India: Mahatma vs. Rama

How a mild-mannered politician named L.K. Advani is leading a movement that threatens to tear the country apart

In the nearly 44 years since India became independent, one vision of politics and society has reigned supreme. It interweaves two powerful strands: Congress Party leader Jawaharlal Nehru's legacy of a secular, socialist government; and the nonviolence and religious tolerance exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi, the ascetic Hindu champion. In elections concluded late last week, that tradition faces an unprecedented challenge from a movement that proudly proclaims itself to be the antithesis of what Nehru, and to some extent Gandhi, represented. It rejects the "foreign" influences of Islam, Christianity, capitalism and socialism, and aspires to restore Rama Rajya, a mythical golden age...

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