What is the status of political ideology in Indian politics today?
Congress gets a near majority!
Sir Isaiah Berlin
BJP broken up, the Left broken in West Bengal, wiped out in Kerala
Dravidian fanatical fringe and Trinamul obduracy tilting at the Congress windmill
What ideological clarity drives the Indian polity’s strengths and value system? Are we a more confident nation now?
Or, are there some self-doubts?
As regards our belief systems and ideological commitments?
The way the new government, the Manmohan team seems to be going about its business of governance, it looks it is all more a sense of complacency is marking the “business as usual” approach of the prosaic business of governance style that marks the Prime Minister’s body language, so to say.
We don’t hear from the supposedly a more confident Prime Minister anything substantial, be it foreign affairs, India didn’t react and respond in an adequate manner to US President Barrack Obama’s famous Cairo speech nor we hear about the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia to attend the Bric, Shanghai co-operation meet or about his encounter with the Pakistani counterpart.
Does India intend to play a role on the international stage? If, so what it is?
Nor we hear from any of the newly inducted ministers or the old hands who are all back in their old or new seats.
Do, we the new government, want to set the Ganges on fire, so to say?
If so let us hear about their inner workings of their ideological beliefs.
India must have an all-embracing vision?
A higher ideological clarity? A sense of feeling uplifted by the election victories and the likelihood of India becoming a more confident nation, building up its economy and the polity into a new higher plane.
Is India a liberal democracy emerging from its current governance norms? Or an absolute stance we find from the way our government is headed by a non-elected and sure enough a second time also nominated Prime Minister!
Or, the Congress party functioning as an absolute unelected and an undemocratic structure?
Even Rahul Gandhi might be called upon to explain and justify his legitimacy as a shaper of events, he is for all practical purposes is there because of his birth, not by merit. Any democracy has to have its own accountability system. What is the accountability system in Indian democracy?
Dynastic democracy is a fake and a repulsive concept in the modern times. Sure enough, there is more dynastic youth power today than the more equitably distributed youth power from across the economic and the social hierarchy of the peculiar Indian society and economy.
The poor is still a fairly large mass of people. There are also the large poor in economic deprivation.
The aim aadmi might prove very soon a joke, if we go by the latest reports about the malnutrition of the children in the four districts of Madhya Pradesh and the malnutrition deaths(as reported widely by the TV channels, after nearly a month after the elections and the installation of the new government).
So, is our democracy genuine or an absolute state, the stance might be more benign, nevertheless it is an absolute stance getting hardened within a facade of a democratic state?
These are some of the thoughts that come to mind when one stands up and looks at the broad Indian canvas and also in the background the looming events elsewhere in Iran, Russia and far-ff states, both big and small, everywhere where people feel the deprivation of freedoms, freedoms to migrate and getting integrated and there is the rising of racial attacks, specially now against the Indians, from Australia, Canada and even in UK.
Indians everywhere, all the world over, must be feeling a sense of belonging to mother India, the very concept of India as a democracy, as a more confident and as a more secure place in the face of the very many new challenges.
In the current economic downturn, there is every thought on every emigree Indian, a sense of nostalgia and the Indians might looks back and draw inspiration from Indian values and Indian belief systems, our polity, our political values must all be based on a heightened sense of higher values, based on truth, transparency and a sense of decency and self-esteem.
How self-esteemed Indians are?
Do we care for legitimacy in many of the things we do? In politics specially?
Legitimacy, decent and honesty and political morality, political dharma or do we seek recourse for deviousness, in the name of democracy etc?
These are some of the questions that agitate an average Indian, agitate me as a concerned citizen and I like to seek some answers.
At least to clarify to myself.
I rise up and what I see? In India and outside in the world.
Inside India there is the rising of the Maoists. In the outside world there are the protests in Iran. Much blood is shed, unneccessary blood is let and the shedding of blood is wasted? Or, is there some cause about which we can legtimise the letting of blood?
The killing of poor and innocent people? Or, the highly educated and motivated youngsters, as in Iran?
See the events in Iran. What lessons we get from the Iranian uprising?
A fairly democratic state, though in a supposedly a theocratic Islamic state, the second election of the incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ,though he won and the elections though fairly fought and won, faces the unusual opposition from a determined public, the youth and the women and the educated and the most articulate sections of the Iranian society.
