Being the political junkie that I am, I followed the results of the UP civic polls simultaneously on news portals and on Twitter. Before settling down to 14-2 in favor of BJP, the leads swung wildly in the course of counting.
After the first round or so, the BJP was leading all 16 and then suddenly its lead began to shrink. At one point, the BJP was leading just 9 and the BSP was leading 6. The mood on Twitter was constantly changing with each lead. The running joke was something like this : if BJP gets like 9-10, then its “massive blow for Modi”. If BJP goes above 13 or 14, then it’s “EVM rigging.”
Beneath this mockery of the opposition for its loser rhetoric, what right wingers were hiding was their very real pain and frustration. At the staunch refusal of India’s secular establishment to acknowledge BJP’s legitimate place at the helm of the nation. This anger, pain and frustration was coming out in the form of cynical humor.
Right wingers know by now that the BJP’s obvious success will be run down by “experts” no matter what. If BJP wins the mayor posts, they will look at the composition of municipal boards. If the BJP leads those, then they will check the nagar panchayats, the votes, the possible vote losses compared to any election since 1980 and so on. One way or another, the results will be dissected to uncover a “defeat” for the BJP.
Just as the right wingers on Twitter were expecting, soon after the results, one section of media has devoted itself to proving that BJP definitely did not “sweep” the election.
The other section is busy giving media space to crazy EVM conspiracy theories. Instead of ignoring the sore losers, their so called theories are being discussed at length.
We all understand how conspiracy theories work. The more they are discussed, or even debunked, the more compelling they become. And the media knows it all too well.
Right wingers on social media complain about “double standards” all the time. But what underlies this double standard? The problem, to put it in one sentence, is that the BJP lacks “secular privilege.” This underlies that which can only be described as apartheid against the Hindu right in intellectual and media circles.
Those with the “secular privilege” can do and say pretty much whatever they want. Take the most recent case of Congress’ official spokesperson boasting about Rahul Gandhi’s “janeu-dhaari Hindu” credentials. The casteist overtones of this remark went pretty much unreported in the media. If say, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had flaunted himself as a “janeu-dhaari Hindu,” we would never have heard the end of it in editorials, explaining how the RSS has a “savarna Manuvadi outlook.”
Similarly, Rabri Devi can declare openly that she has people ready to behead the Prime Minister of India and her son can threaten to skin Narendra Modi alive. It will never get as much play in the media as some small office bearer of Haryana BJP who made similar distasteful remarks against Deepika Padukone.
In case you have forgotten, the Prime Minister himself apologized in both Houses of Parliament for a junior minister referring to the opposition as “haramzada.” When former CM Rabri Devi talks of beheading Narendra Modi, well that’s just earthy humor, isn’t it?
Of course, because the BJP does not have “secular privilege” and it never will.
If Sonia Gandhi wins the 2004 election by a margin of 6 seats and getting 27% of the vote, it’s a historic victory. When the BJP wins 31% vote (with NDA winning a combined vote of 38.5%), and (more than) 6 times as many seats as the Congress in 2014, it is the fault of the First Past the Post Voting system.
But I’m here to tell you that it’s better that way.
Let me try to address right wingers directly for a moment.
At one level, right wingers have to understand that the hankering for respect from the intellectual establishment is self-defeating. When you hanker after their acknowledgement, you play their game. And they know this. This gives them power over you.
They are compromised stool pigeons of the old Congress establishment. No matter how many elections BJP wins and no matter how convincingly it wins, they will never give you the respect and awe that you wish for. But by making you run around in circles complaining about how they look down on you, they have sown in you the feelings of inadequacy.
If you really think about it, who are “they”? You right wingers already have the support of the people. The elite class only has the power that you give them. They are nobodies. They are a bunch of losers who have been handpicked by the Congress establishment precisely because they have the following three qualities:
(1) No backbone
Because who else would be reduced to earning their bread by singing praises of Rahul Gandhi? Think about it.
Once you internalize the fact that BJP will never have “secular privilege,” you can get past it. It was unnecessary anyways. The right-wing now has the reins of the country. Invest in an alternative narrative, in an alternative ecosystem.
It will make them hanker after you and try to copy your ways. See Gujarat. Instead of the BJP trying to win secular approval, it’s the Congress trying to secure Hindu approval. We have to make it so that one day this nation will have 29 Gujarats.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.