged to be a moderate leader by the secularists and they are ready to accommodate him in their scheme of things but not Modi, who is yet to make any mark, whether communal or non-communal, at the national stage.
What explains this?
The foremost reason is the failure of the rulers of the day. The UPA government led by the Congress is perhaps one of those rare regimes in India which turned into a lame-duck one mid way into its second term. Successive scams never allowed it to retain a grip on the governance even after it returned to power in 2009 after faring comparatively better in the first term.
Corruption, economic woes, the steady decline of the rupee and with it, the country's growth rate and above all, a non-effective leadership at the helm have made the Congress look for an alternate agenda to save its face and none other than a scattered principal opposition party and a polarising figure in its ranks served the best opportunity to the party to try to divert attention away from its underachievement.
The Congress has not hesitated to bring alive the old communalism-secularism debate to project itself as the true servants of the nation when actually it has failed to deliver on governance.
The same can be said about some other regional satraps, who, to conceal their administrative lacunae, have aimed to capitalise on the perennial debate to desperately cling on to the saddles of power.
The likes of Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee have enough threatening issues to be settled in their state, like Maoism and crime against women, yet they are busy judging the degree of communalism that the saffron brigade preaches so that they continue as the Messiah in the eyes of the minority and backward classes. The same can be said about Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati.
These opportunist political leaders target communal politics, even if it is not as threatening as it was during the 1980s and 1990s, to deliberately polarise the polity and make some gain in the troubled environment. Each of them know that they have not offered any positives to the New & Young India of today apart from raising the same old fear of communal bloodshed.
This situation resembles the 2004 scenario when the then NDA government was overconfident of coming back to power but it was defeated and the UPA I's tilt towards liberal political and inclusive economic development under Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh found more favour among the people instead of the BJP's exclusive ‘India Shining' slogan. The NDA was completely alienated from the grass-root level even though it had a heavy leadership at the helm.
In 2013, the Sonia-Manmohan regime has run out of steam and Narendra Modi has gathered a momentum, not because of aggressive communal overtures, but for his stress on good governance and growth. The man has not advanced in his political career by slaughtering minorities but by earning reputation as a chief minister who works for the betterment of his state and people.
The secularists, including the Congress, which has lost its ground alarmingly since 2004, perceive it to be a threat and deliberately keep 2002 Gujarat riots as the benchmark to judge Modi and his politics.
Congress's Gujarat saw more riots than Modi's
The Gujarat riots of 2002 have become the new Babri demolition of 1992 and the secularists have conveniently taken mileage out of this even as the common Indian has moved ahead. It is a big irony that Modi hasn't spoken about Ram Mandir once and neither has he raised ‘Jai Sri Ram' slogan while entering the national stage (he has even turned down the invitation to visit Ayodhya) while his arch-rivals continue to warn the country against riots and minority slaughtering.
The Congress never lets go the slightest opportunity to isolate Modi and polarise the polity. It has even attacked the Gujarat government for making a low contribution to the flood-affected people in Uttarakhand. How far can this politics of untouchability go as a diversionary tactics!
Economic revival is the key to defeat the pseudo-secularists
Unless we revive our economic performance and give wings to the aspirations of a young nation, it will be immensely difficult for the secularists to win approval of the mature electorate. The post-1991 scenario helped India overcome the evils of 1980s and early 1990s and we need to repeat the same story today.
Just manipulating with vote-banks and magnifying issues like personality clashes without actually thinking about the economic welfare of the country in trying times can give a severe blow to the self-proclaimed secularists (they are actually not secularists but those who appease minority sentiments even at the cost of the nation's well-being) while people like Modi, who have understood this basic truth, will only march ahead.
The people of India will never support the idea of going back to the 1980s and 1990s and fight among themselves in an age of opportunity and fast growth.
But only the secularists feel that India can bleed again on religious terms. What a tragedy of wisdom.