Finally 2017 has ended on an auspicious note for BJP. The Saffron Party didn't only sweep the 'ostentatious' Gujarat but also conquered the 'humdrum' Himachal. It is hardy lost on anyone that today the party is on cloud nine. Yet, din and crescendo apart, there is a dark underbelly to this victory of sorts. It not only is emblematic of a malicious decay of political discourse and public reasoning in India but also ominous in the sense that it inches us closer to the 'prognosis' of prophets of doom that wagers on the unsustainability of India as a nation. Gujarat is thus an alarm bell for India.
Gujarat shows how an electoral victory fetes on the tumbled tower of a true leadership and a real democracy. That democracy in India has metamorphosed into some kind of 'demo-crazy' the Indian political leadership can never be exonerated of its guilt of having abetted in this transition. Today a typical Indian politician never dares to wander out of the pale of Mandal-Mandir binary. It can be argued that Gujarat is a textbook example of an 'electoral enterprise' born and nursed in this binary. The case in point is the contour of PM Modi's political discourse during this year's election campaign in Gujarat. From victimization card to Muslim-Pakistan-Mughal bogey, he transformed the conventional grammar of contemporary Indian politics and institutions, and as Pratap Bhanu Mehta says, 'he gave a vibe of a hazardous combination: that of ultimate power and a sense of insecurity, both at the same time'.
The desperate electoral exercise in Gujarat exudes an image of a stagnant India, an India which has been ossified but made to glitter by the varnish of its fossilized constitutional ideals. It again betrays a vision of sealed communities deciding how to distribute the spoils of politics. Let's face it: the moral enterprise within Indian politics is long dead! The irony though lies in the fact that most Indians don't understand what is at stake. The alacrity with which the saffron brigade is jostling for 'monolithic outcomes' in India (which in Sunil Khilnani's words is apocalyptic given its culture of diversity) a systematic destruction of the 'idea of India' is lost sight of.
Gujarat also shows us how behind benevolent masks and titillating ruses vengeance-seekers and poison brewers can be handed over the steering of political mobilization. No wonder Uttar Pradesh came to the rescue of Gujarat! This gives an impression of what Indian democracy has come to embody of late: mere elections. It is in elections that democracy is supposed to start and end in India. Democracy was supposed to unleash the productive capacities of people but the pet mantra of BJP viz. controlled polarization has always led to the unleashing of unproductive capacities of people (Gujarat was no exception). Also the much vaunted 'Gujarat Model' again proved that motivations guiding the leadership are narrowly political with no or little developmental and redistributive ambitions. Not surprisingly a lot of debates in India get stuck at the level of symbolism only. But then that is the idiosyncrasy of India.
To sum it up, Gujarat yet again reminds us of the fact that India is at a critical juncture vis-à-vis the challenges to its democracy. Thus there is a dire need of constructive political coalitions which can deliver it from the current ditherings. The greatest strength of democracy is that it will muddle through—for it is probably true that democracy ultimately does the right thing after it has tried everything else. Optimism is a virtue, so let it prevail.
(Muhammad Muqaddas Hussain studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi)