The Hindutva Genus and a Maverick Species

The Hindu Yuva Vahini has unleashed a reign of terror Left, Right and Centre in Uttar Pradesh. In a move reminiscent of the Talibani condemnation of the ISIS, the Hindu Right has united with the other side of the spectrum in its censure. This article deconstructs the counter-intuitive political move.

The Neo-Hindu Right

The political Hindu Right in India has a dual identity, deriving its legitimacy from the gaurakshak and the intelligentsia alike. This careful balancing act is embodied in the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its tryst with electoral democracy. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is its saffron army – foot soldiers for its electoral victory. Yet the seductive dream of economic development, embodied in Narendra Modi and his “Gujarat model” is what lured the middle class into voting the BJP into power. Hindutva is, strictly speaking, not antithetical to this prosperity. However, the self-proclaimed liberal populace squirms at the brazen exercise of communalism that the BJP’s “evil twin” is known for.

A microcosmic model of this conflict is seen in the knotty politics of Uttar Pradesh. The RSS manufactured an election in a state with an empowered and heterogeneous population, garnering the support of even the Dalits, OBCs and Muslims. Yet the face on every newspaper after BJP’s monumental victory in the 2017 assembly elections was that of Modi. Communalism is the Brahmastra which is never spoken of. A panacea for the aspirational middle class, with the surgical strikes on black money and the benign schemes of distributing gas cylinders, the BJP was careful in not alienating either of its antagonistic electorates. An aggressive Hinduvta mandate might alienate the middle classes while liberalism and secularism would estrange the communal hardliners. Thus Modi made speeches about vikaas with a hint of kabristaan-shamshaan ghat and was careful to not field a single Muslim candidate as the RSS fabricated a majority for the lotus.

The Obstinate and the Ominous

The Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) is wrecking this carefully constructed coalition. The progenitor of this organisation is the current Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath. Unaffiliated to the RSS yet its ideological twin, it states its aim as establishing Hindutva under a broad, inclusive (non-Muslim) coalition. The distant cousin of the Sangh parivar has been a cause of worry for the BJP and RSS. Its animosity was seen when it declared fielding a candidate against the BJP in the assembly elections, for which it was rebuked.

Reverting to the classic tactics of communal goondaism, the HYV is involved in harassment and aggressive propagation of the cow protection and love jihad programmes. This, however, hardly separates it from its counterparts. What the HYV has over the RSS is its allegiance to an individual and not the arterial Hindutva collective. It derives its legitimacy from Adityanath and is therefore unaccountable to the BJP-RSS cadre. Since he descended the CM throne, applications to the HYV have reached 5,000 a day. This has further emboldened it to exercise independent discretion and exist as an alternative centre of power. The personalisation of political power is often threatening to the party elite, which thrives on loyalty to the party and not to individuals. Since the link between the individual and the party is a delicate one, this secures the collective from any instances of severance. Indira Gandhi’s support base amongst the poor imperilled the standing of the then Congress Party, as it made the party dependent on the individual for its survival, not the other way around. The apprehension of the BJP-RSS is thus not unwarranted. The success of the Hindu Right lies in its ability to unite against all liberal elements, a lesson that was learnt when the Shiv Sena became hostile and competed against the BJP.

A free reign gives the HYV unwarranted power to propagate its politically incorrect version of Hindutva. The constructed centre-right orientation of the BJP is under attack. A distant fringe group, intimately associated with its CM, is bound to do heavy damage to this image. However, the damage is greatest in its ability to counter and perhaps even challenge the BJP in its own game. If the HYV supersedes the RSS in UP, then the BJP loses a chunk of its loyal supporters and its dream of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’.

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