The nature of politics has tremendously changed in India since the current regime came to power. These changes are evident from the systematic breakdown of institutions and the delinquent processes responsible for the systematic functioning of Democracy in India. The Hindutva forces have succeeded to concoct the pan-Indian narrative around Hindutva project which has aggressive nationalism at its heart. This was further embedded through the mounting intolerance towards any opposition. Questioning this regime is now a day’s akin to challenging the very sovereignty of Indian state. The dissenters ate being commonly referred as ‘anti-national Pakistanis’ or ‘Desh Drohis’ (traitors). This climate of fear and intolerance has furthered the social cleavages in Indian society and ceased the growth of any democratic force.
In such a condition it is imperative to examine the ground where such right-wing tendencies groom and breed. The fact of the matter is that, the original trademark of this party and its co-ideologists has always been communal polarization and bashing around the idea of Pakistan. The role of Indian media particularly since last five years can’t be ruled out here. No stone was left unturned to carry forward the Hindutva project of this regime. The phenomenon of doing politics around a strongman, compromising with the ideological baggage of which they carry, has been a grand shift which was visible from the way the regime subsisted and accomplished to rule for the full tenure.
The continuous haunt for a concrete narrative on which a strong opposition could be launched dominated the politics of last half a decade. The opposition parties were delegitimized at each step thus choking all their potentials of working as an effective opposition. The party in power materialized the issues of foreign policy and national security for its own benefits. One such example was the Pulwama militant attack and the following claims of air strikes against Pakistan.
BJP rose to its prominence constructing a narrative around ‘less government—more governance’ or what they now call Mazboot Sarkar and not a Majboor Sarkar. Framing slogans like ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ and ‘Make in India’ were used to strengthen this narrative further. However, the temptation of public opinion along these lines may be their short-term goals; the long-term slogan is set at establishing a Hindu Rashtra the roadmap for which is Hindutva politics. The hate speeches by RSS and BJP leaders, directly and indirectly enticing the mob groups, around the slogans like ‘Ghar Wapsi, Gau Raksha, Love Jihad’ etc have become norms of the day.
There is a fascist regime ruling the state; where secular forces have failed to resist this agenda of Sangh Parivar. Atul Kohli in 1991, arguing along the similar concern remarked that democratic state was allowed to decay. Things ostensible these days are the constant onslaught on the secular voices and dissenting groups and the growing suppression of religious minorities in India. These Right-Wing attacks on higher educational institutions, killing of intellectuals, arrests/detentions of intelligentsias and the phenomenon of public lynching etc aptly describe the present situation of intolerance in India. In the words of Partha Nuznic, professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, states that such a new normal has been created that “criticism of government nowadays in India means a criticism of nation”.
The shifts in Indian politics are not hidden to anyone. Parties like BJP have been in power earlier and all the time they returned with more vigour to confront the opposition. However, it is time for all the ‘secular-progressive’ forces to look back and extrapolate the failings of their secular and progressive agenda. The first step towards this direction should be doing away with what Ajay Gudavarthy, a professor of politics at JNU, calls the ‘secular sectarianism’ of these progressive parties. He argues that the ‘Secular sectarianism of feminists, Dalits, the Left and religious minorities have, over a period, ghettoised communities and advanced a sectarian political imagination, leading to a political dead end that they are now finding difficult to negotiate.’ Furthermore, generating momentum for a unified opposition against Right Wing is what these parties should aim at. In fact, Communalism is an ideology and necessitates the need of a secular and inclusive ideological narrative against it. This alternative, however, can’t be established on the lines of economic development but by furthering the inclusive character of a democratic state and its secular forces.
The Indian politics has changed considerably since the recent past. However, it is necessary to explicate the future shape which this politics will take. The possible conditions are now being argued mainly around the emergence of a ‘vernacularized democracy’. However, the space for depressed classes in such a democracy is the leftover of what politics the secular forces will pursue in the days to come.
The Saffron Party roared the slogan, “If Not Modi, who?” The common Indians must change this mantra with “If Not Modi, what?”And the answer is enshrined in the Constitution of India. ‘Secular-Democracy’!