The politics of hate and divisiveness has no place in a civilised time-tested secular polity as India. But the daemons of communalism are always itching to rare their ugly heads. Just when one thought the election campaign in India was moving beyond the contrived politics of secularism that has been cynically exploited to garner minority votes to all-too-real issue of development and economic regeneration, a firebrand leader of a hardline Hindu organisation has kicked up a storm through his outrageous Muslim-bashing. Praveen Togadia, a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is not known for temperate speech, and his latest exhortation allegedly asking supporters in Bhavnagar, a town in Gujarat, not to allow Muslims to buy property in Hindu localities, is only going to further sully his dubious reputation. Such an exhortation is patently against India’s law and its ingrained ethos of inclusivity.
For now, Mr Togadia faces the brunt of law as a first information report (FIR) has been registered against him for “inciting communal passions.” The massive public outrage, cutting across the political spectrum and the rainbow civil society, sparked by his remarks underlines that an exuberantly diverse country like India has no room for such hate speeches and insidious designs to polarise Indian society for electoral gains.
Mr Togadia’s diatribe against Muslims has revived suspicions about the hidden communal agenda of India’s chief opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the VHP is a sister organisation of what is called the extended Sangh parivar, the so-called saffron conglomerate that includes the BJP, its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), and allied organisations like the VHP. Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, has been quick to sense the damage potential of such incendiary remarks and has forthrightly disapproved of such hate-peddling. “Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP’s well-wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development & good governance,” Modi tweeted. “I disapprove any such irresponsible statement & appeal to those making them to kindly refrain from doing so,” he said on the microblogging site.
It’s not just Mr Togadia who is creating needless trouble for an ascendant Modi, but it seems there seems to be no dearth of holier-than-thou zealots. Giriraj Singh, a former Bihar minister and senior BJP leader, also stirred a blazing controversy by thundering publicly that all those opposed to Narendra Modi should go to Pakistan. The BJP, which is seeking to reinvent itself as a party of governance and looks set to win the elections this summer, can do without such fanatics. And India will be infinitely a better place purged of such raving zealots.
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