First let me try to explain what I believe constitutes the ‘right wing’ in India; sure, there are certain coherent ideological positions within, however, at a broad level Right is an amorphous mass, and therefore trying to make a cogent argument about it is like trying to capture fog.
In fact, the best description for Indian right as it exists currently is what Lionel Trilling said about American right, “Best expressed not in ideas but in irritable mental gestures”. This is not as bad it seems, if we dive into the issues around ideology.
Our understanding of ideology, for lack of better words, is didactic. In this model, we start with a set of instructions (first principles) and then develop framework to contend with reality. This is not however evolution of an ideology (evolution is a very appropriate term; I hope to write about it in a subsequent article) and rather a retrospective understanding.
Aristotle termed man as ‘political animal’. As my understanding of politics has grown, this seems one of the profoundest statement on politics. This statement identifies, correctly in my opinions, politics not as a deliberate intellectual activity, but as an instinct rooted in our deeper nature.
This is why I don’t consider Lionel Trilling’s statement as a wholesome indictment of American (or Indian) right. All the strands of political thought, whether belonging to Left or Right are ultimately instinctive responses of sections of a society to prevalent conditions.
However, the fact that ideology is rooted in human instinct doesn’t obviate the need for putting actual intellectual effort in clarifying ideological position. To understand this better, consider this analogy – almost every infant is afraid of many things (dark, noise, dogs) at the same time they are not best judge of every potential danger (stairs, table fans, clay). Their actions are instinctual, it is job of adults to guide and train them until they have the judgement. Same way intellect guides in channelizing political instincts to meaningful actions.
Now there are reasons why Indian right is still amorphous compared to Indian left. For one, to paraphrase Tolstoy, while left everywhere is alike, right in each society is right in its unique.
Prior to the first world war, right could be generally mapped as status quoists, while left was generally the disruptive force, that is not necessarily the case now. This discussion though is outside scope of this article, it is, however, accurately summarized by this tweet:
Establishment is the bunch that systematically controls your thoughts through media and academics, not the govt that’s there for 5 years.
— Rahul Roushan (@rahulroushan) February 17, 2016
In our modern context, left has been so focused (obsessively so one might say) on “progress”, it has over last century turned into a maniac with a jackhammer dismantling social structures and upending moral values that bind society, on the other hand right has mostly been reactionary, and as example of Donald Trump shows, trying to fight fire by fire. (I am mixing metaphors here)
Dichotomy between left and right can be more concisely stated this way:
If left is civilization indulging in binge drinking, right is the hangover it gets next morning.
One direct consequence of this (especially of ‘left everywhere being alike’) is that Indian left not only inherits off the shelf intellectual framework from west, it can keep reinventing itself by merely repackaging latest fad from western left. We have seen it in action in the way left-leaning social justice warriors, stand-up comics, journalists, etc. have behaved of late.
This luxury is not available to right. Indian right has to start from scratch, and even where western models might exist they can’t be adapted in toto, but must be examined first.
Besides there are other significant factors. Firstly, and most importantly, except for a small fraction of population, intellectual activity is not anyone’s idea of fun, so people are less likely to invest time and effort in such an endeavor, even for those willing, in a poor country like ours, spending time on this is luxury.
Then there is question of institutional support, at present Left has complete monopoly over all intellectual institutions of any worth, whether academia, media or think-tanks; completely starving Right of any resources or space.
As a consequence, outside direct political institutions, right in India is mostly a creature of Sangh Parivar and online forums/social media, and more importantly, a creature of instinct rather than intellect.
This also explains post 2014 evolution of right.
As should be clear from the article as well as my other “writings” elsewhere, to counter the humongous challenges to Indic civilization and dharma, it is imperative for us to have a credible right with coherent intellectual, institutional and electoral framework. As Indian government holds a lot of financial leverage, after Modi won most decisive mandate in 25 years, it was my fervent hope that he will take this on priority basis.
When this didn’t happen, it came as a shock to me. To me, this was such a no brainer, something that should been obvious to anyone, that I couldn’t conceive of a possible reason Modi will neglect this.
Not only Modi didn’t take any proactive steps, he completely allowed left to set the narrative since last 3 years. In fact, in many instances, whether be RTE or temple control, this govt has actually doubled down on Congress-left agenda.
And all this while, left is running amok with their hateful and divisive agenda against Hinduism; from JNU to the Gujarat itself, and poisoning and turning middle class Hindus against Hinduism. In light of this, Modi’s inaction is baffling.
This inaction, in addition to providing left room to maneuver and launch counter attack, has also caused right to fall into paroxysm of incoherence with one half trying to inveigle themselves into Lutyens, while other half falling back to emotive and cathartic issues, and worse indulging in unlawful behavior (thus providing further ammo to left for reinforcing its narrative).
Though a small part, online right has not been unaffected by this, in runup to 2014 elections, online right had evolved to be a vocal community, when in process of criticizing Congress, it had also made a considerable progress towards coherent intellectual position. I expected this to continue and form nucleus for future development for Indian right. That unfortunately was undone.
A few among right have held onto intellectually consistent positions, but most have adopted “Modi, right or wrong” approach, even more regrettably there is an increasing tendency to brook no criticism of Modi. It is as if it is still April 2014 and BJP is still in opposition. This I believe is instinct getting the better of intellect as I had pointed out earlier.
I will be honest here, initially this came as a nasty surprise to me, still I held some hope for change, however as the time wore on, the surprise turned to abandonment and betrayal of principles. It seemed like cliched plot of sci-fi movie, where people you know are abducted and replaced by their aliens.
That of course wasn’t what had happened, and as I came to realize, it was neither abandonment nor betrayal of principles, for the simple reason, Indian right is largely bereft of principles.
This might seem astonishing, but it isn’t, recall that Indian right is a creature of instinct, For BJP this translates into adhering to status quo while in power. For online right this has unfortunately meant that instead of offering candid critique of Modi govt, it has regressed into tribal loyalty and personality worship.
This loyalty and personality worship is not necessarily the fallout of lack of principles or intellect. Some of it is also driven by the fear of Congress i.e. the left establishment, coming back to power, and the instinctive response to the fear is – ‘Modi must be supported if we have to survive’. This might be helpful to keep a small section together, but the ordinary electorates don’t think or vote this way, the right does not seem to realize it.
Maybe things will look up in 2018, but as far as Indian right is concerned, 2017 turned out to be like one of the interminable sequels to Golmaal, utterly mediocre.