Right-wing Consolidation: A Tale of Countermobilization in India

As BJP Government enters seventh year of its electoral dominance, signs of creeping influence of the rightist thinking can be seen to be affecting areas which are generally removed from the electoral fortunes of political parties, such as academia, media and other professional areas. Inexorably, a strong challenge to liberal-left ‘hegemony’ has been taking shape. Propelled by excellent network successes of the party and RSS and daring chances taken by its key political figures, this journey of Right-wing countermobilization from the obscurity of 1948 to brute dominance of today has been marked by a serious absence of intellectual support network. This deficiency is one of the main causes of this countermobilization against the intellectual, ideological and political consensus of the post-independence India, taking such a chaotic brutal form. Mudrarakshasa takes a deep look into the consolidation of rightwing politics in India.


Finally, now after over six years of electoral predominance of Indian right wing, it is now spreading and consolidating itself in to non-electoral areas like societal discourses, institutionalized opinion-forming bodies, academia and other professions that form the ‘conventional wisdom’ of a time. From initial obscurity and active castigation of the early years of the Indian republic, the Right has come a long way and has now found its place in the sun. This has been a long journey and has many fathers. The history and dynamics of this journey makes for a fascinating reading.  We will follow this journey in three parts. Firstly, we will trace the origins of liberal dominance and what it inherited from the nature of freedom struggle predominantly led by Mahatma Gandhi. Secondly, we will follow the network entrepreneurship of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and political entrepreneurship of actors like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Deendayal Upadhyay, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi. Finally, we will track the hour of victory and factors responsible for that. We will also see that how some inherent deficiencies of the Right Movement forced them to follow a certain path.

Part (i) Origins of Liberal Dominance

We are witnessing a massive shift in the norms of what constitute ‘normal’. Everyday a ‘new normal’ is being created. To be sure, many assumptions of dominant left-of-the-centre liberalism, that held sway for most of the post-independence India, have been challenged forcefully and their inherent biases have been laid bare for close scrutiny, sometimes with legitimate queries but at others only rhetorically. A countermobilization against the dominant intellectual and institutional edifice of post-independence India has been happening and has reached a stage where its impact is finally making a dent. Any dominant thought/coalition/ideology in any sphere is always challenged as it leaves out some stakeholders or develops vested interest overtime to the detriment of some segments. Therefore, the countermobilization by right was inevitable.

Gramscian concept of ‘hegemony’ is useful in understanding this domination. Ruling class, apart from the coercion, also uses ideas to maintain its dominance. They are able to make their thoughts and ideology accepted as ‘conventional wisdom’, ‘accepted practice’ or ‘rules of the game’. Anything divergent is either ridiculed or punished and is sent to the fringes or stigmatized. Liberal secular dominance made thinkers of the Right ‘dangerous’ or irrelevant and beyond the purview of prestige and recognition. Almost in the same way as British had made traditional education fringe by making Macaulay devised framework dominant nearly two centuries ago. Thinkers like Savarkar, Golwalkar or Deendayal Upadhyaya did not find a fertile ground in academia, media. Level of state hostility for their views was high due to many reasons explained below.  The entrenched was vehemently resisting the insurgent.

At this stage we are discussing the dynamics of hegemony and Countermobilization without getting into the value judgement on the ideologies of the entrenched or the insurgent.  However, in the absence of certain resources and due to lack of adequately suitable opportunities, this rightist Countermobilization could not play on strengths of its core thought and had to take certain decidedly, not so wholesome forms.  It will be instructive to see how in the post independent India; liberal secular ideology came to be dominant and how the rightist Countermobilization was launched and sustained through modifications, both good and harmful.

Founding Fathers of the Indian Republic set out with the enterprise of nation building with a very ambitious agenda. They opted for parliamentary democracy with universal suffrage, when this was not prevalent even in many developed countries of the time. They opted for a secular republic whereas, in the region, nations with a state religion were not uncommon and the newly created Pakistan though started as a secular republic, soon drifted and added Islamic to its republic status in 1956. However, India incorporated elements of safeguards for minorities and downtrodden and went for a strong state driven mixed economy. Internationally, India maintained highly moralistic stance and became founding member of the non-alignment movement (NAM). None of these pillars of the enterprise of nation building were obvious and easy. However, they were clearly a product of the way our freedom struggle was conducted.

