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Remaking the idea of India: My suggestions for the “right”

Abhishek Banerjee breaks down what the "right" could do together and individually for a better India

The General Election of 2019 is over. A historic victory has been achieved.

Time to relax?

I beg to disagree. In fact, I would argue this is the most exciting time to be an Indian. Good times may not last. One has to seize the moment and run with it as fast as possible, get a big lead when the other side is still in the dust and struggling to get up.

We have to remake the idea of India after one thousand years. As Swami Vivekananda said, arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.

I have broken down what I want to say into five humble suggestions.

(1) Recognize the mercenaries, but do not reject them

Being in power is not the same as being in the establishment. However, sustained power gradually changes the polarity of the establishment.

You must have seen the now viral video of a hardcore Lutyens editor admitting how he and his colleagues deliberately went looking for ways to run down the BJP government and its success.

Think of the establishment as investors and political parties as stocks on the market. Congress has been the best stock in the history of democracy, delivering stable returns for over 60 years. In between, there were brief intervals of 3-5 years when the stock didn’t perform, but it was natural for investors to keep the faith.

It’s different this time. The stock of the Congress party has fallen over the cliff. The way India’s geography is, Congress may never again become the single largest party.

Naturally, the “investors” are looking for greener pastures. The stages of grief begin with denial and anger but end with bargaining and acceptance. They spent five years in the denial/anger phase, thinking that the Congress would bounce back like it always has. They have now moved into the “bargaining” phase.

The “acceptance” phase comes next.

If you see yourself as an “ideological warrior”, you might laugh at the mercenaries who have started bargaining with the BJP. Which is ok, because it really is funny. But do not reject these people outright, do not underestimate their value as force multipliers.

This General Election was a battle for conquering the idea of India. The battle is won. But you can’t stay in battle mode. You can’t rule that way.

There is a practical reason behind this. An enemy who has nothing to lose is the most dangerous of all. Constant battle drains precious energy and diverts from real long term goals. The old establishment cannot be a permanent enemy who is to be destroyed, rather it must be subsumed. Given small stakes, so that they ultimately become force multipliers.

The Mughals, the British and the Congress all ruled by offering small stakes to local satraps. To remake India, the right wing has to do the same.

(2) Defocus from elections, concentrate on objectives

In many ways, it is actually a pity that everyone who believes in restoring the glorious Hindu civilization is constrained within a single political party. This arrangement made sense till 2019 when mere survival of the dream was always in peril.

Nehruvianism was everywhere, in every party, in every institution, in our blood. And everyone who was opposed to it had to gather in a single corner and stick together just to survive from day to day.

This is no longer the case now. The future of India will be built by our hands. The Mughals, the British and the Congress are gone. The sun shines bright.

It’s time to come out. Each one of us has to dedicate themselves to specific causes that we are good at and / or feel passionate about. Here is a brief list of causes

(a) Privatization and free markets

(b) Welfare schemes for ending poverty

(c) Strengthening higher education, science and research infrastructure

(d) Strengthening primary schools

(e) Improving sanitation and healthcare outcomes

(f) World class Infrastructure

(g) Decolonization of school textbooks

(h) Reform of the Constitution: removing Articles 35A and 370, ending legal discrimination against Hindus.

(i) Building the Ram Temple in Ayodhya

(j) RTE and control over Temples

(k) Addressing popular culture and fighting Hinduphobia

(l) Problems of Left-wing terrorism

(m) FCRA violations and anti-national activities by NGOs

(n) Anti-conversion law, stopping aggression by missionaries, ending forcible conversion within marriage (love jihad).

This is not meant to be a manifesto. Quite the opposite. It is a laundry list of causes that people on the Indian “right” seem to feel passionate about. Some of these causes are outright contradictory in tone, like the first point which focuses on pure capitalism, while the second is deeply socialist in nature. Others are at least competing causes, such as funding higher education or funding primary education (because we have only finite resources). And many on the “right” would outright reject some of these causes or say they are not a priority.

What I am saying is that these contradictions are fine. The Lutyens elite is full of contradictions too, but between them they have managed to rule for 60+ years. In fact, they could do it precisely because they had a vibrant ecosystem full of competing interests.

Ecosystem is about cooperation, but it is also about competition. A Communist jholawallah may get an MPhil or PhD in exposing “US imperialism”, but then will get a grant from a multi-million dollar American foundation to do “research”. That foundation probably does not endorse Communism but is influenced by say missionaries who appreciate the Communist help in taking down Hindu society. The Communist does not like the US but appreciates the money.  It is these issue-based alliances between competing interests that have worked so far to suppress us.

To remake India, the “right” needs to do the same. We need our own focus groups. It’s okay not to agree on the specifics as long as we share a common goal, that being a new India that again ranks among the most influential nations in the world.

(3) Don’t be afraid to criticize your “own”

This really speaks to my earlier points about becoming the new establishment. Till yesterday, we were under siege. It made sense to suspend our differences and work for a common cause.

But now the siege has ended. It is our side that has to become the establishment.

Till yesterday, the real threat was survival. Today, the new threat is that of groupthink, the threat of becoming a monoculture.

It is time to shift our loyalties from parties to causes. In this, don’t be afraid to speak your mind boldly and criticize your “own”.

Do you know what is the biggest advantage that BJP supporters have over Congress supporters? We have heard their side and our side. They have only heard their own side. We know everything about them. They know nothing about us.

We could do this because we were willing to put our ideas to the test of fire. They were not. Having won, we must now put each other’s ideas to the same rigorous tests. No mercy.

(4) Come up with a strategy to change the international narrative about India

At first sight, it might seem there is a contradiction here, but there really isn’t. We are rising in terms of hard power. We are beginning to get the respect that an economic giant deserves.

At the same time, our image as a society is being viciously defamed across the world. The smear about “lynchistan” is traveling. In fact, the global media is using this smear precisely because of our rising hard power. India’s rise makes them emotionally insecure. They desperately want to believe the worst about us.

At the same time, as the domestic market for Hinduphobia is shrinking, the merchants of Hinduphobia in India have begun to pivot to an “export-oriented model”. A petty “journalist” working for a propaganda portal stuck her neck out of her cab window and saw some people walking around in Hanuman T-shirts. It occurred to her to caricature them as militants. Within weeks, the Washington Post was carrying the smear.

A vicious smear about newly sworn-in Cabinet Minister Pratap Sarangi took less than 24 hours to be picked up by the BBC. The global demand for Hinduphobia is huge. If the export of Hinduphobia continues to pick up at this rate, the old establishment might be able to make up for the collapse of domestic revenue and much more. Watch out!

We tend to focus only on the New York Times, Time Magazine and a few British newspapers. But there’s Telesur in Latin America spewing hate against us. There’s Le Monde in France and other newspapers on the continent of Europe. There’s Al Jazeera defaming us all over the Arab World. Even TRT, the Turkish international news channel.

The right needs a strategy for this. From its humble beginnings in anonymous comment threads on news websites and Facebook, the right was able to bring down the domestic propaganda businesses. A strategy is needed for India and Indians to tell their story as well. Some talk about an Indian CNN.

(5) Keep an eye on the competition, don’t let them out of sight

My previous points give the impression that I don’t believe the old Nehruvian establishment can ever come back. Perhaps so. But remember that only the paranoid survive. 

As we move ahead and remake our India, we have to keep an eye on the old. This paranoia should not hold us back, but we can’t let them out of sight. They are still out there and things can change in a moment.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a columnist and author.  

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