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The ‘core’ needs to keep the faith

Karnataka results have split the Right-Wing electorate vertically into two. While some claim that the defeat is a result of inaction on the Core Hindu agenda, others say it was merely a case of slip between the cup and the lip. The truth depends on which side of the line you stand towards. The fact, however, remains that BJP started testing the water with their Temple fund utilization promise in their manifesto. That promise made the manifesto partially ‘Core’, albeit imperfect.

Twitter is replete with folks on the ‘right’ side of the political spectrum, warning Narendra Modi about similar results in 2019 if the Core Hindu agenda is not fulfilled. While I am a supporter of the Core agenda, I think such threats are pointless.

I think the 93rd Amendment is a travesty. Yes, I think sectarian purse should be abolished. And yes, I think temples must be governed by Hindus and not by a secular state. I believe deeply in the core ideology, though I differ from many of its supporters in not sharing an “all or none” approach.

The most common point of disaffection is that the Prime Minister has not done anything for Hindus. Ladies and gentlemen of the ‘core’, why was a manifesto that promised “proper utilization of temple funds” rejected in Karnataka? Is it not weird that you want BJP to fulfill the Core agenda and at the same time, you reject a manifesto that wants to test ‘Core’ waters? Haven’t you just told the politicians that you will punish them for perceived mistakes of the past, no matter what the present and future plan is? How do you expect the politician to take you seriously when you can’t stand by your own agenda – howsoever imperfect it is? On a related note: this particular promise was made because of mathas and not the folks who support the ‘core’ agenda.

A politician, any politician is in the business of winning elections. Any promise made to an interest group should come with a commensurate and tangible increase in his/her ability to win elections. It is the cynical reality of electoral politics. I elaborate my understanding of the Core agenda’s strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis the electoral process below. In order to explain this, I broadly divide the polity [vote banks] into the following segments: Minorities, Majority Secular, Majority Hindu, and Majority Core. The reason I am not delving into caste groups is that ‘Core’ is basically a Hindu cause.

Minorities typically vote against BJP [a ~15% negative vote]. This leaves us with the other three voter segments. Of those, Majority secular is the largest group in Urban India. The Majority Secular are easily offended by political incorrectness, easily influenced/shamed by English Language Media, and believe in “Ganga Jamuna Tehzeeb”. When they hear anything that remotely affects their definition of “secularism”, they turn against BJP. This group has to be appeased, for their numbers are crucial to winning decisively.

The remaining urban Hindu vote is divided into Majority Hindu votes and a small fraction into ‘Core’ votes. The Majority Hindu vote often acts to counter the Minority consolidation. To my limited knowledge, ‘Core’ hasn’t exhibited an election-altering quorum, nor has there been a study of urban reception for #core ideology.

While Rural Hindus have more “Majority Hindus”, they are splintered easily on lines of caste. Even when they are not splintered, they are more worried about tangible Hindutva politics such as the Ram Mandir issue. The Core, again, gets short shifted.

While the Core team may claim sufficient strength to affect several seats [as it happened in Bangalore] via NOTA, I suspect they are spread across the city evenly, and won’t be able to leverage their numbers. In a close analogy, INC had more voters in Karnataka but their even spread across the state resulted in less number of seats.

So, if the ‘Core’ has no electoral pull in urban or rural seats, why should politicians take them seriously? The answer is civilizational. We expect one political party [BJP here] to fight our civilizational battles, without any immediate benefit. In business terms, this is a blue sky project, albeit a worthy one. We want someone to invest in us for our idea – with no prototype, nor any income streams in the near future; in the hopes that they will reap a huge benefit in the long term.

However, the person who invests in a blue-sky project is not a peer. S/he is a patron or a matron. And your project is at the mercy of the patron. No amount of philosophizing, or civilizational reasoning changes this simple equation. Core ideology needs political patronage at this stage of its evolution.

Most ‘Core’ voters will say at this point: “we won’t vote for BJP, and will refuse their patronage too”. The ‘Core’ team are entitled to take this stance. On the flip side though, let me assume for a moment that the ‘Core’ is more prevalent than it appears to be and they manage to defeat BJP in 2019. What next? I have already argued the case scenarios for both BJP and the ‘Core’ in one of my blogs.

If the ‘Core’ brings down NDA in 2019 [doesn’t matter if it is active or passive], this is my prediction:

The ideological opponents will likely use everything at their disposal to hunt and smother the fledgeling RW. Especially since the RW has exposed its own thought leaders since 2014. Moreover, bringing back UPA3 will certainly bring back sectarian lawmaking with a vengeance.

The last point about “sectarian lawmaking”, was elaborately dealt with by one of the stalwart tweeples of the ‘Core’ team, Hariprasad N [link to the article here].

So, is it a catch 22 for ‘Core’? Is it the case that they can neither demand what they want nor save face for their ideology? I do not think so. I think the issue is one of understanding the transactional nature of politics. And it is a simple one to address.

For some reason, we “citizens” tend to think less of politicians. This is a general comment, applying to almost all citizens and to politicians of all hues. We think all politicians [with very few honourable exceptions] as lesser humans who are up for a sale. We think of them as manipulative people, with no higher thought in their lives. We see them as tools for our upliftment, as mere agents for a change we wish to see around us. All of this and more is true of the nature of their jobs. But, it is also true that they are humans. They are people like us with likes, dislikes, convictions, virtues and vices. Just because we are only shown the worst of their species, we make the mistake of treating every one of them just the same.

My request to the ‘core’ is to actively shed this thought and engage with politicians as stakeholders in the future you envision. In TirukkuRaL, VaLLuvar says “இனிய உளவாக இன்னாதக் கூறல் கனியிருப்பக் காய் கவர்ந்தற்று” – to speak harsh words when you can speak sweeter ones, will have the same difference between attraction to ripe and unripe fruits.

We, the Hindu right and the #core, need to use the art of sweet talking our politicians. They are people, and luckily in BJP, many grass root politicians still believe in doing good for this country. Meet them halfway, convince them to buy into the ‘Core’ idea. Most importantly, have faith.

Maybe not everyone will listen to you, but then we have to try until we find one who will. That is our burden in this cause.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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