Though the impact of social reformers from medieval period to Bengal renaissance, 1857 war of Independence and early Congress also had a significant role in evolving the value contours of India, it was Congress under M K Gandhi that formed the dominant ideology of the freedom struggle right before the independence. Gandhi adopted a highly moralistic view of the politics and also used this conception to the practical advantage as strategy. He realized quite early on that to get independence, it was important that Congress should be seen as the representative of entire India, all its religions and other social divisions like caste. He achieved astonishing success in getting a geographical spread for his appeal and Congress network in entire British ruled India and many princely states. However, he found social divisions like religion and caste challenging.

Muslim League and Dr Ambedkar challenged Gandhi’s claim to represent their constituency with great credibility. In this challenge they were supported by British Government who gave these leaders equivalence with Gandhi and their organizations with Congress. Gandhi was compelled by both his principles and the need to assert a united front to work very vigorously for communal harmony and upliftment of ‘untouchables’ whom he named Harijan. In post Round Table Conference history when Government of India Act 1935 introduced electoral politics to India in some real magnitude, these questions of communal harmony and untouchability acquired a great urgency. Despite, umbrella nature of the Congress, the party had to repeatedly prove its pro Muslim and pro Dalit credentials. Gandhi’s taking up of the Khilafat issue, eagerness to get strong Muslim leaders to Congress, fasting for Dalits, temple entry movements are all cases in point. Despite hardcore parties like Ambedkar’s and Jinnah’s, Congress of Mahatma Gandhi did manage to represent all possible shades of India – social, geographic or ideological. It emerged as a formidable machinery with pan India reach with strong leaders in all parts of India. Congress had diversity capable of representing rightist inclination, leftist activism, open market advocates, regional aspirations and much more. But this all-encompassing character was severely tested throughout and kept the party on toes to prove its inclusive credentials.  This eventful past deeply influenced the way country’s Constitution was framed and, in this exercise, it was ensured that Dr Ambedkar remained amongst the key players and he was also made the Chairman of the Drafting Committee.  The long post-independence leadership of Gandhi trained leaders like Nehru, Patel and Azad ensured that these ideals became ‘conventional wisdom’ in post-independence India. To top it all, there was one very big factor that made the challenge to Gandhi’s worldview totally impossible for a very long time to come – assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by a member of the Hindu rightist forces.

While Gandhi’s economic thoughts (his opposition to modern industry or ideas like trusteeship), did not work out in the worldview of Nehru and modern India, force of Gandhi’s social ideals had become deeply entrenched. Secularism and social equality became constitutionally sanctioned precepts. To protect the interests of the minorities and marginalized sections of the society, constitutional safeguards like reservations, personal laws, religious noninterference by the state were adopted without any noticeable resistance as the opposing forces were in hard remission. This social worldview was buttressed by Nehru’s cosmopolitanism, bias for scientific temper and a socialistic bent of mind. India’s ruling establishment – political class, media, academia, experts, intellectuals, civil society and principles of what is acceptable i.e. hegemony – was founded in the crucible of these two forces of social inclusiveness and scientific/left cosmopolitanism.

International intellectual climate was also in favour of this type of worldview. Both liberalism and left thinking were producing high quality academic and intellectual output. Force and depth of these scholarly work ensured that pursuing either liberal or leftist thought process was the way to stay at the cutting edge of the knowledge and also for attaining prestige.

This worldview always had a distinct left-to-the-centre flavor with minor digressions. Institutions that certify the definition of knowledge (academia), justice (courts, bar), public opinion (media) and to some extent business, professions and bureaucracy geared up to work with this worldview. These institutions found that their rationale coincided with providing ideas, personnel, legitimation, and certification for the development of this dominant paradigm. Opportunity and resource structure of these organizations pushed this entrenchment deeper. Rightist worldview which may have differed in the nature of scientific enquiry, education, worldview of freedom struggle (less Congress-centric) and above all, an identity-based concept of nationalism which equated Hinduism with India and emphasized the foreign roots of Muslim and Christian faiths, was pushed to fringes. From the times of freedom struggle Muslims were worried about their fate in Hindu dominated India and a section of Hindus were outraged at the concessions (real or perceived) being given to Muslims and occasional loss of primacy in discourse of the emerging nation. So Indian rightwing thinking emphasized muscular nationalism, a self-reliant insular economic approach, a scripture prescribed morality, a glorified view of the past and a rather unforgiving view of the history of India where historical hurt became a guiding wound for the present and future. In the new emerging set up, this rightist worldview suffered drying up of institutional patronage, prestige and neglect by talented thinkers. It became easy to punish and ridicule this thinking, especially in academia which had become almost self-replicating institution due the networks, patronage-based methods of recruitment and according preeminence.  This challenging juncture was the background against which Countermobilization of the right started. Immediately after the independence, it was a difficult task due to complete lack of electoral power and stigma of Gandhi assassination.

