On the 25th of April, 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party organized a roadshow in Varanasi where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the centre of attention. Varanasi, the city older than time itself, overflowed with a sea of saffron as people thronged to the streets to welcome the Prime Minister in his constituency.
The entire event emphasized strongly on Narendra Modi’s Hindu identity. After paying tributes to Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya during the roadshow, the Prime Minister performed the Ganga Aarti with his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, was also present at the scene dressed in his traditional Saffron attire.
The Hindu imagery that dominated the roadshow and the events that followed was only to be expected as the venue for it was one of the most sacred cities for Hindus. However, it appears the symbolism of it all did not go down too well with liberals and secularists.
Modi’s massive road show in Varanasi today reminds me of the crowds that used to assemble for Hitler in Nazi Germany.
— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) April 25, 2019
How easily has open display of religious symbolism moved into our public life. Television channels, with no regard for professional ethics or the constitution, happily participating in this exercise. Shameful
— Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) April 25, 2019
India, while you are watching Modi’s varanasi event, keep an eye on the secondary representation of women in every possible way. At that Aarti seat, one man at center, he’d perform it, two women standing behind as props. Keep an eye on #GenderAndReligion #GenderAndNation
— Sanjukta Basu (@sanjukta) April 25, 2019
It’s understandable why liberals reacted so strongly against the roadshow at Varanasi. Narendra Modi is a refutation of the brand of politics they have attempted to create through the establishment. He embraces his Hindu identity, is rooted in Indian traditions and is proud of its rich culture and heritage. He does not put much emphasis on his caste either. It puts him at odds with the entirety of the political establishment.
Liberals wouldn’t have been bothered too much had the flags at Varanasi been green instead of saffron. At Rahul Gandhi’s rally at Wayanad ahead of filing his nomination, his parade was littered with the green flags of the Muslim League with their Islamic crescents. Secularism isn’t hurt when the President of the main opposition party allies himself with minority parties that even Communists deem too radical. Secularism is not hurt when the Islamic crescent is seen at Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow. However, Narendra Modi performing Ganga Aarti is the real threat to secularism according to the intellectual brigade.
In a great many ways, Narendra Modi has decisively shifted the Overton Window of Indian politics towards Hindutva. And he has done so in a way that the Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee couldn’t during his tenure as Prime Minister. Under Narendra Modi, the worst of liberals’ nightmares have come true. At this moment, Hindutva is no longer the counter-ideology of Indian politics, it is mainstream now. And to the great dismay of secularists and liberals, their ideology is now lying neglected in the dustbin of electoral politics.
India will no longer be held hostage to minority appeasement under the garb of secularism. Hindus will no longer be shamed into abandoning their traditions and their culture. Hindus will defend the ancient ways of their ancestors and protect the heritage for the generations to come. As much a consequence of the Hindu revival that Narendra Modi’s rise in national politics is, he has also contributed significantly towards cementing it and translating it into concrete benefits.
Liberals are especially scared because they realize they have lost their monopoly over the narrative as well as the ability to force people into buying what they are selling. Despite their screeching, a Warrior Priest of the Nath Sampradaya cloaked in Saffron was appointed the Chief Minister of the country’s most populous state. Despite all their whining, a victim of the Secular state who was tortured and framed for terrorism because the establishment wished to invent Hindu Terror will contest the elections against someone who was at the forefront of the Hindu Terror narrative. All of this could not have happened without the Modi-Shah juggernaut establishing its stranglehold in Indian politics.
BJP President Amit Shah has reiterated on several occasions that the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections could be deemed to be the Fourth Battle of Panipat. Perhaps, when he made the proclamation, even he couldn’t have guessed how appropriate an analogy it would be. The Congress President’s candidature from a constituency where Hindus are in the minority perfectly encapsulates the significance of the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections.
That Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Wayanad as a safe seat and Narendra Modi is contesting from Varanasi represents the great difference in vision that the Congress party and the BJP have for the country. In Varanasi lies the heart of Hinduism. In Wayanad, Dharma is at its lowest ebb.
At this juncture, the battle is clearly not limited to Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi alone or the BJP versus the rest. It’s also a battle between Saffron and the brand of secularism that cloaks itself under a garb of green. It’s also a battle between Varanasi, the oldest city in history, and what it represents and the Secularism that is most comfortable when flags with Islamic crescents fly high. In 2019, it is the battle between Nehruvian Secularism and Hindutva. And as of now, Hindutva appears to have the definitive edge.