Iran is a big regional power and what happens in Iran is likely to spill over into the neighbour states and even very likely beyond.
What is an ideology? Why an ideology, at all?
An ideology is a system of thought, in fact, a systematic thought around a core idea. A core idea that gives a people or a country or a cause a coherent vision that integrates and inspires and sustains a people, a nation or a cause for some hoped for utopia or historic destiny even. The modern world saw the rise of so many ideologies, the inter-war years also saw the consequences of certain evil ideologies. So, there is an aversion for ideologies, anytalk of ideologies. The very word, the concept of ideologies is shunned.
However, if we look at deeply no society can even now live without such a shared vision.
The triumph of modern democracy, now there are supposedly some 170 and odd democracies in the world, it is reported. Democracies in all definitions, even Arab monarchies are democracies, in some form or other.
Eve4n dictatorships conduct elections, regimes change owing to some democratic pressures etc.
India is a large democracy and it is justly praised the world over.
It is an unending quest. There can’t be perfect democracy, though the USA and the UK are the best democracies in so many respects.
There is legitimacy to democratic practices everywhere. So too the role of ideological debates.
India is fairly a liberal and secular and open democracy and open society. This awareness must spread to wider sections of Indian society.
A nation can’t live without a well-articulated ideology. Ideology is a heightened philosophy of life for a people, for a nation.
Iran is now at the very centre of the Middle East question, very much likely to shape world events.
Elsewhere, in Russia, after emerging from the events of 1989, the collapse of Communism didn’t produce a stable and secure Russia.
There are so many questions unanswered as far as Russia and its place in the world are concerned.
Events in India, Iran, Russia and elsewhere must give us an idea!
Politics is an area where events don’t stop. Time and tide don’t wait for anybody, right?
So are politics and the world affairs and where events bring everyday, almost every moment when men and nations have to grapple with events and shall we say, the moments of truth!
We live at such a time and at a moment, it seems!
In India the recent elections gave a verdict of the people. The verdict point to what truths, what trends in Indian politics?
Any leader or any thinker or a strategist or an analyst didn’t seem to have given us any idea of the broader trends or the fundamental truths, as far as I can search for it.
I didn’t find any such thinking coming out from any quarters.
May be, the BJP party, the major opposition party in the Indian democratic polity, seems to have raised some self-doubts if we can look at what the senior leaders in that party have got to say.
Yes, L.K.Advani, the senior most leaders has some thoughts on the topic. Advani has spoken about the basic thoughts and the problems and the doubts raised by the party leaders and insiders.
One critical concept has been the future of the Hindutva in the BJP party’s ideological articulations and formulations. Advani admits, if what the news reports have given it correctly or not, the Hindutva concept has to be stated not in extreme terms. The concept has to be stated in “inclusive” terms, to commit itself to equal treatment to all communities, in particular, to the Muslims and the Christians and the minorities.
Then came the Varun Gandhi” hate speeches and the chief ministers taking exception to such speeches, speeches that were also held as the major reason for the party’s defeat.
Advani also spoke about not giving up the concept of Hindutva altogether.
So, there is this dilemma over the Hindutva concept as a term of BJP’s political ideology.
Advani spoke about “inclusiveness”, again a word or a concept used by the Congress party also, the “inclusive growth” in economic e terms is also used by Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh.
So, this inclusiveness also needs to be examined.
Advani has also referred to couch the Hindutva concept in terms of cultural and civilisational terms.
BJP often talks of a cultural nationalism. This is also a difficult concept.
What is Indian nationalism, if it is not in terms of the entire peoples’ nationalist consciousness?
Who owns the cultural and civilisational nationalism? The entire people of India without reference to their religions and their castes and other divisive forces as things had evolved in the era of vote-bank politics.
Advani also spoke of a resurgent India. Why claim any monopoly over a resurgent India? A resurgent India again belongs to all of us, irrespective of any part of region or religions or castes or states.
The trouble with such a senior and experienced leader of the stature of Advaniji is that he often talks as if he needn’t explain things. He, for instance, also often talks, as he has now done also, as equating “Hinduism and Hindutva” as if the two concepts are the same.
Shall we plead with the senior leader that this is not so. Hinduism many would adhere to, Hindutva many may not equate with the Hinduism as a dharma or a religion or an ethical way of life.