Another difficulty was the distinctive nature of Hinduism which is so diversified that it cannot easily fit into the paradigm of those who want to ‘unite’ it as a single entity. Though it is the main anchor mobilizer of the right wing thought process, Hinduism is not a very focused creed and therefore a difficult candidate for being a conduit of focusing fanaticism. Its diversity and absence of a single meaning of the religion made it difficult to drive the followers on one rigid platform. This ‘limitation’ led to a negative strand of religion-based mobilization fixing more on ‘enemy’ and perceived fears or dangers rather than on some core concepts of Hinduism. This had far-reaching implications later when politically savvy individuals cracked the code of leveraging religion for electoral purposes.

At this stage, we see that developing a counter to the left liberal viewpoint of the polity was a valid and inevitable exercise in social mobilization with a possibility of genuinely different worldview. For its viability, it had enough appeal, especially when the society was not keeping pace with the polity. On one hand, the society was hopelessly divided, poor, uneducated and exploited; and on the other, the polity was dominated by a pluralistic umbrella organization and run by visionary elites. This created a fascinating backdrop to the story of countermobilization by Indian right in next seventy years.

(ii) Rightist counter – Independence to Modi

Part one above, talked about the systemic and historical forces of freedom struggle setting up the stage for dominant value and intellectual framework of independent India. It is important to understand that despite primacy of the societal and systemic forces, agency of the human actor has a big role in these matters. Individuals like Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Jinnah, Tagore, Iqbal, Golwalkar, Mahalanobis, Bhabha, Periyar, Narayan Guru, Advani, Anna Hazare and Modi among others, have played a decisive role in setting the contours of the ‘hegemony’ of their times.

Scholars who have studied intellectual and social upheavals and dynamics of countermobilization, have talked mainly of two things. Firstly, it is the ‘opportunity structure’ that consists of elements like “openness of the political system, the tolerance of protest, and the existence of elite allies.” Secondly, about resource mobilization that focuses on social movement’s internal resources, such as money, labor, networks, coalitions, organizations, and ideas. Steven Teles in his insightful book on Conservative legal movement in America has talked of  “situating political agents in an inherited regime that sets the conditions under which strategic decisions are made. Within those conditions, however, agents have the capacity to make better or worse decisions, decisions that subsequently become part of the context in which future choices are made. Political outcomes are, therefore, the product of this interaction between inheritance and agency.” Thus, the story of countermobilization by the Indian Right is a story of both – the systems and the individual entrepreneurs.

As per scholars, any mobilization requires three type of entrepreneurs:  Intellectuals, network and political entrepreneurs. Last few decades of the freedom struggle had a rich crop of such intellectuals who showed their entrepreneurship by creating an opportunity with their ideas. Apart from Gandhi who envisaged an inclusive system with a place for everyone based on moralistic accommodation by the majority, Ambedkar had a radical solution for Dalits in annihilation of caste and even abandoning Hinduism. Iqbal was bard of both separatism and cosmopolitanism. Tagore was acutely aware of the dangers of nationalism. Hindu thinkers, buoyed by rediscovery of Vedic genius by the orientalists, found strong arguments for pushing majority and majoritarian interests.  

Tilak can be seen as the beginning of the rightist intellectual entrepreneur tradition with his commentary on Gita and Aryans and, more so, by leveraging Hindu symbols in mobilizing people for Swaraj. Like Tilak, Congress had wide enough spectrum to accommodate Hindu concerns. Prominent members like Madan Mohan Malviya, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel, Rajaji and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee were active and vigilant monitors of Hindu interests in Congress . Outside, Savarkar laid a strong foundation of rightist thought. His reinterpretation of 1857 war of Independence was very influential. His theories of muscular nationalism with Hindu pride at its centre form the basis of much of later rightist scholarship. Golwalkar elaborated on Savarkar but intellectually he was less original and was deeply influenced by German Aryan supremacist thinking. Still, with his internally consistent argument, he continues to be a beacon of the rightist thinking. Later Deendayal Upadhyaya tried to add ‘ekatam manavtawad’ and a semblance of economic theory to the repertoire.  These theories were stimulating and resonated with caste Hindus specially in Maharashtra. However, their sophistication was nowhere near Ambedkar, Tagore or Iqbal who were more rounded intellectual personalities with much better writing abilities. More so Ambedkar, Iqbal or Tagore were venerated in far more comprehensive way by their constituencies than these Hindu thinkers who, for most of the Hindu population, were either unknown or fringe. Whatever traction they had with very well-oiled organizations of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS was abruptly lost with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the immediate aftermath of Independence, Iqbal-Jinnah world view found a kind of culmination in creation of Pakistan. Dr Ambedkar’s constituency decided to try their luck with the strong constitutional safeguard provided by the new Constitution.

