Religion does not appeal to the hungry

It is high time for BJP and RSS to learn lessons from the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, the great Hindu monk credited for introducing Hinduism in the West and pioneering nationalism in colonial India.

Sagarneel Sinha

One of the important lessons that political parties should learn from the Assembly election results of the last leg of 2018 is that the voters are more concerned about issues which affect their daily lives. The three states namely Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan that went to polls are mostly agrarian states and voters voted for the opposition Congress to replace incumbent BJP. 

The BJP and RSS tried their best to raise the Hindutva agenda to make it a significant issue for the polls. RSS along with its associated saffron outfits like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) went further attempting to fish in the troubled waters over the issue of Supreme Court deferring consideration of the Ayodhya dispute case till January, 2019. 

The BJP also deployed Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the hardliner Hindutva campaigner, to campaign in the elections, aiming to polarise the Hindus. In fact, Yogi addressed the highest number of rallies than any other BJP star campaigner, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

In Mizoram, where the Congress was the incumbent, the party played the Christian card. Mizoram is a Christian state with 87 per cent of the population practicing Christianity and the Church playing a major role in the state. However, when the results were out, Congress not only lost miserably to Mizo National Front (MNF) but came third behind the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM). Not only this, the incumbent chief minister Lal Thanhawla lost the two seats he contested. 

But the major disappointment is that some critical issues were overshadowed in the election campaigning with polarising statements by political leaders dominating the narrative. According to an upcoming report by Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a think-tank tracking business and economic developments, unemployment is steadily rising in India spiking to 7.1 per cent which means that around 3.1 crore Indians are jobless. Not only this, last year the Union government informed the Supreme Court that more than 12,000 farmer suicides had been reported since 2013. Just one month ago, lakhs of farmers marched to New Delhi demanding an end to the agrarian crisis. 

Apart from all these significant issues, there is competition among the parties to lure the majority Hindus, who account 79.8 per cent of the Indian population, particularly by BJP. However, from the verdict of the Assembly elections, it is apparent that voters voted for issues affecting their daily lives. Ram Temple in Ayodhya is definitely an emotional issue for the majority Hindus but they don’t want political parties and their governments to use it as an excuse for not providing good governance. 

It doesn’t mean that Indian voters are not religious. According to a Gallup poll in 2008, as much as 90 per cent of Indians responded that religion was important in their daily lives. However, what the parties don’t understand is that Indian electorates, although religious, don’t want political parties as sole agents for their religions. 

It is high time for BJP and RSS to learn lessons from the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, the great Hindu monk credited for introducing Hinduism in the West and pioneering nationalism in colonial India. BJP and RSS highly revere Vivekananda; even Prime Minister Narendra Modi considers the Swamiji as his idol. In one of his lectures, Swamiji quoted, “Did not our Gurudeva used to say An empty stomach is no good for religion?” Political parties, especially the ruling establishment, would do well to heed to the message of 2018 elections and focus on critical issues like youth unemployment and farmers’ distress.

(The author is a political commentator) 

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