4 SOCIAL SCIENTIST
Ayodhya, the main vehicle of Hindu nationalism, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), went down to a spectacular debacle. In elections to four state legislative assemblies towards the end of 1993, the party that had battened on the appeal of Hindutva found that its appeal was substantial, but so too was the aversion to it strong enough for otherwise unpoliticised elements of the population to join hands in a strategic alliance to keep it out of powers
That the BJP has been instrumental in establishing a sharp polarisation in the Indian polity is apparent. On the one side are those who see their 'Hindu* identity as a defining characteristic of their political being. On the other are elements who would resist cooptation on the basis of this supposed identity. What is it that makes the Hindutva plank one with such great scope for polarising the people of this country? A ready answer of course is the very diversity of the population, which makes large numbers of it averse to any kind of a slogan which submerges their distinctive characteristics in a unitary homogeneity.
The BJP's effort to draw into its ambit a broad coalition of social forces that would ensure it an electoral plurality has failed. Since the principal religious minority—the Muslim community—was never the target of the BJP's appeal, its preference for other parties was only to be expected. But the key to the electoral verdict of 1993 lies not merely in understanding why the Muslim community chose to exercise its franchise strategically to keep the BJP out of power. The crucial difference is that they were able to achieve a convergence of interests with elements of the population that were targeted by the BJP as a prospective vote bank, and which had on the face of it, a greater susceptibility to the appeal of Hindutva.
DEFINITION BY NEGATIVE ASSOCIATION
What are the ingredients of the Hindutva recipe? Why is it that certain sections take to it with great alacrity, while a larger part of the Indian people cannot conceal their distaste for it? It is easy to conclude that Hindutva is a phenomenon defined by negative association—that which is not Islamic within the cultural framework of the Indian sub-continent is by definition Hindu in its provenance. This obviously is a rather poor basis for building up a new political identity.
What possible means could then be there of defining Hindutva in the positive sense—in terms of what it is, rather than what it is not? Girilal Jain, one of the drum-beaters of Hindutva in the national press during its phase of ascendancy, put it thus: 'Indian culture and civilisation cannot be said to originate in anything other than the Vedas, not merely because nothing earlier to these texts can be found, but also because nothing that basically controverts their contents can be