Modi’s return to the seat is a Powershift. Long years back this book by Alvin Tofler – Powershift – was a hit. The book underlined a crucial difference between a shift of power from one thing to another, and a shift in power itself. This thumping win by Modi, and the BJP, is not, in a simple sense, a transfer of political power from one party, Congress, to another party, BJP. That would be a routine electoral event. This verdict is a shift in the politics of India. The rise of Modi is the unfolding of a new people in India. That is what makes it more than an electoral victory.
The shift in the bedrocks of the Indian society will further change the politics of this country. It is a thunderous announcement of that change. What couldn’t be done in the previous 5 years, 2014-19, will now be done. The unfinished plans and processes are bound to progress. May be this time around we might not see those raw and grotesque acts of lynching, cow vigilantism and Ghar Vapsi, at least not immediately, but the phenomenon of displacement will continue. And it is too simple to understand.
The politics of the rightwing is always based on some unchangeable certitudes. It doesn’t change, it changes the things around. That is why a powershift. That is why the tomes of analysis that Modi will not make it to the seat this time, or if at all he does it will be a slender mandate, faced a humiliating disapproval on the day of election results.
Modi’s return, of course, strikes panic in all those who thought that this rightwing, extremist politics was ruining the institutions, values, and ethics of Indian polity. The country that was built over these seven decades on the principles of secularism, liberal democracy, and free expression, according to Modi’s opponents, is under a dangerous assault. We saw in the last five years how these concerns were expressed, dimly or loudly, by academics, journalists, civil society activists, and different political formation in India. It gained momentum as the elections came closer, in an expectation that India would return to its Nehruvian creed, whatever that was. It didn’t happen as the election 2019 reaffirmed that India has discovered itself anew. Nehru’s Discovery of India now needs a serious probe.
Narendra Modi’s victory speech was very instructive. He made some fitting points on what has changed in India. One such point was about secularism. To Modi, one of the significant changes in this election was the absence of any mention of secularism. He called this talk of secularism all fake. This is the most crucial insight Modi’s speech gives about how India has changed. It has a resonance in Muslim countries as well.
In the post colonial times when Muslim peoples in the third world got their free nation states, this debate on secularism jinxed the democratic politics. There were people and parties that thought that secularism is the lone foundation on which a modern polity can be raised. But deep down Muslim societies sharply denied this imposition. Secularism thus morphed into either coercion or downright hypocrisy. As the politics in Muslim countries progressed it either threw this secular attire off, like in Turkey, or gave birth to worst dictatorships, like Egypt. The reason is the mismatch between how post-colonial elite thought of politics, and how post-colonial Muslim societies lived their own ideas of politics.
The rise of Hindu Right, as Modi’s insightful comment on secularism tells us, points towards the displacement of the post-colonial political elite by the traditional society-bound political power. This is the shift that has occurred, and it is not going to go away any soon. Gandhi’s miracle was that he held this contradiction in his person, his leadership, and his political conduct, with an amazing grace, impressive craft, and a wily touch. That frail fakir was hiding a dozen personalities in his barely covered body. The reason why this new politics in India can dispense with Nehru, but not Gandhi. And why Jinnah must be adored for his penetrating look into what constituted Gandhi’s and Nehru’s India. He was prophetic when he said that in India Brother Gandhi will always have two votes compared to Brother Jinnah’s one vote. Jinnah was mathematically right.
This foundational shift in India has not unfolded itself fully. In the next five years much is bound to leave its place. A party like Congress, and an idea like liberal India, is insufficient to make any difference. In fact the imperatives of power politics might set in a wicked trend. Those who oppose Modi, and the RSS, may slowly pick up their political themes and set in a competing radicalism. A kind of Ghar Vapsi for Congress itself!
If anyone wants to change Indian politics for better, he will now have to work on the same masses, in the language that it understands, and through the traditions they connect with. The route to change is to understand Hinduism, Hindu sensibilities, and the traditions of this country. A sweeping rejection by calling it Rightwing, Extremist, Radical, Fundamentalist, is unhelpful. For those in India who find this new trend as a disrupter in Indian polity and society, the journey has just begun.
Meanwhile, for the political categories like Indian Muslims, Kashmiri Muslims, and genuinely liberal Indians, tough times are ahead. This moment -Filhaal – the sun has gone further down. Each one, carry a lantern on your own cross.