In the fight between Left and Right how India is missing the important 'centrist' space

Sadhavi Khosla
Sadhavi KhoslaAug 16, 2018 | 15:53

In the fight between Left and Right how India is missing the important 'centrist' space

The Left-Right spectrum of politics has completely changed the Indian political landscape over the past few years. It has made the country so polarised that either one is painted "Right conservative" or "Left liberal".

There is a generalisation that if you are not supportive of the RSS-BJP, you are part of the Left. No space is left for "centrist-moderate" voices like mine — voices who defy both the Left and the Right equally.


It is ironical how the country, which has been governed by the centrist Congress ideology for over 50 years, is craving for its centre space today. And now that the global democratic order hints at a threat to liberal democracy, this need for a centrist space has become more pressing than ever.

Call it the result of the ignorance or hypocrisy of the intellectual vanguard of liberalism, but the liberal order's meltdown throughout the world is evident.

From the United States to the United Kingdom, some of the major democracies in the world are ruled by the Right conservatives today. This rising disillusionment with the liberals is apparent in Canada as well where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's popularity is falling steeply.

Justin Trudeau's popularity has taken a huge hit (Source: Reuters)

In the west, incidents like the 2003 Iraq war, the 2008 financial crisis, and the increasing Islamophobia could be the turning points that led to this swing in the political pendulum where liberalism started to wither away.

But it was Donald Trump's historic win in the 2016 election and Brexit that almost wiped out liberalism from the global scenario.

Back home, the devastating defeat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the 2018 Tripura Assembly elections shows how the Left is floundering in India. Leaving a small bastion of Kerala aside, the Left is nowhere in the Indian political realm.


One may think that the rise of the Right wing in India could be crushed by the Left, but the reality is that the Left itself is nearing extinction. It is only a centrist space that could save the country from the Right versus

Left bipolarity — a space that has been long forgotten by the political parties of the nation.

The Left's dismal situation

The Left in India is in mortal danger. After a 34-year run, the Left regime came to a drastic end in West Bengal with Mamata Banerjee callously weakening the communists' clout in national politics. And now that the BJP has ended the 25-year-long Left rule in Tripura as well, the only red bastion is Kerala. It can't be said with certainty that the party will get another term in the state.

BJP ended Left rule in Tripura (Source: India Today)

Going by the vote share of the CPI(M) in Lok Sabha elections, the performance of the party is definitely plummeting. From securing 4.28 per cent votes in the 1967 general election to 5.12 per cent in 1971, 4.29 per cent in 1977, 6.24 per cent in 1980, 5.72 per cent in 1984, 6.55 per cent in 1989, 6.14 per cent in 1991, 6.12 per cent in 1996, 5.16 per cent in 1998, 5.40 per cent in 1999, 5.66 per cent in 2004, 5.33 per cent in 2009, and ultimately dipping to a meagre 3.24 per cent in 2014 — the CPI(M) is struggling for its survival.


This crisis that the Left is facing in India is a result of the changing mindset of the masses. Indians no longer connect with the political ideology of the Left.

A big part of this decline has to do with the idea of liberalism being so fluid that the hypocrisy that it has absorbed reflects the corroding commitment of the liberals towards the society at large.

Tactics like labelling the majority as bigoted and despising all those who disagree with them, reveal the identity crisis that the so-called Left liberals are living with. In fact, the core of liberalism is put to shame when Left liberals proudly support the minority community but fail to extend the very same support to Hindus on several crucial matters.

Keeping the majority aside, even the bias minority agenda of the liberals has been limited only to the Muslims. Minority communities such as Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists rarely get space in their welfare goals.

Maybe the Left-liberals have failed to understand that being respectful of the rights of minorities is one thing, and being "selectively" respectful of the rights of "some of the minorities" is another.

Indians have now realised the pretence under which these Left-liberals create a fear psychosis among minorities to fetch electoral support, turning a blind eye to those who really need them. For what was once started as a political ideology to support millions of poor farmers and peasants of the country, has now been turned by a few into advantage politics.

Spending their evenings in Delhi's Khan Market, sipping coffee in high-end cafes, and discussing politics in their elite, fancy homes — sitting on their cushy chairs and couches, these liberals are far removed from socialism. And this distance that they maintain from the ground reality speaks volumes about their hedonism.

Liberals heading to Khan Market are far removed from socialism (Source: India Today)

Decades ago, liberalism had a pellucid vision. Socialism seemed like an ideal solution for a nation which was struggling in the aftermath of the post-colonial rule and partition.

But today's India is no longer the same.

The youth today seeks progression. The country has shunned the idea of harbouring Leftism, which happens to be pro-poor but anti-development. This ideology doesn't resonate with the ambitions of most of the Indians who live middle-class lives and aspire to dream and achieve more. This neglect of the aspirations of the majority of India's population has shrunk liberalism to irrelevance.

Congress's Left turn

The party with a 132-year-old legacy, Indian National Congress, is often linked to the post-independence era of Jawaharlal Nehru. In retrospect, this is a huge fundamental mistake because the Congress party's history dates all the way back to the time when it became the principal leader of the Indian independence movement, guided by Mahatma Gandhi.

During the pre-independence era, the party was one large umbrella that included leaders from different ideologies. From socialists to Leftists, communists, centrists, radicals, and even Right-wing supporters, the erstwhile Congress had space for them all. It took everyone along in the fight for the nation's freedom and contributed immensely.

