The coming contest in Bhopal between veteran Congress leader Digvijay Singh and Sadhvi Pragya is symbolic in more ways than one. It promises to be a battle between the two extremes of Indian politics that have overshadowed the issues related to the actual well-being of the common man. As Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay Singh largely blamed the RSS’ grassroots mobilisation for his ouster and has held a grudge against it since then. This is what has motivated him to participate in events such as the release of a conspiracy-theory book that blamed the RSS for the 26-11 attacks in Mumbai, exonerating the actual perpetrators from Pakistan. He is among those who have coined the ‘Hindu Terror’ terminology, which the Congress and the other ‘secular’ lot have often used to curry votes from the Muslims.
Now stands before him nemesis in the form of the poster girl for this ‘Hindu Terror’, who seeks a reckoning for the slur visited upon her and many others. She brings with her the scars of a long incarceration that was part of the process in building the narrative. In a way, it will represent a referendum for many voters on using an adjective for the Hindu religion that is considered verboten for Islam on the plea that the acts of individuals cannot be blamed on their religion.
The ongoing election is only in the second out of the planned nine phases and it has already been reduced to such fundamental symbolism. (Another would be that between privilege and merit – naamdar and kaamdar – if Priyanka Gandhi would condescend to contest against PM Modi in Varanasi). So, while voters are supposed to take into account performance and development criteria while making their choice, many such issues concerning the idea of India will also be decided. Those severely tested would be the ones distant from the grassroots reality and confined only to constructs fashioned in the corridors of power and privilege. Although “people’s power” is an oft-evoked concept among present day ‘dissenters’, history shows that it never really manifests itself in a neat and suitable way. It is no wonder that so many of the ideologically committed cannot endure what democracy throws up. They would like it trimmed and ordered to suit their fancies. Whatever way the voters will exercise their franchise, many such issues will find resolution and India will emerge stronger as a result.