(This article was first submitted to Swarajya Mag, but elicited no response)
The massive victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh seems to have deeply upset the ‘liberals’ in Bharat, and also those outside who have relied on these ‘liberals’ as a source of information about Bharat. Even when they spent little time in the field while the election campaign was going on, they relied on anecdotes which would confirm their own biases, and worked themselves up into a state of denial about what was actually happening.
The election of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of the state tipped the ‘liberals’ over the cliff, figuratively speaking. While some amongst them had grudgingly begun to recognize, towards the end of the campaign, that the BJP would get a majority, the election of a Hindu sant – and one who proudly wears a saffron robe – as the chief minister had not occurred to them even in their wildest dreams. The ‘liberals’ thought that the person residing in the chief minister’s bungalow at 5 Kalidas Marg in Lucknow would be one with whom they would be socially comfortable.
Today the ‘liberals’ are writing about the alleged warped priorities of the new dispensation in Uttar Pradesh. They are quoting statistics to show how bad things are in the state, and that these need to be addressed on a priority basis. However, all this knowledge seems to have dawned on them only when Yogi Adityanath took the oath as the chief minister. During the election campaign, they projected that the previous government did quite some decent work, and that the slogan ‘kam bolega’ (my work will speak) did have merit.
Clearly, the previous government was a failure in terms of governance, and if it had come back to power things would have been even worse. I recognize that I am a biased person, but I do believe that the people of UP voted not on the basis of the least of all evils, but on the basis of an expectation that the BJP will bring out a positive change.
Dhume on Yogi
For the purpose of dwelling on some specifics, I would like to refer to an article titled “The Revival of India’s Identity Politics” by Sadanand Dhume, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, dated March 30, 2017.
It is typical of the cut-and-paste article that is a feature of intellectualism in Bharat. Change a position of a sentence or a paragraph, and use the thesaurus extensively, to give an impression that this is a new article. And lace the article heavily with adjectives to give an impression that something intelligent is being said. This article of mine is not specifically about Dhume, but about a class of analysts that he represents. In a sense, both the article and the author are to be seen in generic terms.
In promoting the article on his twitter time line, Dhume wrote: “You can oppose Bharat’s flawed brand of secularism without endorsing Yogi Adityanath’s ugly revanchism.” Some challenged the first part of Dhume’s tweet. However, Dhume claimed in two other tweets:
“I despise SP-style secularism and have written several columns about it. But I despise Adityanath’s anti-Muslim rhetoric as well.”
“I’ve written countless columns criticizing Congress for being soft on Islamism.”
Having read quite a few of his articles, I think Dhume is being economical with the truth. I have not seen any as adjective-laced article as referenced above, where he describes Yogi in such a way that the reader would think that Yogi is quite a horrible person.
Also, in whatever articles of Dhume I have read on the flawed brand of secularism, this comes out as a sort of by-the-way remark, to give an impression of unbiasedness, but actually is monkey balancing. Even in the WSJ article of 872 words, Dhume covers flawed secularism in 88 words.
If the flawed brand of secularism had been opposed
The real issue that Dhume should have dealt with is, whether if the flawed brand of secularism was successfully opposed in the past, what exactly would have been the situation of Bharat today. I hope that Dhume consciously recognizes that it is not just the political parties that practiced this flawed brand, but also that it was authenticated by the ‘liberals’. These ‘liberals’ have been continuously writing, and continue to write, that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and through it the BJP, will cause serious harm to the minorities and to the socially backward castes in Bharat.
The ‘liberals’ extensively use the Sachar Committee Report to show that the Muslims in Bharat have been discriminated against. There is a hint that this was a deliberate program against the Muslims to keep them discontented. So we have the previous Prime Minister saying that the Muslims must have the first priority over the resources of the country. The real message of the report is the dismal failure of the program of the ‘liberals’ in all sectors of society – education, economics, social, etc. I am sure Dhume knows that until recently it is the ‘liberals’ who were guiding the destiny of the nation, and it is they who worked out what needs to be done for economic and social progress.
Similarly, instead of lambasting V P Singh for cynical use of the report of the Mandal Commission on the backward castes, he is projected as a messiah for the latter. Here too the failure of anything substantially positive as having happened since the implementation of the report is mentioned only in passing. At the same time, the damage that has been done is not even talked about.
