‘Pettylicious Politics’

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In India today we have a central government that is doing some great work at the macro level which will have far reaching results for the better in years to come. Most governments in the past shied away from taking much needed long term views on major developmental issues. This was primarily because they were looking to please the voters with short term policies or if one may say measures aimed at providing ‘immediate gratification’ to the voters with the sole aim of protecting vote banks for the near future. Defence preparedness, growth in power sector, industrial and infrastructure growth, lack of clarity in anti terrorism policies, integration of state of Jammu & Kashmir, uniform civil code, development at grass root levels in rural areas were some of the major casualties in this regard. Present government has addressed many of these areas and results in some cases like power production, coal production, improvement in infrastructure, inclusion of rural population in main stream banking, streamlining of disbursement of subsidies are some obvious examples where appreciable changes for the better are already visible. Defence preparedness has seen a major thrust and in the coming years the forces will certainly be better equipped, have greater fire power and will not be left wanting in terms of decision making. A debate for Uniform Civil Code has already been initiated and the obnoxious VVIP culture is getting some rude shocks.

‘Pettylicious’ is not listed in any dictionary since there is no such word in English language as on date. The word has been derived from the words ‘petty’ and ‘delicious’ and can be defined as ‘seeking pleasure and satisfaction from petty nonsensical acts that do not add value’. It can be seen as an adjective for the word ‘petty’.  ‘Pettylicious Politics’ would imply petty nonsensical political acts carried out purely for nuisance value by some innocuous people (politically inclined) for their personal gratification to feel important in absence of any proper standing or contribution to the society or the political party they support. The moot question here is if these are such inconsequential people in a political party then why the party leadership allows them to practice ‘pettylicious politics’. After all it does bring a bad name to the party and sows seeds for polarisation of the society. If such ‘pettylicious political acts’ happen on a regular basis then people start wondering if these are being done by design with blessings of the party and its leadership.

In case of BJP the latter feeling is now gaining currency with a lot of people across the country. Will this be good for BJP in the long run or will it backfire? This is an important question that would certainly be on the minds of senior BJP leadership too. Be it Love Jihad, Cow Slaughter, singing Vande Matram or the perennial sore issue of Ram Mandir, these four topics figure prominently in most pettylicious acts by BJP fringe. Occasionally a few senior BJP leaders too make off the cuff comments on these subjects which adds to the belief that this may be part of an overall party strategy. All this raises two questions. Is the BJP fringe acting on behalf of the party and its leadership? If so, then what does BJP hope to gain by this approach?

It is no secret that BJP has always felt that in last seven decades nearly all governments have practiced minority appeasement politics. What possibly irks BJP further is that such appeasement was at the cost of majority Hindu population of the country which amounts to nearly 83% as on date. Starting with Congress party, many regional parties like SP, BSP, TMC, National Conference, CPI(M) and PDP too have thrived on appeasement politics to safeguard and hold on to vote banks. Congress government of the eighties not only failed to check immigration from Bangladesh but compounded the problem by assimilating the immigrants locally in Assam. This changed the demography of the state with obvious political advantages for Congress in Assam. The complex problem of Jammu and Kashmir was further aggravated when Rajiv Gandhi government failed to take any serious action on the forced exodus of over 300,000 Hindu Pundits from the Kashmir valley in 1991. His government failed on couple of other important occasions too. First was the famous Shah Bano case where he capitulated to the Muslim community that resulted in a major setback for implementation of a Uniform Civil Code in the country. The second occasion was the opening of the disputed Mandir/ Masjid site in Ayodhya which has now become a sort of beacon for pettylicious politics. Successive governments, mainly Congress led, played safe and kept all these issues under wraps as part of appeasement politics instead of finding solutions.

In all fairness BJP does have a case when it says minority appeasement was carried out at the cost of majority population. Knowledgeable people also know that despite appeasement, minorities have actually been taken for a ride. The only gainers in the whole process have been the political parties and some minority community leaders who have more often than not acted as brokers and invariably exploited their own communities. These leaders always propagate a deep mistrust for BJP among their community. Today by design a situation has been created where their leaders have put the fear of God in them about a possible Hindu dominance in the near future. Pettylicious politics of BJP fringe are presented as main stream politics of BJP by these Muslim leaders. The gullible Muslim masses have swallowed these falsehoods. This has resulted in their joining ranks to present a united front apart from wallowing in mistrust of not only BJP leadership but also anything to do with Hindu or Hinduism. The overdrive with which some educated Muslim youth are turning towards radical Islam is a manifestation of this fear that has gripped the community in many parts of the country. Unfortunately they do not realise that no government can ignore a community that is bigger than the entire population of Pakistan when it comes to development or growth. There are very few takers for NDA government’s ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ approach within the Muslim community.

Some people wonder why Mr Modi and his government do not put a stop to such acts. The answer is simple. Modi-rise is synonymous with rise in nationalism across the nation. This new wave of nationalism is being seen as a rise of Hindu aspirations by majority of Muslims and the band of Modi haters. Thus this new wave of nationalism is now referred to as ‘Hindu Nationalism’ since most Muslims refrain from associating with the movement. Pettylicious politics has played an important part not only in this rise of nationalism in the common man but also in becoming a binding agent for uniting Hindus which in turn translates into votes. So it will be naive to presume that BJP will put a stop to such pettylicious politics in a hurry. No one can doubt that for a very small effort the dividend is too large to be ignored.

India has a history of such pettylicious politics. Congress, CPI (M), SP, PDP, TMC, BSP, National Conference and some other parties too have been practicing pettylicious politics for decades. Leaders like Dig Vijay Singh, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Farooq Abdullah, late Mufti Mohammad, Mamta Banerjee, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mayawati and Sitaram Yechury are masters at this art. The point to note here is that while these are all big names within their parties, for BJP pettylicious politics are restricted to marginal and fringe elements only within the party. This is where the current government differs from most others that came before it and that is certainly reassuring.

Politics aside, there is no doubt that the NDA government and its top leadership are genuinely sincere when it comes to transforming India into a strong and developed nation. To achieve this they seem to have a strong belief that they will eventually win over the minorities with their good work and good governance model over a period of time. ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ is not a mere slogan. By bringing out schemes that have universal appeal and applicability irrespective of caste, creed or religion, the government sincerely wants to reach every Indian. The government also realises that no amount of talking or promises will convince those who view the NDA government with suspicion. For any turn around in the attitude of minorities the government’s deeds will have to speak for themselves. Once minorities start believing in the BJP and its government, the importance or need for pettylicious politics will diminish automatically. The sooner this happens the better it will be for all concerned.

Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.

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