ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Role of Benares in Constructing Political Hindu Identity

From the late 19th century onwards the development of a conscious Hindu political identity manifested itself in the emerging Indian polity. In Benares with a history marked since antiquity by an uninterrupted line of sacredness, the process was more fractured and conflict-ridden with memories of Hindu-Muslim conflicts that were a frequent occurrence after the mid-17th century. Growing economic cleavages and the available political and educational opportunities increasingly fostered divisions among communities that in turn assisted in the formation of a robust, aggressive Hindu identity. Since the late 1990s, however, it has been the vocal members of the Sangh parivar who have taken over the domain and definition of Hindutva.

The Polity: BJP Prepares for the Morrow

Unlike any other political entity in the country, the BJP is an arm, a front organisation, and an extension of another organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. In the Eighties there was a fundamental transformation in the mass character of the party: on the heels of the VHP's test runs with emotive symbols the party cashed in to reap a rich harvest of votes. When these proved inadequate to reach power without back-pedalling the core issues, a compromise was arrived at. The issues were deferred but never renounced. They were put on the shelf, ready to be activated when the time was ripe. Such a time had clearly arrived by mid-March 2002 for a variety of reasons. 

Electoral Identity Politics in Uttar Pradesh

Three developments, namely, the decline of parties, poor governance and a growing financial crisis with negative economic growth are collectively responsible for the political instability Uttar Pradesh has experienced. Due to ethnic mobilisation, parties confined to their narrow sectarian bases have been unable to aggregate public opinion, obtain majority support and form stable governments. This has led to short-lived coalitions, which have not been able to formulate long-term policies that can address the felt needs of the people contributing in turn to the breakdown of governance and instability. Fiscal indiscipline by governments has also pushed the state into a debt trap and serious economic decline, which is responsible for the disillusionment among the electorate witnessed in the recent elections. These negative features have developed since the late 1980s. The paper concludes that reform of parties is an urgent necessity without which the prospects of a functioning party system, effective governance and political stability remain dim.

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