If the first Modi wave back in 2014 dealt a staggering blow to the Indian opposition, the second one absolutely decimated their collective morale. When, against all odds, the Modi-Shah duo steered the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to an even grander victory than their last in this year’s general election, the leftist cabal had a massive meltdown while the right-wing supporters of the “saffron” party were in high spirits. Once the euphoria of May 23 died down and the newly formed government began to make certain decisions, the Indian right found themselves in an embarrassing situation.
Five years ago, Narendra Modi fought his way to the top as the face of a Hindu nationalist uprising against a dynastic government that had dominated the country for 60 years. When he took over the reins of the nation from the Indian National Congress (INC) party, the Hindu right’s elation knew no bounds. For the first time in decades, there was hope. The tables had turned and they now possessed political power over the leftist ecosystem that had for long squashed their aspirations. With the dawn of the Modi era, they envisaged the construction of a majestic Ram temple on the much-disputed site in Ayodhya, the scrapping of Articles 35A and 370 of the constitution that grant special status to Jammu and Kashmir and a cultural revolution that would ensure the protection of the Hindu value system and religious artifacts.
The Modi government’s first term had its fair share of highs and lows where popularity with the right wing was concerned. The initial years of the new government witnessed the right staunchly standing by their “savior” as he fought the twin evils of underdevelopment and poverty. They lauded Modi’s flagship schemes like Make in India and the Clean India Mission, shielding them fiercely from leftist jibes.
Gradually, however, they began to run out of patience, and rightly so; the Modi government had not taken any concrete steps toward building the temple of their dreams. While they appreciated the decision to cancel the hajj subsidy, the allocation of the subsidy money for the education of Muslim girls did not sit well with them, as many, especially the far right, looked down upon the latter as minority appeasement. Still, they consoled themselves with the BJP-backed protests opposing the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple (though this was clearly a part of the party’s electoral strategy to make inroads in Kerala), the construction of the world’s tallest statue honoring nationalist icon Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat, and the famous Balakot air strike conducted by India as a befitting response to Pakistan for the suicide bombing engineered by Jaish-e-Mohammed that killed 40 policemen in Pulwama, J&K.
The right split into two broad camps in the run-up to the 2019 election, with one faction disillusioned with Modi while the other idolized him to the core
The right split into two broad camps in the run-up to the 2019 election, with one faction disillusioned with Modi while the other idolized him to the core. The former was of the opinion that the BJP was steadily shedding its Hindu-nationalist identity while the latter battled these charges vehemently, pointing to the names of certain cities being changed by the government to restore, as they argued, the Hindu ethos. Despite their differences and numerous social-media wars on the topic, the two camps joined hands in the election and hoisted Modi to glory as the thought of the INC dynasts ruling the country again was too painful to bear. They fervently hoped that the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance would prove worthy of a second chance by turning things around in its second term.
And turn things around the new government did, though not for the better. Much to the chagrin of the right, the Modi government began to take an overtly pro-minority stance. Barely a month after its landslide victory, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi announced the distribution of scholarships to 50 million students from minority communities over the next five years, with 50% of them reserved for girls. The government also tried to appease the Christian community, establishing a Christian Missionary Cell in Mizoram this month.
Recently, a 19-year-old woman in Jharkhand, Richa Bharti, was arrested for an allegedly communal social-media post and was issued an order by a court in Ranchi, the capital of the northeastern state, granting her bail on the condition that she distributes five copies of the Koran. This sent tempers running high among both factions of the right, with prominent personalities from both camps demanding that the government interject to save the girl. However, only a handful of BJP leaders, most of them in Jharkhand, spoke out in her support. The deplorable order was eventually rescinded, but left the rightists scarred. They correctly questioned whether such an incident should have happened in a state governed by the BJP in the first place.
It is also important to note that the Modi government has been silent about their Hindu-centric promises since the BJP’s victory. The right wing’s long-harbored hopes and dreams such as freeing temples from government control, establishing higher educational institutions imparting Indic knowledge to students, improving the quality of primary-level education, curbing violence against Hindus and their religious symbols, and the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code lie in shambles. The Ram temple has not manifested into reality nor are there signs of it being erected any time soon. The “saffron” party’s most loyal support base has been relegated to the background imminently in the wake of its victory.
The truth of the matter is that the BJP has effectively used the right as a vote bank, feeding them morsels of appeasement during the crucial months preceding the election and has abruptly withdrawn its support now that the Modi government has reclaimed power.
If the party was mindful of the interests of right-leaning Hindus during its first term, it seems oblivious to their concerns today. The right wing is awakening to the fickleness that characterizes the ideological stance of the present government. It hops from minority appeasement to its goal of being acknowledged as pro-poor and back, returning to Hindutva and nationalism whenever time demands it.
The same party that tweeted about ousting “every single infiltrator” from the country on the first day of the election is now relentlessly wooing religious minorities. The same man who lambasted the Congress party for uttering the term “Hindu terror” days before the election now has no words to spare for Richa Bharti. A good chunk of the right has now come to see the BJP as a power-hungry entity, comparable to the INC.
Leftists all over the world continue to brand Modi a Hindu nationalist leader but ironically, it is the Indian right that now begs to differ.