Tagore found his place in intellectual realm with little mobilization potential, though his work continues to act as a warning against parochialism of all kind. Hindu thinkers who had claim on the Rightist thought got relegated to temporary obscurity in the backlash of Gandhi’s murder.

Thus, the field was left open for Gandhian social thinking and Nehruvian economic, academic and scientific temperament. Nature of what has been termed as ‘Congress System’ shaped much of India’s post-independence establishment. Congress was not only electorally dominant but its main opposition was from within. This means as an instrument of conflict resolution, Congress was self-contained. Regional, caste, religious, linguistic and civic aspirations all were accommodated within the party with reasonable success.  This further diminished the chances of rightist model to prosper.

This setting totally deprived rightist intellectual entrepreneurs the chance to “denaturalize” the congress regime, and of “exposing the hidden normative assumptions embedded in seemingly neutral professional, scientific, or procedural standards and practices, forcing those assumptions to be justified and alternatives to them entertained.” This lessened the chances to expose the vulnerabilities of Congress dominated system. In the absence of a credible alternative challenge, silent grievances of many did not find proper outlet.  Result was a famine of quality right wing thinkers which was to prove costly not only to the rightists but also to the nation as we later learnt.

What the right wing lost in Intellectual entrepreneurship, they made up in network entrepreneurship of finding networking opportunity in neglected areas and building on it. RSS emerged as mothership of a host of organization and over the years became one of the world’s largest social organization. It has successfully made huge inroads at grassroot level in urban, rural, tribal, cultural and professional areas. A cadre of high caliber, disciplined Pracharaks was put in place. They found adequate opportunities as Congress ceded many areas to them over the years.

Gandhi had turned Congress into pan India grassroot organization with its ‘char anna’ membership and a diverse orientation. Congress reaped this early mover advantage as no other national organization had that kind of network. But once in power, a ‘high command’ culture started taking over. In this culture, networking in Delhi was more rewarding than networking at grassroot level. This left an opening at grassroot level which was filled by the RSS and many civil society organizations. These civil society organizations developed a symbiotic relationship for patronage and recognition with the government of the day but many had antagonistic stance also. Left was also very active in this sphere in certain pockets. Presence of RSS provided a mode of mobilization, sharing of best practices, viable candidates, a data bank of supporters and possible candidates for filling various posts in case BJP, its political arm comes to power. In RSS, the Right’s network success was undeniable, dedication of cadre beyond reproach and ideological commitment unmatched. Still, RSS lacked good intellectuals which were capable of catapulting them from fringe to centre. They still could not find a place in the academia and intellectual domain for their thoughts as the cadre still lacked the intellectual heft to leverage traditional knowledge to validate their ideology. Self-reproducing academic institutions were not conducive places for rightist thinking. Opportunities for career building, recognition of academic output and definition of knowledge nothing was in line with the aspirations and strengths of the Right. This tainted not only existing scholarship on the Right but also closed the possibility of future development. But there was a silver lining. They benefitted from some first-rate political entrepreneurs who found or created many opportunities for the movement.

From the fountainhead that was Congress, the Right wing found Shyama Prasad Mukherjee who founded Jan Sangh as political arm of RSS. Shyama Prasad bears testimony to the umbrella nature of Congress as Mukherjee could successfully maintain twin careers in Congress and Hindu Mahasabha with equal prominence. His abandoning of Congress and founding Jan Sangh and creating an emotive religious nationalistic issue out of Kashmir are example of great political entrepreneurship. Going forward, founding of BJP by dynamic duo of Vajpayee and Advani served a hugely underserviced niche. Right wing policies started getting concretized into themes like cultural nationalism, self-reliance, business friendly policies, review of foreign policy with Israel and less dependence on USSR etc.

