Wednesday, December 10, 2014

From Vote Bank to Identity Bank

Poverty has many uses.  One is that the poor can be made vote banks easily.  Many political parties have ascended the stairs of power by bribing the poor with gifts during election time.  The Congress is one party that now carries the charge of having used the entire poor of the country as vote banks through what is rather imaginatively called “appeasement”.

When the Congress and other political parties stand accused of having “appeased” the poor, the new dispensation is proving that it is indeed “a party with a difference.”  It is not using the poor as a vote bank; it is wrenching their religious identity from them.

Rulers with imperial ambitions have always used the strategy of stripping people of their religious identities.  The Muslim conquerors and the Christian imperialists found their own unique ways of implementing religious conversion in regions captured by them.  While the former relied on brute force, the latter made use of gentler missionaries. 

The reigning BJP and its allies are now employing a mix of both force and lure to convert the poor belonging to minority communities into Hinduism.  A few hundred (the number varies in the media reports) Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have been converted with the lure of money, residential flats, aadhar cards and other enticements.  The strategy is also being employed in Bihar and West Bengal.  Soon it will spread its tentacles to other states where poverty is rampant.

The BJP is not hankering after votes since it already enjoys a “brute majority” (an interesting phrase) in the Lok Sabha and is confident of winning such majority in coming elections thanks to the popularity of the Prime Minister who is all set to become the Time’s Man of the Year.  What the BJP wants is not votes but identities.  Ever since the inception of the Jana Sangh, the Sangh Parivar’s primary concern has always been the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra in India.  The infinity of social identities (religious, cultural, linguistic, regional, and even racial) in India always circumscribed such an irrational ambition. 

Empires overcome obstacles through marauding strategies. The religious conversions sponsored by the Parivar belong to those strategies and effectively utilise the imperial ambitions that underpin Mr Modi’s personality.  Mr Modi and the Parivar feed on and nourish each other. 

Will they be successful, however?  The poor are as malleable and ductile as gold.  Their identity can be placed on the anvil again and again and beaten into many shapes and designs (and distortions too).  Such works of craftsmanship may help to inflate certain figures in the country’s Census.  Will it create any genuine Hindu or Hindustani?  Can people’s hearts and souls be reshaped under the hammer?

More importantly, will the Parivar actually succeed in its ambition to create a Hindu Rashtra with a monolithic Hinduism?  Already south Indian leaders like Vaiko have raised the banner of dissension.  He has made it clear that he won’t support the Parivar’s plans to Sanskritise India and impose one region’s culture over the entire country.  Will Kerala embrace the Parivar’s dreams?  What about the North-east?

Ultimately, a few thousand poor people mostly in North India will end up struggling to absorb a new religious identity.  That’s the only major difference that “the party with a difference” will make, it seems. 


  1. Its hopes and only wishes turned into hopes that we have ..... Loved the "the poor are as malleable and ductile as gold"

    1. One person's hope is another's nemesis in a man-eat-man world of jingoism and capitalism yoked together with a dictator holding the rein.

  2. The poor are as malleable and ductile as gold. This is right but why should take it on today's scenario only and for RSS only ? Long ago earlier when most of the Hindus were poor ( still they are ) what the missionaries and Islam fundamentalist did ?

    1. Yogi, yours is the typical sort of logic that goes above my head which is proudly rational :) When I say "elephant" you hear (or choose to hear) "rhinoceros".

      Please read the article again and see whether your comment is related to it.

      Anyway, since you raise the issue...

      1. Wherever Christianity took roots it brought education and healthcare. Look at the number of Christian schools and colleges and other educational institutions as well as hospitals, all run very efficiently providing state of the art service to society, in Kerala and the North-east where Christianity has a significant hold.

      2. When did Muslims ever have power in India except till the Mughal empire? In the days of Kings and Emperors which common man benefited irrespective of religion? Did the Muslim in India benefit from the Islamic reigns?

      3. Once India became democratic and independent, did Christianity or Islam have any power in Delhi so that they could do anything to anybody?

      4. Don't tell me that 827,578,868 Hindus in India are facing the threat of extinction from 138,188,240 Muslims or 24,080,016 Christians or even from both of them together (which would still be less than a quarter of the Hindu population). [All figues from]

      5. Even if the Hindus in India did suffer because of certain skewed policies of previous govts, does the solution lie in repeating the mistakes of the past?

      There are far too many questions raised by your comment than I can answer here.

  3. History across the globe down the centuries is replete with such similar events in the past, Cultural cannibalisation and coersion existed from time immemorial.Sacred books of religions are replete with the narration of such events.Humanity over the centuries prevailed in its endeavour to progress and thats how the civilization grown across the region. Any act of history is evaluated by the test of time.Civilizations took birth ,grew, existed and many dont exist now.So too languages.Change in nature is imperative and humanity will continue to evolve alongside with and despite culture, religion,politics,science and technology.

    1. While history can throw much light in understanding the present, we should not forget that the present is much different from the past. Technology has make too much difference. Hence the India of 2014 is infinitely different from that of 1857 when the first War of Independence began. A thousand times different from 1947. And quite different from a few months back when Mr Modi had not been crowned the Emperor.

  4. Great post!
    Would u like2follow each other on GFC ?


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