‘Hindutva’ has undoubtedly been a key tool of polarisation in the politics of the BJP, but it had very little impact in Madhya Pradesh, be it pre-demolition or post-demolition Babri Masjid. However, the relentless attempts at polarisation indicate that the moderate system of governance would be a thing of the past now, and the Hindutva card would came to the fore in the assembly elections in 2023.
When the Babri Masjid was demolished in Uttar Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party was in power in Madhya Pradesh. After a short interval of President’s rule, elections were held in 1993 and the Sundarlal Patwa-led BJP government was voted out of power. The Digvijaya Singh-led Congress ruled the state for the next 10 years, following the rules of moderate governance.
More importantly, present Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is a member of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), did not allow communalism to flourish in Madhya Pradesh and ruled the state with a moderate governance system. His governance gave him the image of the ‘moderate face of RSS’, and his liberal governance system not only ensured the longest rule of the BJP in the state but also strengthened the party.
Senior journalist N. K. Singh, who has been a close observer of Madhya Pradesh’s politics for around four decades, said the state had been the stronghold of the right wing for the last several decades, but the BJP became stronger under the leadership of Chief Minister Chouhan.
“See, besides the RSS, many other right wing groups were flourishing in MP for the last several years, and their efforts for long years strengthened the BJP in the state. But Shivraj Singh’s leadership strengthened the party’s roots and it happened because of his style of governance. He tried to reach out to the deprived sections of society and he kept hard Hindutva away from his governance,” Singh said.
He pointed out that the Digvijaya Singh-led Congress was voted out of power in 2003, not because of the Hindutva card of the BJP but because of the incompetence and growing corruption in the government. “The BJP lost the 2018 assembly polls due to incompetence and the growing corruption. The Congress wasn’t strong enough to defeat the BJP because factionalism was rife among its top leaders. The BJP lost the elections because it could not handle the increasing graph of unemployment, corruption. The Congress got the benefit of anti-incumbency,” Singh added.
The BJP tried to play the Hindutva card in the 2018 elections to hide it’s failure, but the people of Madhya Pradesh did not accept it, they voted for a change in governance. “Now, the list of incomplete tasks has increased and therefore, there are very good chances that the BJP will come out with a stronger Hindutva card this time in an attempt to divert attention from the main issues ahead of the assembly polls in 2023. In fact, it has already started,” Singh claimed.
Political observers also believe that Chouhan was forced to change his style of governance and was made to follow the Centre’s agenda, but after the local bodies election outcome, he seems to have come back on his old track.
“Until 2014, MP’s BJP leadership used to decide its own agenda, but now they have to follow the Centre’s agenda. Perhaps, the central leadership has also understood it and has given a free hand to Chouhan again. Communalism wasn’t high in MP also because there are very few seats which see a close contest between Hindus-Muslims, like in Bhopal, Shajapur, Khargon,” said another journalist, Law Kumar Mishra.