Over a period, after Rajaji, Patel and Shyama Prasad, Congress coalition started conceding its Hindutva strand to BJP almost completely. Its secular policies kept on giving more ammunition to the Rightwing. As Gandhi was good at finding issues and symbols like Salt, Khilafat or charkha, finding and nurturing Ram Janam Bhoomi issue as lynchpin of BJP revival by Advani was a masterpiece. His Rath Yatra and organizational skills, reminiscent of Patel, created an energized cadre and a shared rallying point among Hindus. This yielded handsome electoral dividend, only to be halted by assassination of Indira Gandhi which brought back a much-diminished Congress to power. Later, rise of Coalition era proved both a boon or bane for the Right.

In Vajpayee, BJP had a Pitamah of coalition. He laid down the grammar of coalition politics in India. At that stage, coalition was the only feasible way to dislodge Congress. However, this development led to serious dilution of the BJP/RSS message as coalition politics is a business of compromises and accommodation which is a total antithesis of the Right agenda. Coalition politics is a serious limitation for mobilization of hardcore cadre of cultural nationalists who are not interested in any dilution of ideological purity of the agenda. Incremental successes like Nuclear bomb, ties with Israel were marred by compromises on hardcore identarian agenda. Furthermore, these leaders remained in Nehruvian mould of leadership to a great extent and sought pan India acceptance by efforts like Lahore Bus (Vajpayee) or praising Jinnah (Advani, Jaswant Singh) to utter horror of their core support base.

Meanwhile, an experiment had started in Gujarat, state that had given leaders like Gandhi and Jinnah.  A lesser known RSS Pracharak named Narendra Modi was made Chief Minister of Gujarat where BJP had many more senior stalwarts. With post Godhra riots a new phase of Indian Right movement stated which finally managed to break the Congress system and ended the electoral and ideological ‘vanvaas’ for Indian Right. However, Nature of Indian diversity, specially diversity of Hinduism, and absence of affirmative platform nurtured by intellectual excellence forced the Indian right to take a negative route to identarian mobilization. This had serious ramifications for the idea of India, knowledge, academia and, in many cases, nature of truth itself.

(Part iii) The Rise of Right

Post Godhara period and Narendra Modi’s Chief Ministerial innings matured along with development of Social Media in India and serious polarization of the society and polity. Gujarat riots saw serious allegations of use of state power in support of majority community. Prime Minister Vajpayee was constrained to talk about the ‘rajdharam’ of the Chief Minister. However, the new political entrepreneurs were seeing new way of servicing the Right movement in the country. The Chief Minister, very quickly became Hindu Hriday Samrat. The movement realized that a more aggressive approach was liked by the ‘silent majority’. This realization that it is better to concentrate on the core issues and, more importantly, on core support base than on all-inclusive value system and on the average voter, led to rapid refining of the aggressive strategy. In fragmented politics of first decade of the new millennium , a Nehruvian and avuncular Vajpayee could have taken the Right movement only so far. A change of gear was needed.

Soon Vajpayee was gone from the scene and Advani’s effort to stich up pan India acceptability could not fructify. Congress found a lucky ascendency and first UPA term saw path-breaking steps like MNREGA and RTI. Sagacious economist Prime Minister, despite limitations, kept the economy moving. Still, this was not the dominant Congress of Nehru-Indira days. Coalition partners and ‘remote control’ approach of the Gandhi family diluted the moral authority of the party to be arbiter of the nation’s moral journey. Meanwhile, BJP state governments, mainly, Gujarat were left free to refine the core voter strategy and look for a more acceptable version of that.

UPA two depicted all that was wrong with the grand old party. Over centralization, dynasty, nepotism, inertia and lack of vision. Policy paralysis, inability of the leadership to take charge, fall of regional centres, absence of grassroot mobilization took the party to the verge of total stagnation. Leaving the entrenched vulnerable to the insurgent political entrepreneurs. Second rung of BJP showed exemplary agility and discarded aging Advani in favour of Narendra Modi, a relative outsider to Delhi. Inviting a charismatic outsider has not always been a good strategy for democracy or the inviting establishment. Germany and Italy  in 1930s invited charismatic outsiders to disastrous ending and more recently Gen Chavez’s arrival simply decimated a well-established democracy in Venezuela. This might be a worrying anecdote but not necessarily be applicable to a seasoned democratically elected political figure of a political party in India. 

This brings us to 2014 elections which gave resounding victory to the Right whose message was clear but had to be supported by an additional message of Vikas. The mandate despite its mixed signals clearly established the viability of an aggressive Rightist message. With the new leader, identity focus of the campaign was clear and it got veneer of acceptability needed for the first push of identity politics in the slogan of Vikas. Post 2014 is a story of relentless push of the ideology and ‘new normals’ were being established with a monotonous regularity. This push from the right and technological developments in communication (mobile, internet and social media) created a polarized society. A politics of core voters is a polity of ever-increasing radicalization. There is a constant upping of stakes as yesterday’s extremism is not extreme enough today. If you need to retain a core voter you need keep him energized with ever deepening core of your message.

