Chanakya is believed to have warned the King “Do not put your trust in bad friends”. Atal Behari Vajpayee had also discovered this to his cost when the more fanatical Hindus in the Sangh Parivar ran amok not once but at least six times during his eight year rule. He could only bleat helplessly because, in the end, like large political parties all over the world, he had to “keep his base intact”.
Modi’s wimpish responses to what Togadia etc have been saying has to be viewed in this light. But, as is often the case, half-hearted responses to outrageous statements during elections extract a well-deserved price: fewer wins.
It should not come as a surprise, therefore, if in spite of the “base” argument, Amit Shah, Giriraj Singh, Ramdas Kadam et all cost the BJP as many as 15-20 seats because sensible Hindus take fright at what may lie in store. For let us not forget that 321 constituencies are still to vote and in most of these the BJP either faces multi-cornered fights which means every vote counts or it does not exist at all as in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala etc.
All right-thinking people are now wondering if the warnings about the BJP are not correct after all. Over the last couple of years, thanks largely to the abysmal governance by UPA, many had slowly convinced themselves that the BJP had changed. Maybe it has.
But clearly its extended family hasn’t and seems to be rubbing its hands in anticipatory glee at the prospect of a BJP government which will give it the licence to persecute the Muslims and other minorities.
Ironically, the only BJP leader who can hold them strongly in check is Modi. In Gujarat, over the last ten years, he gradually marginalised not just the VHP but also the RSS. But did he do so for the wrong reasons in that they were rival political forces?
He is thus faced with the biggest test of his political career now: to save the election from the Hindu fanatics whose talk of Hindu culture is nothing but a code word for hunting Muslims.
Modi has to stop this nonsense or face the political consequences in the form of fewer seats for the BJP, which would be a good thing if it can save India from Hindu zealots.
He can’t hunt with the hounds and run with the hares.