The Centre Right Matters The Liberal Left Needs to Catch Up with Reality
During the seventies and the eighties, the liberal left successfully led the political movement for democratization of social relations as catalyst for accumulation of capital. The oppressive caste system came in for massive attack. Intense civil society activity followed. Both the state and the market were drawn into discourses of social justice. This speeded up the flow of resources and opportunities to the lower strata, and eventually resulted in more business, more profit and more capital, and led to the rise of a robust and ambitious middle class within these strata. The pressure of this class for upward mobility and further modernization absorbed the initial rationale behind the demand for social justice and created a favourable climate, at least, for its partial roll back. Now the boot is on the other foot, the liberal right. And so the left liberals gave a near paranoid response to the BJP in power. The response was rooted in their deep-seated commitment to the American political theory which regarded democratic government as integral to capitalist development, a democracy which was based on the liberal norm of opposition to majoritarian politics. They prioritized commitment to this liberal principle even though on earlier occasions they overlooked liberal propriety, as during the democratic struggles for social equity. Today, the place of liberal principles in the relationship of democracy to capitalism was further problematized by the majoritarian politics of such great leaders as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping or by Theresa May’s UK where the Brexit vote was won with the support of the majoritarian sentiment among the English people; there was lack of support for it in the regions.
The opposition to majoritarian nationalism is faulted by emphasis on demographic numbers. In majority-minority relations, the numbers are not decisive. A thousand years of rule over the majority community in India was not only authoritarian but also highly intolerant, and held out a threat of genocidal massacres to humiliate its social and cultural practices and to force it to regard it as subordinate to other communities. The historians have not even chronicled this, and, at best, have chronicled it inadequately The left liberal anti-majoritarianism does not address the subodinacy of the majority as historically produced. The imperialist strategy outwitted them by outflanking the macro-sociological experience of the lived past and substituting it with populist a-historical micro-level discourses conducted in analytical and empirical modes. And they encouraged the activists to project their theoretical understandings of the present social situation onto the past for validation based on facts and textual evidence chosen in complete disregard of the context which produced them. Scholar activists have turned it into a political tool. And so, the Hindu present remains unexplained in terms of its past. The Hindu majoritarianism has only one purpose, to flag the establishment of nation-state in India. The idea is to have a state which has the backing of the underlying nation and is capable of wielding sovereign power. The left liberal ‘warriors’ oppose it by juxtaposing it against their preference for the British Indian identity as the basis of post-colonial Indian nationalism. This position is based on their firm belief that their study of Muslim and British imperial rule has revealed to them the objective laws of India’s historical development and so the coming of political independence has not led to any rupture in historical consciousness on the ‘Hindu question’. Further, to firm up their iron grip on India’s future, they appropriated their position into the theory of historical materialism as given by Karl Marx leaving agreement on details to open-ended discourses on aspects of the appropriation.
The growing religiosity of the Hindu middle-classes is a subject of debate. But it appears to be a response to their subconsciously felt feelings of subordinacy in relation to the dominant religions of imperial rulers, Islam and Christianity, which, in their good old days, enjoyed exuberant ambience of primacy in a pluralistic setting of India and permeated almost every activity in the public sphere. The dominant religions took only a few centuries of supportive imperial rule to construct architecturally grandiose places of worship which nurtured imperial sensibilities among those who offered prayers there. The Hindu believers on the other hand feel meek and forgiving after offering prayers though they generally show off their playful religiosity especially on festive occasions. It is probably a compensatory measure for persisting induced emotions of anxiety and insecurity. In reality, they are increasingly retreating to temple spaces within residential houses.
The left liberals obstruct the realization of the Westphalian synthesis of nation-state, sovereignty and non-interference. predicated on the Partition and related Settlements. The teleological end-point of the Partition was the dual framework of the nation-state. The transition to this political form implied movement of the two communities away from pre-Partition ways of thinking and organization and morph them into the generative grammer of modern statehood. Pakistan has not opted for movement on this trajectory. The road to Westphalian synthesis is blocked by it. The centre right is pushing this secularization process forward with its marked emphasis on capital accumulation. The capitalization of market-led religiosity appears to be on the agenda. The religious observances of every believer are pulled out from under ‘the sacred canopy’ and, as commodities, are encouraged to compete in the market for consumer choice. The idea is to translate religious pride into competition for business, profit and capital. The left liberals should catch up with this emerging reality. A strong and stable centre right is the need of the hour to turn India into a nation-state and to back this commitment with regulated capitalist growth. The two projects are closely related. India’s aim today is to go beyond historical determination of the present and subsume inter-community relationship within an ‘ordered anarchy’ of modern state system where international conduct follows the Westphalian logic of respect for sovereignty and the principle of non-interference.
(the author is a former Professor at Jnu)