"Nathuram Godse was a patriot, and will remain so. People calling him a terrorist should introspect", so said Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur about the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse.
Pragya Singh will soon occupy a seat in India's parliament where a picture of Gandhi is hung on the wall, in a clear signal that our country is turning into something different. When the results of the election to the 17th Lok Sabha emerged, they were unfolding in such a way as to underline the fears that this may be the last election of its kind. At the time of this going into press, , the BJP-led NDA has won 351 seats in the Lok Sabha. BJP by itself has claimed 302 seats too. In other words, BJP has the strength to rule with a safe majority of its own, without banking on the support of coalition parties. And the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has come close to a two-thirds majority. A party in power can easily pull to its fold parties that do not owe allegiance to either UPA (United Progressive Alliance) or NDA. That being so, in the next one and a half years, BJP will be getting closer to a position with two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha also, whereby it can bring about amendments to the constitution of the kind it chooses. And if so, it will not be a surprise if - as BJP leader Sakhsi Maharaj commented - this may be the last election of its kind. In short, before India completes 100 years from winning independence, the spectre before us is of an India becoming a different India.
Three is no room for the fallacy that this impressive win was won on the merit of the government of Modi over the last five years. The Modi era mainly witnessed measures that caused only hardship to the people, such as the note-ban, the reckless implementation of Good & Services Tax (GST) and petroleum price rise, as examples. Therefore, if in spite of that, the ruling party BJP has been able to clinch such a landslide, the factors at play need to be analysed. One undeniable truth is that BJP succeeded in creating a wave of frenzied nationalism and Hindu polarisation that made people oblivious of all the day-to-day issues of the common man. The party effectively spurred nationalistic fervour projecting the Pulwama terrorist attack, and the subsequent surgical strike across the aerial border of Pakistan. With Pakistan held up as an enemy, the party was widely selling the notion , with the backing of an easily pliant media, that the country is in big danger and that what the country needs at this juncture is a strong leader. It is quite natural that in the Hindi heartland, such themes find easy acceptance. But it is surprising that outside the Hindi helt - in states of Bengal and Karnataka too - this theme enabled the party to make considerable inroads.
The last five years of Modi's rule was marked by scores of incidents of mob killing, goon attacks by cow vigilantes and intolerance that suppresses different voices. Further, there may not have been another prime minister destined to be at the receiving end of so much criticism and ridicule. That being so, the fact that he has been re-elected to power with renewed strength, engenders the natural anxiety about all of these continuing. The result: our country will be in for in a more divided state. The dear nation will then become a country with an outward posture of holding its chest forward, but internally a weakened nation.
In another sense, this is a natural inevitability. Matters reached this point predominantly due to the failure of the secular forces in identifying and stemming the growth of paranoid nationalism. They proved incapable of even presenting an alternative narrative highlighting the dangers of bellicose nationalism or communal polarization. Opposition unity was often found stumbling and tottering in the name of petty interests. Now that bygones are bygones, there is no use wailing over spilt milk. What is needed hence is the eternal vigilance to prevent the country from falling into a black hole. And the onus of that does not rest solely on political parties. Every democratic and progressive movement has the obligation to be in the forefront to display that required democratic alertness. The prayer thus should be for our country to turn into a more shining nation.