Most BJP supporters and sympathisers woke up early today to the news of Devendra Fadnavis taking oath as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for the second time. They just couldn’t believe, like everyone else, the turn of events as everyone had gone to sleep last night thinking that the NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena alliance was sealed, and Uddhav Thackeray was set to become the new Chief Minister of the ‘opportunist’ post-poll alliance.
In the morning, BJP was reported to have formed an alliance in Maharashtra with the NCP, with Ajit Pawar taking oath as the Deputy Chief Minister. As I write this, it has become clear that it is not a BJP-NCP alliance. Only Ajit Pawar and a handful of other MLAs are backing BJP in Maharashtra, which might not be enough to get a majority (or might just be, one doesn’t know anymore), however, this article is about the opportunism.
While a bulk of BJP supporters were celebrating – primarily because of schadenfreude arising out of Shiv Sena being ‘shown the place’ – there were some who thought that it was an opportunist step taken by the BJP. That the party should not have done it after having earlier accused Shiv Sena of indulging in the same. BJP compromised ideology for power, they rued.
The celebrating BJP supporters could say “we didn’t start the fire” but it can’t be denied that it was not only “opportunism”, but also a “compromise” to have allied with a person they accused of corruption and with a party that they accused of going slow on terrorism.
Let us accept the truth – it was pure power politics by the BJP in Maharashtra and the aim was to retain power in a crucial state.
And there is nothing wrong in it. You play to win. As simple as that. The only rule that should be followed is that you should not indulge in any illegal act. You should be like Australia and be ugly and unruly on the field to win the match at any cost, but don’t be like Pakistan and start tampering the ball.
Now that brings us to the question of ideology. So ideology has no place in politics? Why should people really support BJP if at the end of the day it is going to behave like any other political party that would go to any length to cling on to power?
A pessimist answer can obviously be that “yes, ideology has no place in modern politics” and that “all political parties are the same”, or as that Aunty in Pakistan had said, “yeh ***** saare mil kay humko paagal bana rahe hain ***** kay bachchay”.
However, it’s not so.
Ideology and politics are related, but they are not synonyms. Ideological battles are very different and distinct from electoral battles, though both are dependent on each other.
Just imagine; the leftist ideology has won all the battles that matter – academia, news media, entertainment media, activism, and judiciary – while they could never win electoral battles beyond two states of India.
The ‘right-wing’ or rather the ‘non-left wing’ of India needs to understand and learn lessons from the left on how these battles were won.
The left-wing doesn’t see it as “compromise” when some aspects of its ideology might lose in electoral battles and they end up allying with the same forces who defeated them. For example, the left lost badly in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. They had made a nuclear deal a big issue and they had many other disagreements with the Manmohan Singh government of UPA-1. But their ideology was not defeated and it continued to flourish under UPA-2 too.
The left-wing is crystal clear on what it wants – it wants to keep the Hindutva ideology at the margins, preferably vanquished forever. Hindutva is something that seeks to unite bulk of the Indians under one identity, who are otherwise divided along hundreds of sub-identities. These hundreds of sub-identities keep thousands of conflicts alive, and the left desperately needs conflicts to keep their ideology alive. This is one of the reasons why it’s easy to appear “neutral” when you are left-leaning. You’ve hundreds of sides to take to keep thousands of battles alive.
Till the “keep Hindutva out” objective is met, left knows that they are winning and they don’t see it as any compromise. That’s why you hardly saw any “intellectual” ruing murder of democracy or death of ideological politics when Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP government formation was being discussed.
The right-wing needs to have similar clarity of purpose and they need to find those three words like “keep Hindutva out”.
Narendra Modi gave three words – Congress Mukt Bharat – but to be honest, those words can’t be an ideological war cry. It’s a wonderful political war cry.
At this point in time, BJP is the only party that is with Hindutva ideology. Okay, even if we grant, for argument’s sake, that BJP has compromised on ideology, even the harshest critic has to accept that it is the only party that is at least giving lip service to the Hindutva ideology. Others are simply out to finish you. It is imperative that BJP holds on to power. If others come to power, you are finished, no mercy.
One can argue that BJP has become focused only on winning elections and forming a government, and it doesn’t do much for the ideology after it comes to power. I personally think it’s unfair to say that the party doesn’t care, but even if we agree on that, again for argument’s sake, why are we outsourcing the ideological battle entirely to the BJP? As I had pointed out earlier, if the left didn’t need to win elections and yet it could win ideological battles, can’t we learn a few things from them? How did they do it?
Finally, fighting elections and forming governments is also about administration. If we start quantifying everything that a government or local administration does, the bulk of its work will comprise steps that are ideologically agnostic, especially for an ideology like Hindutva. Therefore, actually, ideology might not even be relevant for many things a political party does once it is in power.
Fighting elections and running a government is the day job of a politician or a political party. They need to be in power to keep themselves alive. Like we need a job regardless of our personal beliefs.
Let us assume that you are vegetarian and want to promote vegetarianism, and you are also desperately looking for a job. If you get a job offer from KFC, will you refuse it? If you take it, will it mean you compromised on your ideology? Or you’d convince yourself that this is just to make sure you are earning regular money, and with that money, you’d take some steps to promote vegetarianism? It is not a perfect analogy, but essentially a political party needs to first survive if it wants to stick to any ideology.
To sum it up, BJP is expected to stick to an ideology and promote it, and they will be judged on that, however, it will be impractical to expect them to be a saint and let go opportunities to be in power. It will also be impractical and self-defeating to put the entire responsibility on a political party to take the ideological battle forward.
In my personal opinion, it is imperative that BJP keeps this ruthless spirit of winning elections and forming governments alive, it is only going to help the ideology even if the party appears to “compromise” on it. By the sheer show of being in power for a long time, not only you frustrate those whose objective is to “keep Hindutva out”, you start giving confidence and hope to people who were just too scared to speak up earlier. That’s how ideologies evolve and become stronger.