The choices before the people of UP
In another tweet promoting his article, Dhume wrote: “There’s little in his record that suggests that Yogi Adityanath is a good idea for UP or for India.” This would give an impression that there were better alternatives before the people of UP, and that they made a terrible choice. If so, Dhume does have very poor opinion of not only the intelligence of his readers but also of the voters in UP. Such insults make the Hindus call the ‘liberals’ as libtards, with a lot of justification.
Dhume castigates the Prime Minister of Bharat, Narendra Modi, in the choice of the Yogi as the chief minister. In another tweet recently, he said that he thinks Modi was the best choice as the Prime Minister of Bharat. (It needs to be mentioned here that in December 2013 he had tweeted that he did not think Modi would become the Prime Minister.) He has been generally supportive of the policies of Modi, but not uncritically.
One would have thought that Dhume would realize that perhaps there is some method in the apparent madness. If he did inquire on this line, he seems to have rejected it. I think, Modi would not be so adventurous that he would risk everything in choosing the Yogi as his preferred choice, if he did not think that this was indeed the best choice.
Dhume has tweeted, in context of comments on his article, that he does not think that his writing influences decision making within the BJP. One would then wonder whether his employer knows this! On a serious note, Dhume should understand that his article could well influence some of the readers who may be misled by his analysis. I would like to suggest to him that he has an obligation to this readership which thinks that he does know what is happening in Bharat.
The change in the mood of the people of Bharat had begun quite a few years ago. The Lok Sabha elections of 2014 woke up the ‘liberals’ to the change. But it is a change that has disturbed the cozy parlour games that they have been used to playing in Lutyens’ Delhi. What has shocked them is that it is not only the ones outside their cozy circles who have spoken out, but also many from within. This change is threatening them, because they have to deal with the uncomfortable question about why they did not see it happening all this time.
In a tweet he also said that he heard an ‘apocryphal story’ which ‘suggests that (the BJP leadership) were upset about TOI edit on Yogi Adityanath appointment’. Now, the synonyms for apocryphal are: mythical, fictional, untrue, legendary, invented, made-up, dubious. One would have thought that analysts would write on the basis of truth, which is the antonym of apocryphal. This is another instance where one wants to believe something merely because it conforms to one’s biases.
Naipaul and movement from below
There is much happening in Bharat, a process that is driven from below. This is on the basis of hope for a better future. It could appear to be threatening to the ‘liberals’, but they should realize that if they continue in the manner that the Dhume article represents, they will further become irrelevant to the needs of the society.
In this context, it would be worthwhile to dwell on what V S Naipaul said in an interview in context of the destruction of the Babri structure that stood at the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. The interview was given to Dileep Padgaonkar, then the editor of The Times of India, and was published on July 18, 1993. The essence of Naipaul’s understanding of the Shri Ramjanmabhoomi movement is as follows:
“What is happening in India is a mighty creative process. Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on, especially if these intellectuals happen to be in the United States. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening….I don’t see the Hindu reaction purely in terms of one fundamentalism pitted against another. The reaction is a much larger response…”
To a statement by Padgaonkar (“My worry is that somewhere down the line this search for a sense of history might yet again turn into hostility toward something precious which came to us from the West: the notion of the individual……”) Naipaul said:
“This is where the intellectuals have a duty to perform. The duty is the use of the mind. It is not enough for intellectuals to chant their liberal views or to abuse what is happening. To use the mind is to reject the grosser aspects of this vast emotional upsurge.”
Later in the interview, Naipaul elaborated:
“Hitherto in India the thinking has come from the top. I spoke earlier about the state of the country: destitute, trampled upon, crushed. You then had the Bengali renaissance, the thinkers of the 19th century. But all this came from the top. What is happening now is different. The movement is now from below…..But it is not enough to abuse them or to use that fashionable word from Europe: fascism. There is a big, historical development going on in India. Wise men should understand it and ensure that it does not remain in the hands of fanatics. Rather they should use it for the intellectual transformation of India.”
This movement from below has been continuing ever since. Modi was thrust (I use the word with a lot of care) on the BJP leadership due to the pressure from the Hindus at large, including the cadre of the party. Instead of meditating about the change, the ‘liberals’ are trying to resist the change. And they do in a vicious manner that we see in the Dhume article. In the process they are continuing to dig themselves further into the hole that they have fallen into after tipping over the cliff. To once again quote Naipaul: “To use the mind is to reject the grosser aspects of this vast emotional upsurge.”
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