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Common thread of Modi, political Hinduism, nationalism? 'Contest' of ideas isn't over

By Salman Khurshid*
Losing the 2019 election and that too in a somewhat extreme manner has confronted us with unexpected challenges: Our leadership has naturally taken it very hard and to heart but with suggested options that we cannot imagine or contemplate. Hopefully the emotions will settle soon and give us the direction to pick up the pieces and march again.
What is more intriguing is a clear difference in perception amongst some who believe Narendra Modi trounced us for good (or bad really) with an overwhelming majority of Indians choosing Hinduism over a variety of secularists and others who give the winner his due but no more than he deserves.
In other words, there are muted complaints about machines manipulating democracy. Then why are the voters not pouring out into the streets to protest, they are asked. They respond with why is there unprecedented silence in the streets instead of great celebration?
Whatever might be deep, hidden truth inside the little chip that makes the EVM so powerful, if so many people say ‘nay’ or have reservations, why is the establishment so fixed on them? The simple proposition is not that the EVMs were fixed for Mr Modi but that they can be fixed. The world believes that. Why do we not listen?
Perhaps democracy is changing in pace with changing society. We are told repeatedly that we are unable to read that change. May be that makes sense, but what sense do results in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh make? No explanations about bi-polar voters or successful implementation of direct cash transfers, housing grants and toilets can convince about the extent of the sweep.
The fact is that each part of the landscape had different factors, but a common thread of Modi, political Hinduism and nationalism. We might have lost in the numbers game but the likes of Amartya Sen still believe that the contest of ideas is far from lost.
Salman Khurshid
I was amazed that a commentator in a leading daily described that thesis as absurd. Wonder if she will ever discover how comforting it is for us lesser mortals to know that the brightest Indian has such little value in contemporary India for speaking his mind.
We have a long and perhaps treacherous road ahead with time enough to put our house in order and once again tell our story.
For the present, in defeat but unbroken, we do not hesitate to say that we cherish Hindu religion in its majesty and beauty; there never was and never will be any reason for a true Hindu to believe that any other religion, least of all Islam, is inimical to Hinduism; that after decades of Partition and a series of remarkable Indian Muslim leaders, there is no reason to believe that patriotism and nationalist fervour is any less their right than of their compatriots.
India’s beauty comes from diversity that is non-negotiable. On delivery and performance even the BJP skirted data or fudged it. These are issues on which the last pronouncement of the Indian people has not come, no matter the extent of the current mandate.
Our leader has done his parliamentary duty in congratulating the second term Prime Minister but he has also affirmed his resolve to fight for the idea of India. We shall wait in anxious anticipation, committed to marching behind the leader, willing to bear any hardship or pain.
What other choice do we have having been told Hindus no longer vote for non-Hindus and Muslims do not vote even for Muslims because Hindus do not vote for them? Whatever happened to patriots and true Indians in whose name the election was fought? 
When we return to Indians voting for Indians it will be time to contest again. It will be sooner than many people think, the doomsayers might eat their heart out. Till then we must battle for the hearts and minds of India.
---
*Former foreign minister, senior Congress leader, Supreme Court advocate. This article has been written as a "letter from a Congress person, defeated but unbroken"

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