October 22, 2013. Lalu Prasad loses his Lok Sabha membership after being convicted in a 17-year-old fodder scam.
October 27, 2013. BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to address a mega Hunkaar Rally in Patna.
The three events, all happening in October, marks a watershed in Indian politics.
Hindu nationalism and pseudo-secularism have been two antagonistic forces in Indian politics. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the once dominant Congress system was substantially weakened, localised forces emerged to fill the vacuum created by the decline of the grand-old party. Both these forces used religion to the optimum use to gain an upper edge.
While the aggressive BJP of those years, in a quest to unite the Hindus as a political entity and negate the rift created in the majority community by late prime minister V P Singh's reservation politics, mobilised the masses by means of a high-profile Rath Yatra, politicians like Lalu Prasad, who had emerged as a messiah of the Muslims in the wake of the Bhagalpur riots of 1989, counter-mobilised the minority sentiments by stopping Advani's chariot in his state. The weakness of the centrist forces (read Congress) in those years made the clash between the communal and secular forces inevitable.
Fast forwarding to 2013. We saw the eclipse of both the politicians who played the religion card to make a major impact on the national politics. While Advani perished while trying to play a moderate leader but lost the race to the rising popularity and fast transformation of Narendra Modi, Prasad paid the prices for acting as a typical politician who always played the identity card but never cared for ethics.
The BJP has not undertaken any Rath Yatra to mobilise masses for Oct 27 rally
The fall of Advani and sentencing of Lalu Prasad within a gap of a few months meant that the days of the politicians of the immediate post-Congress got over. The fates of these two politicians, who were once extremely popular figures, indicate at a bigger consequence and that is: India has changed a lot in the last 23 years.
And this change is perhaps not explained more than the hype which is building around the BJP's Hunkaar Rally slated on October 27. The massive preparation for the rally which will also be addressed by Narendra Modi, the face of a much moderate saffron party now, and that too in the turf of a competing chief minister named Nitish Kumar, is an interesting development.
For, there is no mass mobilisation on religious lines today as was the case in 1990 and Modi, despite his identity as a strong Hindutva leader, has deliberately distanced himself from communal utterings. He has been airing moderate views, which was seen even in Uttar Pradesh, the capital of the Hindi heartland. There is also little chance of him speaking on religious issues in Patna.
So how does the anti-communal react to this transformation in the right-wing camp? The Nitish Kumar administration has tried to project before the people of Bihar that it is not in the same league with Modi by disallowing him to campaign for state polls or refusing the latter's help for flood victims in the state.
But there is little possibility of the JD(U) government trying to force anything against Modi's rally this time. Rabri Devi, wife of Lalu Prasad, tried to cash in on the opportunity by remarking that Nitish is not Lalu and hence could not repeat her husband's 'heroic act' of 1990 against Advani.
But Rabri Devi must understand that the stories of Advani and Modi are not the same and hence a same conclusion can't be penned for both of them.