Hindutva is a concept that is exclusive to the BJP, the RSS might have a brand like Hindutva to distinguish itself from other political or religious or social organisation.
Hindutva ,if I am right, pointedly points a finger to those who don’t constitute a Hindu nationhood, that is as the RSS founders have formulated and quoted many times, the Muslims don’t belong to the Hindu nation, right?
So, for clarity sake let us keep Hindutva for a particular political formulation and not confuse or equate with Hinduism that is a big and very different concept altogether.
Advaniji has many serious things and observations to make.
Yes, he is true to say and claim that in seven states the BJP won the elections, in a significant way. In
Now, the BJP is engaged in an intense soul-searching.
Jaswant Singh says the party must become “modern”. What is modern politics? He doesn’t say thing more in detail.
Surely, one modern definition of a political ideology could be it should be secular or modern or even a Westernised way of looking at democratic politics.
The Congress is a modern party, it has searched for inspiration from Gandhi and Nehru, if one represented an essentially Indian, even Hindu (Hind Swaraj of Gandhi) inspiration, the Congress also got lots of Western inspired ideological outlook, Nehru’s Western style democracy based on adult franchise, Nehru’s socialism, essentially the British Labour party socialism, the European socialist democratic experiences are all behind the Indian National Congress’s basic political ethos.
In fact, I wanted to start off with recent international events and somehow, the current Indian developments came in the way.
The Iranian unrest in that country with the death of a young Iranian girl had stirred the conscience of the world. The “twitter” generation saw to it, the video grab of the martyrdom of the 25 year old Neda Agha Soltan in the Tehran’s Freedom Square (Nilofar Square) had caught the instant attention of the entire world thanks to the Internet and the twitter generation of the Iranian youth.”Martyrdom is a powerful force in the world of Shia Islam”. Mourning on the third, seventh and the 40th days after a death form a galvanising cycle, writes an eye-witness observer. There also seem to be so many varieties of police and security forces in Iran. So too the very many layers of power structure within the polity there.
The mourners appeared all over the world and even in remote parts of the world. Why Iran’s new protests and it is almost a new revolution that could out shadow the older Revolution that over threw an oppressive regime.
Now, the new protests seem to take unpredictable forms and the questions, basic questions being asked are: what is the meaning of this new protest, so widespread and so uncontainable even after the supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni has pronounced the election results are fair and final and yet the protests have gone out of control and the authorities have to reset to more brutal measures including the death of the young protesters.
The new meaning is that thought Iran elections were democratic and the results are fairly correct and objective and yet there is this protest.
Many days after, the protests didn’t subside and the more brutal force is employed, the more sustainable the protests.
It is a popular protest against an absolutist stance of an otherwise democratically elected government.
The current youth risked death, as one young Iranian wrote, for the sake of “tomorrow’s children”!
The youth of Iran, a country that had seen very many ups and downs and still the country and its democracy is unsettled simply because the youth, even the general public, including the long-suppressed women of that great country feel the time has come to demand more freedoms.
Yes, it is an aspiration for a more open society, more civil rights, more civil freedoms and more a democratic society.
The extremism as spearheaded by the elected president doesn’t augur well for a more liberal world order.
What is happening in Iran might be the internal affair of that country, a friendly country of India and others. So, there is the diplomatic side and a diplomatic silence may be in order.
This is one aspect of a nation like India and we must appreciate for good relations with a friendly country like Iran.
But then there is a wider and larger side to the on-going ideological debates as for the sort of issues we can learn and sort out as far as democracy, a liberal democracy and the many-sided issues of economy, social justice and freedoms of citizens and the question of an open society and its basic issues.
India is an open society in the Western sense in which Iranian society is not.
What does this mean?
It means that there are great many issues for an open society to concern itself with and a great need for a country like to India to debate and get clarifications for the wider benefit of Indian people, perhaps, even for mankind itself.
Politics everywhere, especially after many years of the world getting into turmoil and turbulence, after the second world war and also after the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Communism and also after the experiences of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
Even the latest and later-day Kosava war in Yugoslavia raised many issues. Issues of ethnicity and the wars based on ethnic strife and new identities and new nations being born.
Now, after the 70th anniversary of the start of the second world war, as celebrated recently by countries of the Normandy landing celebrations, Russia raised the question of the truths about the war and the war dead.
