Hindus are the overwhelming majority of Indian population, some 85 per cent. If all Hindu voters vote for a political party of Hindus, that party could be perpetually in power, turning India into a Hindu Rashtra. Naturally, the Hindu Rashtra would be looking after Hindu interests first, because that was the agenda of the party that won the elections resorting to Hindu vote-bank politics.
All this is possible. But is it feasible? Can any party consolidate the Hindu votes to bank upon?
Today Hinduism is a house divided on caste lines. The Indian National Congress was formed as a political party of all Indians irrespective of religion and caste, with the aim of winning independence from British imperialism. The party had people of different faiths and ideologies who were united on a single purpose of fighting for freedom. Since Hindus formed the major chunk of British India'spopulation, leaders belonging to Hindu religion dominated the Congress. But it was not a Hindu party. In fact, it was a party that bent backwards to accommodate Muslim interests for the purpose of taking the ?major minority? along in the freedom struggle.
This was all the more necessary because Muslim separatism was developing into a roadblock on the path of a united independent India. It is another matter that the Muslim appeasement policy of the Congress was utilised by crafty Muslim leaders to get more and more concessions to their community, which ultimately ended up in a separate state of their own.
The Muslim separatist leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah used blackmail, intimidation and coercion to realise his dream of having a state of his own to rule. He was neither religious nor cared for Islam; he used the fanaticism of others for his selfish ends?that too when he found he could not be the topmost leader of the Congress party who would inherit the position of the chief executive of a united free India.
Jinnah advanced the theory that religion formed the basis of a nation and Indian Muslims constituted a separate nation, which was named Pakistan. He realised his ambition with the connivance of the British authorities who thought that a united India would be too strong for them to deal with; instead two countries mutually hostile would dissipate their strength and not pose a challenge to England. In short, they did not want another monolith like China in Asia.
Once Jinnah realised his pet dream of Pakistan for him to rule, his fervour for Islam faded and he stopped talking that religion formed the basis of his nation. ?As Governor-General, he told the Pakistan Assembly that the new state would be secular and would not make any distinction between followers of different religions? (Rafiq Zakaria in The Struggle within Islam). But the genie of communalism he had unleashed refused to return into the pot. Soon Jinnah became weak physically and mentally; Muslim communalism took over Pakistan with dire consequences. Jinnah died a sad man regretting his creation of Pakistan; he was sorry that he fathered a fanatic offspring.
Today, thinking Pakistanis, despite the wars their country fought with India, envy their Indian counterparts who chose to remain in India on the eve of Partition. Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-i-Islami, the most fundamentalist organisation in Pakistan, was asked what his reaction would be to India'sbecoming a Hindu state as a countermeasure to Pakistan becoming an Islamic state. He replied: ?I will have no objection if the Muslims in India are treated like sudras and mlechchas and Manu'slaws are applied to them depriving them of all share in government and rights as citizens.? Any takers among Indian Muslims to Maududi'sconcept of a Hindu state? For that matter, any Hindus?
It is a fact that the Indian National Congress failed to avert the Partition of India. One reason for this was the policy of Muslim appeasement by which it thought Muslims could be won over from Jinnah'sseparatist leadership. But Jinnah turned out to be too clever for the Congress; he succeeded in impressing his followers that Hindus would have to submit before Muslim might (his obstinacy). And he proved to be right.
The other reason for conceding Pakistan was the unholy hurry shown by Congress leaders (except Gandhi) to be in the chair of power. If the Congress were adamant to reject independence conditional to Partition, the transfer of power might have been delayed, but not denied. Post World War II Britain, that was too weak to hold on even small countries like Ceylon, Singapore etc., could not have ruled India any more. Meanwhile, terminally sick Jinnah would have died and there were no capable leaders to continue with the campaign for Pakistan.
Of course, an independent united India would have had its teething troubles. Communal riots instigated by the Muslim League would have continued for some time. But that would not have been on the scale of death and devastation that took place during Partition. Ultimately sub-nationalism?Bengali, Punjabi, Sindhi etc.?would have prevailed over the fake nationalism based on religion. An example is, Kashmiriyat that prevented Kashmiri Muslims to join Pakistan and allowed Hindus and Muslims live in peace for more than three decades. The reason for Kashmiri separatism rising thence was not religious, but instigation and support from across the border. If there were no Pakistan, Kashmir would have been like any other state in India despite its Muslim majority.
All this is now day-dreaming, wishful thinking. There is no use of crying over spilt milk, one can only be careful not to spill any more.
To revert to vote-bank politics, it has to be based on religious or casteist appeal. The characteristic of Hinduism is variety?whether in gods, scriptures, faiths or the way of living. As it is, no political party could unite Hindus under one ideological umbrella. What they could try was creating vote banks of castes often with differing interests. That means, though Hindus are a majority, no Hindu vote-bank could be created.
Supposing a Hindu vote-bank is possible, is it desirable? Some may argue that Hindus are truly secular (opposed to pseudo-secular), so there is no danger in cultivating a Hindu vote-bank. That will be too simplistic a deduction. Moreover, the very phrase ?vote bank? has acquired a bad connotation by usage. Should Hindus who have been critical of vote-bank politics all these days, now take a ?U? turn to take up the same with the hope it would fetch more votes? The likelihood is the party indulging in Hindu vote bank politics will lose a major chunk of liberal Hindu votes as well as the votes of other communities.
(The writer is a senior journalist and can be contacted at [email protected])