By Manish Anand
New Delhi, February 3: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) patriarch Lal Krishna Advani will be conferred with the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. This is in addition to the earlier announcement of conferring the ‘Bharat Ratna’ award posthumously to former Chief Minister of Bihar Karpoori Thakur.
Advani was the architect of the saffronisation of Indian poitics. He gets the ‘Bharat Ratna’ Award at a time when the Indian politics is fully painted saffron. Advani’s assault on politics of secularism by bringing the charge of pseudo-secularism against the political rivals was mortal. Now, the top leadership of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and others such as Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party rush to the Hindu temples while largely staying away from mosques and Muslim religious symbols.
Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat posted a layered message on Advani being awarded the ‘Bharat Ratna’. He said: “The announcement of the award of Bharat Ratna to Shri Lal Krishna Advani, one of the most revered founders of BJP, is a matter of joy for every identity-seeking Indian. To understand the greatness of Advani ji’s personality, a comprehensive approach is necessary. He has been a participant in every struggle which has given identity to us nationalists.”
The new air and colour of nationalism within the BJP owes an authorship to Advani. His slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is now a common stay in even pubic functions such as the Republic Day celebrations. His forceful argumentation that Ram is not just a religious symbol, but India’s national identity is now being pushed forcefully on the centre stage of the Indian narrative.
Shazia Ilmi, the articulate spokesperson of the BJP, told Al Jazeera recently that “Ram is revered by all, including Muslims like me. He’s India’s national identity. His life ideals are worth following by all.” Ilmi’s 7-minute hard arguments on Qatar-based channel is now trending.
Mohammed Islam is a resident of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh. His profiling by the RSS mouthpiece ‘Panchjanya’ is now trending. He wears saffron kurta. He recites Ram Chaitmanas, and also presides over Sundar Kand path. Ilmi and Islam are among the Muslim influencers who are giving fresh legs to the BJP’s apparent push for a Ram-led nationalism narrative.
Tariq Mansoor, in an article for The Indian Express, suggested that Muslims should accept the BJP by embracing politics of positivity. The former vice chancellor of the Aligarh University argued that Modi has given the Indian Muslims space to live peacefully amid raging bloodbath in Ukraine and the Middle East. Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have also been the largest beneficiaries of the Modi government’s schemes such as housing and free foodgrains for 80 crore people, argued Mansoor.