Russia, as it was claimed by Kremlin, lost about 27 million Russian lives. May be the bloodiest war, the second world war, the heaviest human loss suffered by mankind and yet, there are still, as Russia claims, countries that don’t rise above narrow national considerations and don’t share the common destiny of nations.
The West is still supposed to have a separate ideology, a superior ideology which countries like Russia and perhaps China too don’t have.
So, a liberal democratic ideology is what marks the progress of nations, the “end of history” debate we hear often about the collapse of authoritarian regimes as a sort of historical inevitability.
Where does India come in this debate?
Not anyone in India, not even a soul in India rather, seems to have been concerned about such questions!
That is the irony of the current times in which India seems to be passing through.
The sort of democracy we are practicing is not bad but not perfect by any means.
A democracy, like a society, must reflect on its core belief system, must be a source of inspiration for the citizens and we must be bound by a shared vision.
Now, we read almost daily about the highly questionable political means we sustain our democratic polity.
There are so many unacceptable realities. New MPs, a larger proportion than previously who are with criminal records, a large proportion of crorepatis and also the oligarchical nature of the political classes, driven by dynastic instincts is only one aspect of the unacceptable political morality we practise.
This is political expediency and not political morality.
Then are the very many issues that spring forth from such an immorality.
The absolute stance of the regime. Absolute stance that also spells a great deal of arbitrary exercise of power.
The sycophantic nature of the power centre and the establishment.
What conviction we carry when we talk glibly about the aam aadmi?
There are even now, the malnourished child deaths in Madya Pradesh’s three districts.
So much poor mass of people. So much of lack of commitment and even an agenda to tackle the distributive justice as distinct from the social justice.
What is our liberal agenda for the distributive justice?
The PM talks often and not in a much convincing way, about economic reforms. What are his economic reforms? Has he ever at least on one occasion has the PM articulated his vision?
Is he an ideologue? Does he believe in the Left-Centre or Right Centrist agenda?
Is he a liberal economist or neo-liberal economist, if ever?
Then, what is his political agenda?
Is he a political liberal? Or a liberal democrat?
We have to ask such questions and then only there will be clarity in our basic belief systems.
Otherwise, sycophancy is okay and so too the power games in which we are engaged and power games is another way of marking time.
Everyone seems to live for the one term of power or angling for power at any cost even when the second chance comes our way?
This is not the strength of India.
India has to have a coherent vision. India must draw from the past. Recent past. Distant past.
Even India’s evolution towards freedoms can be traced for some centuries. The British had had its resistance from the 1857 onwards, even from Tipu Sultan in the 18th century, the 19th century, then the early years to the mid-century when freedom came through bloodshed over partition.
We are just 62 years young in independence. I am not sure when I say we, the citizens, are yet to enjoy the full flowering of our personal freedoms.
There are so many obstacles, so many road blocks, so much arbitrary exercise of power from petty officials to the high and the mighty.
Today the place of liberty, personal freedoms, and the security of the state are all very vague and much undefined.
We seem yet to fear the state, fear our leaders, their subterfuges to serve us!
Modern day life offers so many distortions to traditional concepts like liberty and freedoms.
There is the highly commercialised media, print and TV and they go for brand-management of the powerful and the rich.
Now, politicians, following the lead from the corporates, spend in crores to build up their images. The Congress party spent Rs.150 crores on advertisements alone.
Then followed the brand building of individual leaders.
So too an obliging and very obedient press.
There is no exposes or investigative journalism we see in the West. Our reigning politicians are reigning gods, right?
So, much that is critical and substantial in politics gets lost in brain-washing by the ruling class or ruling cliques!
So, when the Kremlin appointed a “Truth Commission” I thought that we in India too need such a commission to establish the real propagators and the falsifiers of our history.
Our experts, be they the historians or the economists or the scientists, dont serve the citizens, they serve the state, the authority.
India can’t become a mature and different nation in a day. We have been accustomed to bow and salute the high and the mighty. Even now, we see the sycophancy, a very self-degrading sycophancy even from the high and the highly educated and highly ranked leaders.
In some other parties, they leaders are worshipped like reigning gods! They prostrate before them and fall at their feet!
So, how can a nation, not necessarily Russia or China but even a democratic India cant suddenly become a democratic nation?
Behind the facade, we seem to live like the old souls, slavish in mind and thinking and also slavish in our outward behaviour.
So much for a liberal debate and a liberal agenda!