In 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru was Mahatma Gandhi's left hand, and Sardar Patel was his right hand. It was a perfect balance of the Left and the Right. They fought together for freedom, and after independence when Jawaharlal Nehru became the country's Prime Minister, Sardar Patel became the deputy prime minister.

A perfect Left and Right balance (Source: Archives)

Perhaps, we tend to overlook the history of the Congress before 1947. And that's the same mistake that the party itself is making presently.

Today, the party has little to no space for people with centrist voices. Be it the Congress party's think tank or the research department — from top to bottom, it is just surrounded with Leftists.

After India's independence, the Congress remained close to the Left of centre in its ideology. Indira Gandhi maintained a tacit understanding with the Left during her government. She never let the Left influence her politics and protected the Congress ideology from any potential damage that the Left could have brought to it.

Indira's sense of politics helped the Congress remain centre-aligned. This is the reason why as long as she was dominant on the political front of the nation, neither the Right nor the Left could rise. Indira knew that India is predominantly a Hindu majority country and yet highly secular. She balanced the Right and the Left brilliantly.

Culturally, she was Right. She wore Hinduism on her sleeve and with a pride that's hard to find in any other politician. On the one hand, she was never afraid to visit temples, wear a Rudraksha mala, keeping fasts on Tuesdays or hold her belief in astrology for that matter. And on the other hand, she did the best she could do to introduce socialist policies in the economic sphere, giving her due focus to the left.

The same philosophy was carried forward by Rajiv Gandhi. Even though he had a considerably short tenure as the country's Prime Minister, he made sure he maintained a good balance between the Left and the Right. It was Rajiv Gandhi who started a cultural revolution in India with the broadcast of the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata on Doordarshan.

Both, Indira and Rajiv have on many occasions met the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu Mahasabha and still never let the Right or the Left ideology affect their politics.

But, today the scenario has changed.

After Rajiv Gandhi's demise, the Congress party has failed to strike the same balance, and its decline became somewhat palpable. It was during the 10-year rule of the UPA government that the Congress party perceptibly drifted toward the Left.

The infiltration of Leftists in the Congress party has earned it a bad reputation, and it fails to learn a lesson.

Recently, I met a group of Delhi University professors who have witnessed Indira Gandhi's and Rajiv Gandhi's eras as well. These professors, who are staunch Congress supporters, are disillusioned with the party.

Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi managed to strike a fine balance between the Left and the Right (Source: India Today)

They share a common opinion that Leftists have hijacked the present-day Congress. They believed that when the party was in power during the UPA regime, even then it gave more recognition to the Leftists, and now that it is out of power, it has surrendered its entire think tank to them.

Any form of extremism is bad. Instead of shunning moderate voices or linking them with the Right wing, the Congress today needs to include moderate Left and moderate Right intellects into the party.

Remember that India worships Lord Ram not Karl Marx, and no political party can survive for long if it walks on Karl Marx's flawed ideology that was basically anti-Ram or anti-religion. Being a highly religious country, India has no space for Leftists who are anti-religion by nature. That's why Congress has not been able to rise again after Rajiv Gandhi, as it took a sharp Left turn and acquired an anti-Hindu image.

One of my experiences exposed me to the spite that the Leftists carry in their hearts against Hinduism. During a recent panel discussion, I got into a heated discussion with Apoorvanand Jha, a Delhi University professor, when he started abusing Hinduism and Hindu gods. He not only criticised Mahatma Gandhi and spoke ill of Rahul Gandhi for his decision to go for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra, but also dared to issue repulsive statements like "India would be better off without the Hindu majority" on record.

The convenient metamorphosis of the freedom of expression into the freedom of abuse has cost heavily to the Left. When leftists abuse Lord Ram or practices of Hinduism, they abuse the majority of the nation, and that's why liberalism is failing drastically.

Now, just like Mr Apoorvanand, several Leftists are often seen at various Congress events. As they say, a man is known by the company he keeps. When Congress gives its platform to people who oppose Hindus and Hinduism, the party alienates itself from the majority.

The Congress should know that it cannot erode the Right using the philosophy of the Left. For the Left has given nothing but an anti-Hindu and anti-national perception to the Congress. When Leftists support Maoists and terrorists, they label themselves as anti-national, and that's why Congress needs to be vigilant of its association with the left.

The grand old party must remember that it was the Communist opposition to the Quit India Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi that eventually resulted in the expulsion of the Communists from the Congress in 1946.

And it was not the only time when the Left left Congress in the lurch. In 2008 as well, the Left had pulled the rug when the Congress-led UPA government decided to pursue an Indo-US nuclear deal.

Making matters worse, the Congress is still supporting the untrustworthy Leftists, while there is a serious need to assess the Left's worth for the Congress.

The Left is nothing but a liability for the Congress.

As long as the Left wing is surrounding the Congress, the latter is doomed to lose its relevance in the Indian political realm. The time has come when Rahul Gandhi must rework his party's ideology and move it back to his grandmother's and father's "centrist" Congress.

For an ideology that is fast losing ground across the world and facing an existential threat, an ideology that is based on Karl Marx's specious views has very few takers in India. For India belongs to Gandhi, Nehru, and Patel, and it can never resort to hysterical narratives that rest on extremism.

Last updated: August 20, 2018 | 15:05
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