The new politics is based on arousing identities and best way to arouse identity is finding a common enemy. In the absence of strong intellectual base and presence of general diversity in Hinduism, mainly caste divisions and a pluralistic ethos, pushed the Right to pursue a negatively charged path. In many democracies this identification of a common enemy is happening and the all-encompassing term for this is ‘populism’. There is a ‘people’ and they are exploited by either an elite or an enemy. The strong leader promises a new regime in which grievances of the ‘people’ will be redressed. This can be seen in Turkey, Russia, Hungary and now in UK and USA also. A xenophobic, minority hating and anti ‘elite’ right is on the rise world over. Back home Rajiv Gandhi’s election campaign also focused on fear and hatred. Political class has cracked the code of keeping populace politically charged and they are achieving astounded successes by mastering the new technology.

Absence of strong intellectual base has created a problematic situation for the Right in the sphere where influence is not amenable to electoral levers. Take for example, Academia. Long period of discrimination by the academic setup heavily influenced by the liberal-left ideologies rendered the Right devoid of quality academic credentials and their ideas discredited. Their attempt at creating alternative institutes (eg Vivekanand Foundation) are very insufficient to challenge academic hegemony of left-liberal combine.  Academia does not respond to electoral changes very readily as rules and recruitment in the universities, colleges and research institute are internally done and earlier generation appoints the next generation. Without quality brain power or at least credentialed academics at its disposal, Right had to push the change administratively. This hasn’t gone well so far as evidenced by  situations like Gajendra Chauhan episode in FTII and student protests all over India,  prominent being Jamia, JNU and Vemula related movement.

However, to be sure, academia, with passage of time will catch up with the electoral fortunes of the country as universities are not islands. If society wants its education in certain way, they will get that with some lag, but they will surely get.  However, absence of ground work in creating worthy candidates for the institutions or have prestigious institutions of its own (Sarsawati Shishu Mandir has decent set up though, but nothing of note in higher education or research. For comparison, well-funded rightist institutions in America can be seen who are being seen as viable alternative to left dominated academia there) is costing right dear and vitiating the environment for the time being. Same deficiency can be sensed in spheres like media, Judiciary and even medical field.

This push mostly, administrative, identity and feeling based, without the proper back up of knowledge and expertise can be explained by the tribal epistemology of a polarized society. New technology and ability to cross check any authoritative comment has created an environment where audience, reader or any consumer of knowledge is not ready to suspend disbelief. This suspension is the key to have a modicum of consensus about our reality. However, current scenario has gone well beyond healthy suspicion about the motives of journalist and experts to out an out denial of expertise. This has far reaching consequences for nature of media, research, science, basically about the truth itself. With weakening of the stature of experts it is the tribal affinity with a group which is the sole arbiter of truth or reality. Whatever supports my side or is approved by my leader is truth. In such a situation, position of experts and academic institution becomes very precarious.

Not that liberals or left are not prone to the effects of populism and polarization. Bernie Sanders is as much a populist as anyone else. Liberal supporters find it equally painful to digest differing opinion as anyone else. However, Difference is that of diversity. Liberals by definition is a diversified lot. They have to accommodate varied constituency and large spectrum of opinion so they can’t be very core voter oriented as that will anger more supporters than it will please. Whereas Right’s message lends itself to relentless deepening and to ever more radicalized appeal. More so, being the custodian of knowledge and public opinion for so long these liberal expert institutions (academia and media etc.) had developed a stake in scientific and logical rigor. This tendency to appear scientifically and logically sound is difficult to shake off and liberal side suffers from this disproportionately. In today’s world, liberal and the Right sides have not radicalized in the same way or to the same extent.

So, this is the story of the Right’s pushback against the nondescript status it was relegated to in the immediate aftermath of independence. It has displayed extraordinary tenacity and entrepreneurship in political and networking fields. Its leaders showed initiative to seize the opportunities provided by the slacking smug liberal regime. They created some opportunities themselves by exploiting the fault lines of the Indian society. However, democracy requires a mutual forbearance and a restraint in full exercise of brute power of majority. Hope is that after overcoming its historical hurt, the Right will work on this aspect of democracy also. Indian society and culture provide ample hope for this.  After all, this is what politics is – to get dominant myths, values and institutions work for one’s ideology.



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