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Secularist parties need to rethink strategy

27 May 2014 07:13 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Indian National Elections that concluded on May 16, 2014 were, in more than one sense a landmark victory for democracy.

The largest democracy in the world, both in terms of number of voters and complexity of the process, India held its National Elections over five weeks, from April 7 to May 12, 2014 but the count was concluded in just a few hours, of course via electronic devices.

A new government and a new Prime Minister were declared winners, much to the joy of the supporters of the winning Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) and its allies and the distress of the Indian National Congress (INC) and the extended Nehru/Gandhi family.

As in 1977, the Mother/Son combination of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, suffered an unprecedented loss, although both of them managed to retain their respective constituencies unlike in 1977 when Indira Gandhi lost her Lok Sabha seat to a total outsider.

But it was more so at the hands of the Indian voter than at the whims and fancies of their opponents led by Narendra Modi and his loyal supporters.
When the dust settles, who would man (or woman) Narendra Modi’s Cabinet of Ministers, especially the key portfolios of Finance and External Affairs, would be answered and the world at large and the Indian Subcontinent in particular could make way for new adjustments, if such adjustments are warranted and I am sure it would be, in the first place.

The BJP, whose roots are traced to Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) which came into being as far back as 1951, was established in 1980 and widely regarded as the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The founder of the BJS was Syama Prasad Mukerjee who is considered the godfather of Hindu nationalism in India. The deep nationalist tinge that the BJP has been painted with is no accident nor was it a conspiracy of Mukerjee’s opponents, nationalist or political.

Despite the fact that Mukerjee was a hundred per cent product of Bengal, the all-encompassing philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore, another world-accepted Bengali intellectual and spiritual leader from the seat of learning of India, Kolkata, did not seem to have had any secular influence on him and his philosophy of Hindu nationalism.

Therefore, the legacy of such a religion-based political entity should have had, in a logical sense, a very telling sway on the modern-day Bharatiya Janatha Party which in all actual fact, is its logical extension in the Twenty First Century.

When one adds the generic sense of nationalism India is usually susceptible to, to this BJP extra-nationalist, or to be more precise, non-secular socio-cultural thought and agenda, one gets a potentially vibrant and pulsating school of political thought.

Yet the massive victory that Modi and Company achieved at the Indian national elections is more keenly attributed to the economic factors than to any other socio-cultural issues. But when one couples the BJP victory with the overwhelming victories that other nationalist and openly non-secular political parties obtained in their respective States in the last National Elections, the picture gets truly more blurry and even hazy, making one wonder as to the future direction of India in the sphere of culture and social advance.

The advance that India would make in the economic and finance field has already been taken for granted, taking into account the astoundingly phenomenal success that Narendra Modi accomplished in his own State of Gujarat.

But the sixty-four-thousand dollar question is what the general impact would be or what this “Modi-fication” of India really tells us about the way the average voter in the subcontinent thinks and votes.

Is the subcontinent thinking in terms of nationalistic values as against secular liberal principles? Is this going to be representative of the whole region or is it going to be confined to India only? If it’s going to be spreading in epidemic terms, then the Opposition in Sri Lanka may have to rethink their electoral strategies altogether and redraft their manifestos and policy statements accordingly. The United National Party (UNP) should be well advised to take a very serious note of this growing trend in the subcontinent and adopt corrective or ‘adjusting’ measures.

Over-dependence on the Western liberal school of thought and discarding the fringe elements in the political spectrum such as Balakayes and Senas as insignificant may lead them to track a dangerously ‘losing’ political path at the end of which could be found only the remnants of also-rans.  

Of all the opposition political parties in Sri Lanka, only the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is equipped to handle this kind of nationalist-based propensities. As was explained in my previous column, the UNP is still being regarded as being representative of urban, western-educated elitist cabals that usually populate Colombo social clubs, tennis courts and golf courses in the evenings and quite rightly so.

In order to attract the average nationalist-minded voter, the UNP has to refurbish its ‘brand’ and redefine its objectives and change its postures on public issues that really matter to the great majority of the population. The after-effects of ‘Modi-fication’ of the sub-continental school of thought, presuming that it is only indicative of a much more widespread thinking process in the neighbouring States as well rather than being confined to India alone, would not only be ominous for the opposing political parties in Sri Lanka, it would also signify a more long-lasting and adverse shifting of the paradigm.

Both India and Sri Lanka are steeped in tradition and myths that contribute to a polarising state of mind.

Cult of personality and deifying of political leaders along with prostrating oneself at the feet of lay political leaders in the public are taken as norms rather than exceptions.

When one adds a religious dimension to its growth, the increasing propensities of the general public towards beliefs in half- truths and lies become exponential.
The attendant gratification process that is exaggeratedly pronounced in the daily sermons, fear of losing one’s merits if precepts of the sermons are not doggedly adhered to and straightforward lack of education have all contributed to the rise and sustenance of a belief and implementation development that are typically residing on the threshold of human thought.

The fringes get misidentified for mainstream and those who advocate values and morals from the fringes get indescribably important in their own small minds. This dangerous symptom is evident in the advocates as well as the followers of the Bodhu Bala Sena and Ravana Balaya.
An electoral victory of the magnitude of the one achieved by Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janatha Party has added to this spiraling expectation-process.
And that is why a ‘Modi-fication’ of Indian politics should be looked at and treated more critically and intelligently.
By merely trying to discard the effects or ill-effects of the ‘Modi-fication’ process as a flash in the pan, politicians would be doing a great disservice, firstly to themselves and secondly to the countrymen.


If and when such utterances and enunciations are followed to their logical ends, the resulting state of society would be fiercely divisive and potentially catastrophic, eventually leading to a theocracy based on one religion and one set of beliefs after having killed all options and alternatives for another school of thought and another pattern of thinking.



Inability to read a developing political trend is a great sin that political leaders commit willy nilly.
The growing propensity towards nationalistic politics, buttressed by utterances and enunciations by local politicians, would greatly increase tensions between communities and religions.

If and when such utterances and enunciations are followed to their logical ends, the resulting state of the society would be fiercely divisive and potentially catastrophic, eventually leading to a theocracy based on one religion and one set of beliefs after having killed all options and alternatives for another school of thought and another pattern of thinking.

Such a society would be inherently static in development of philosophical thought and frighteningly stagnant in forward thinking.

That is certainly not a legacy this current set of politicians would desire to leave behind as their gift to generations yet unborn.

In such a morass of social stagnancy, Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu and their alleged pan-Tamilism would be irrelevant and outdated.



The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com
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