A lesser known aspect of the communal riots in the immediate aftermath of the 1947 partition is the role of the Jesuits, Lutherans and myriad other Christian evangelists in the tribal heartland of India. Sensing a leadership vacuum due to the Hindu-Muslim conflict, many of the Christian missionaries working in the tribal regions had created an army of tribal Christians who were willing to take on their Hindu brethren.

One such tribal kingdom that faced the brunt of the Christian onslaught in 1947-48 was the kingdom of Jashpur. Raja Vijay Bhushan Singh of the Jashpur royal family was the leader of the “Hindu-reaction”. Since then, the services of the Jashpur royal family to the Hindu cause has been unwavering. The Jashpur royal palace, “Vijay Vihar” has been a resting place for itinerant sadhus, saints and various Hindu holy men for more than 6 decades now.

The tribals of Jashpur hold the royal family in high esteem for their sacrifices and services to the upliftment of the tribal populace. Dilip Singh Judeo, the scion of the Jashpur royalty and the sitting BJP MP of Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh is known as the “King of the Tribals” in this region. These Jashpur royals have given up almost all their wealth to the welfare of tribals. Yet, Dilip Singh Judeo was accused of corruption by creating a misleading sting operation under the guidance of Amit Jogi (the son of former Congress CM of Chhattisgarh). Thankfully, the voters of Chhattisgarh saw through the machinations of the Jogis and the Congress-friendly media. Chhattisgarh has never voted for a Congress government since that Amit Jogi fiasco of 2003.

Vikas Mantra from the tribal heartland

“Congress gave India a new slogan, ‘Garibi hatao’ (get rid of poverty) some 40 years ago, but India is still grappling with poverty after 4 decades” avers Narendra Modi amidst rapturous applause from the more than 75 thousand strong audience in Rajnandgaon. He then goes on to add, “give Raman Singh ji 5 more years and Chhattisgarh will grow beyond Gujarat, that is the achievement of BJP in a decade (what Congress couldn’t achieve in 6 decades)”.

Modi has a knack of invoking regional pride like no other leader India has seen in its democratic history, but his regional appeal is a message coated in staunch nationalism. Thus when he spoke in Chhattisgarh on Saturday, his appeal was to the state’s pride on the development agenda of BJP’s Dr Raman Singh government.

This is the difference that BJP in general and NaMo in particular have brought to Indian polity. Even in a state like Chhattisgarh, where there is a history of Christian-Hindu political divide represented by Congress and BJP respectively, the agenda is now driven almost exclusively on the development plank. At the same time, Congress party and Ajit Jogi are still stuck in a time-wrap – a decade ago, I had the (good) fortune of interacting with Ajit Jogi (the then CM of Chhattisgarh) and his ophthalmologist wife to only realize their zealous commitment to Christian missionaries and their efforts at religious conversions of the tribes, an ideology they still hold close to their heart as per media reports.

The path that the saffron party has traversed from the Dilip Singh Judeo territory to the Raman Singh terrain is a story that can potentially transform India. The ideological base of Hindutva now has development agenda at the core of its DNA. This is a fact the Dilli BJP has never come to terms with, while the state units (including even Karnataka) of the party are way ahead of the learning curve.

The transformation of Modi is complete

If Karnataka is used as a barometer, then the NaMo factor is now an exclusive construct of the development agenda with almost no baggage of religious appeal. Narendra bhai campaigned in three cities/districts of Karnataka; Bangalore, Belgaum and Mangalore. In the first two districts, BJP performed exceedingly well, winning about 21 seats, but in Mangalore the NaMo campaign failed miserably.

In Bangalore and Belgaum, the message was loud and clear on development and progress, so NaMo met with great success. Whereas in Mangalore, the attempt was to repolarize the Hindu voters in order to counter the minority consolidation in favour of the Congress party and the verdict was pretty clear to even the most superficial political observer. Thus Modi today has become almost an exclusive icon of development, with no religious baggage despite non-stop media hankering.

This is what the intellectual class of India has failed to understand, the transformation of NaMo as purely a phenomenon of development politics. While the intellectual-media complex is still stuck in expired definitions of quasi-religious faultlines, India has started to align itself to the politics of aspiration and development. This is not just a sub-regional anomaly limited to the western state of Gujarat, as the secular-intellectuals would want us to believe. Development politics is now a pan-India wave stretching from Chhattisgarh to Tamil Nadu and the biggest exponent of this new wave is Narendra bhai Damodardas Modi.

Nitish Kumar, the Bihar CM, undertook a “Adhikar Yatra” last year across his state. What is scantly reported in the national media is the number of protests and the amount of opposition and rebellion against Mr Kumar wherever he travelled in Bihar. The flashpoint of that state-wide tour by the CM was in Khagaria district when there was large scale violence and the CM had to actually suspend his yatra midway.

“Raman Singh is a CM with the courage to re-visit the people of his state through Vikas Yatra to explain to them the welfare and development initiatives during his rule”, quipped Modi in his speech in Rajnandgaon yesterday. He then went on to take a dig at Nitish Kumar by adding, “There are few chief ministers, who had to suspend such an yatra following protests from the people”.

Development politics of India today is not just about courting media houses to get positive press, but it is to make real difference to the lives of the people. The sooner Nitish realises this, the better it would be for his political future. Sadly, Nitish Kumar is too enamoured by Dilli’s sophistry of secularism and is living in a fantasy land of the “Tilak” and the “Topi”.

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Praveen Patil

Praveen Patil

Analyst of Indian electoral politics and associated economics with a right-of-centre perspective.