Ever since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power last year with a clear majority there have been murmurs of dissent especially in a section of the intelligentsia. Though this was not the first time that a non-Congress or a left-of-centre government had come to rule in the world’s largest democracy, it was a watershed in our 60-year democratic history as it was for the first time that an opposition party had defeated a Congress (or Congress-led) government. Therein lies the crux of the problem.
This marked a definite power shift from the Left to Right and to a party whose antecedents are pro-Hindu. This has caused a lot of heartburn not only among Leftists but also threatened the state patronage gravy train. For decades a certain set of people, especially thinkers, artistes and activists have blossomed in a largely Congress dispensation. One of the legacies of Pax Nehruviana has been the creation of a favoured intellectual elite. Many of these are truly talented and scholarly but like all good thinkers they believe in an ideology. What they have to understand is that there are people with a different value system and ideology. You may not agree with it but then in a democracy, it’s a winner takes all polity. Ultimately it’s a numbers game. The great poet Allama Iqbal has said, "Jhamooriyat woh tarze-hukumat hai, jisme bandon ko gina karte hain, tola nahin karte", (Democracy is that form of government where people are counted, not evaluated). So, if the much-agitated chatterati has a grouse against the BJP they should lament the institution of democracy.
Secularism and tolerance are so ingrained in our genes that it will require generations of mutation to change India’s social DNA. Yes, this government may favour its own thought and ideology but that’s what the Congress did for decades. Remember Indira Gandhi’s acolytes like Pupul Jaykar and Kapila Vatasayan reigned as cultural Tsarinas for decades. So why grudge Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he brings in a few of his own now? When a certain section of people who had ideological access to the powers-that-be suddenly find that their political credit card has been barred it is but natural for them to harangue publicly about imminent danger to the very fabric of India. Besides a bit of rhetoric and some foolish comments (utterly condemnable) by a few MPs nothing substantive has changed in the last 18 months.
In fact my complaint is about the déjà vu of status quo... If women are raped with impunity (shame on all of us) or Dalits killed (abominable) or children abused it’s indeed a national disgrace. Instead of fighting an ideological war in falsetto, work constructively with the government to uproot these age-old problems. There are people I admire for their scholarship, Irfan Habib and Romilla Thapar for example, or film makers like Saeed Mirza and Anand Patwardhan. But I do not support their worldview. I look at the world through my own prism and see my own chiaroscuro of socio-economic ferment.
The ultra-right, like the ultra-left, have untenable locus standi in a constitutional republic but it is the moderates who constitute the majority of citizenry. As long as their life is not messed around with the nation will progress. It is a fact that there are hopelessly few original thinkers and intellectuals left in our entire political system and the majority are mere actors in the nightly audio visual calisthenicsshow on the idiot box which has become the de jure entertainment for arm chair democrats.
I am no blind supporter of Modi but neither am I willing to suffer a halfwit like Rahul Gandhi talking inanely about oblique politics. Yet I do believe the economic path being taken by this government is the only road to progress left for this country. In fact Modi needs to act with alacrity and push through major reforms like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Land bill, the merits of which are the subject of another article. Will our Left thinkers continue to support the most inappropriate filibustering of Parliament by the Congress? There will be not an inkling of a protest by these left leaners. No matter the nation wallows in poverty under Amartya Sen’s benign and dated philosophy of economics. As an aside, I must add that I often feel the absence of a right wing economic philosopher in India (Jagdish Bhagwati is an exception.) Where are novelists like Ayn Rand and Yukio Mishima or poets like TS Elliot and Marianne Moore, or even WB Yeats forget philosophers like Martin Heidegger or George Grant. The BJP must realise that people of such stature will not be found in Jhandewalan or Vivekananda Foundation.
One thing I am sure of India’s secularism and tolerance are not at risk. Thousands of years of tradition does not get endangered by a change in political leadership. The naysayers must pause and reflect there is nothing gained by relentlessly crying wolf. And who is bothered besides the media if you return your awards anyway?
Of course the prime minister too must be dismissive of many garrulous loudmouths in his party. Modi is great communicator. He must talk to people more and take media into confidence. It’s a matter of time before the owls go to sleep.