It may be coincidental, but it is perhaps only appropriate that the Gujarat elections are being held in the week of the 25th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. The BJP, after all, hasn’t lost a single election in Gujarat over this period and the rath yatra, which led to the Babri Masjid’s destruction, rolled out from the state.
“We are coming together to defend secularism by defeating Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the RSS,” proclaimed Lalu Prasad with typical bombast in September 2015 just ahead of the Bihar assembly elections. “Our biggest challenge is to defeat the forces of communalism represented by Mr Modi,” argued Nitish Kumar vehemently. The die had been cast: in the autumn of 2015, the citadel of secularism had to be protected at all costs from the saffron army led by the strongman from Gujarat.
There are many joys of living in Goa, but its gastronomic pluralism is easily one of the tiny state’s biggest attractions. On the day that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was calling for a national law against cow slaughter, I was having dinner with a Goa BJP minister: On the menu was fish curry, pork sorpotel and beef chilly fry. When I asked the minister how he interpreted Bhagwat’s remarks, he smiled indulgently: “Bhagwatji lives in Nagpur, we live in Goa.
One of the more intriguing narratives being spun after the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the new Uttar Pradesh chief minister is to liken his rise to Narendra Modi. Like Modi, Adityanath is a single man born in a poor family who left home at a young age and discovered himself in the womb of Hindutva politics. Like Modi, Adityanath too is charismatic and controversial, with a reputation for being a hard taskmaster. And like the PM, Adityanath too is viewed with a mix of fear and skepticism by the English-speaking liberal intelligentsia.
In the aftermath of the 2014 general election debacle, I asked a senior Congressman how his party would now battle the Narendra Modi juggernaut. “Not to worry, we have time on our side,” he claimed rather confidently. The message was that with Rahul Gandhi still in his early forties, five years out of power wasn’t an issue. Now, almost three years later, the 2017 electoral verdict in Uttar Pradesh and beyond has only confirmed that time is rapidly running out for the Congress and the Opposition.