Panoramic Charter for Hindutva?
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

In my last post, I had discussed the prospect of all schools of Hindutva thought working towards more concrete goals in order to make the Conservative movement more relatable to the electorate and the masses. The spirit behind my post in a nutshell was this- an attempt must be made to distil lessons or pointers or objectives from almost every discussion, intellectual or otherwise, which can translate into workable political goals. This does not in any way amount to reductionism.

Such distillation is necessary so as to give everyone an opportunity to take active part in and contribute his or her part to the movement, failing which the ideology is bound to find itself short of takers who have understood it sufficiently enough to put it in practice or to advocate it to those in their sphere of influence.

The average Hindu is a shrewd being who knows how to look past the guff into the essence. However, unfortunately, he appears to be a creature driven more by an incentive-based structure, than one driven by altruism. He needs to know and have his angle or cut in any initiative for him to take the plunge. This trait does not appear to be peculiar or restricted to individuals from less-privileged or downright under-privileged backgrounds which may explain or justify to an extent their survivalist impulses. The trait is prevalent even among those who have had the luxury and good fortune of aiming for the best the Indian society has to offer in terms of opportunities. Simply put, the conventional logic which says that gratification of needs allows people to look beyond the immediate confines of their family, does not appear to hold good for a sizeable cross-section of our people.

I am not blind or oblivious to the yeoman efforts of several unsung public-spirited individuals who have broken their backs for many a selfless cause. But, as “cynical” as I may sound, it would be naive to not acknowledge the pervasive levels of apathy in today’s Hindu society. This leaves us with two options- (1) either work towards bringing about a radical shift in the way we see ourselves as isolated units instead of inseparable parts of a whole, or (2) devise a way of social engineering which feeds on our survivalist impulses to elicit participation towards achieving collective goals.

The former is an on-going process which respectable organizations like the RSS (yes!) have been working towards since 1925. The latter course of action, which is needed to achieve short-term and medium-term political goal requires, first and foremost, clarity in political communication, which in turn requires distillation of ideas and ideology to the most fundamental workable objectives. These objectives in turn must be re-fashioned and “sold” to the electorate as objectives which personally benefit them, or at least protect them from overt or covert aggression. Here, the much-maligned “reductionism” of “glorious Hindutva” is a necessary “evil”.

These objectives must not be limited to identity-based issues alone, which is the oft-used and done-to-death card employed by representatives of minorities that is largely responsible for their insecure world view which starts and ends with identity.

That said, the question that needs to be addressed is- should non-identity-based objectives also be tied to identity in order to constantly reinforce the Hindu identity? Or should these objectives be seen as non-identity-based “secular” objectives whose achievement is a condition precedent to preserve, protect and propagate Hindutva? In short, should “secular” non-identity-based developmental goals too have a saffron hue in order to fashion a certain Hindutva-model of development/society? Or should developmental goals be separated from the identity-based core of Hindutva?

The criterion against which the issue could be addressed is- would treating Hindutva as a seamless monolith restrict and asphyxiate our ability to ideate without fetters and to draw inspiration from other societies, in effect rendering us inflexible and immalleable? If yes, do we have a clear consensus on what constitutes de minimis Hindutva in order for us to safely adopt a model where “secular” developmental goals need not necessarily be viewed through the prism of Hindutva? It would banal to point out that certain “secular” goals or spheres of human endeavour, such as innovation or infrastructure cannot be tied to Hindutva without resorting to contrived logic and ornamental arguments. Therefore, it would also help to understand the limits of applicability and extendibility of Hindutva.

Answers to these questions could facilitate clear political communication, which translates to a comprehensive and intelligible election manifesto which is not a mere agglomeration of vague, and at times vacuous principles which soar at sixty-thousand feet above the earth and are bereft of detail, but is instead a list of practicable goals grounded and rooted in the realities of the electorate.