As a deeply secular, liberal and progressive person, you can imagine how I have felt about this country since 2014. Sure, the BJP won the 2014 elections, but that was because of all those Hindi speaking states. Okay, Gujarat and Maharashtra may not be Hindi speaking states, but close enough. What about Karnataka? There is always an exception somewhere to every rule. Just like the first past the post electoral system. It was good for sixty years. Suddenly in 2014, it was the worst.
But I have struggled to explain things that have happened after the 2014 election. First, the BJP swept all the states in the northeast. And now, the BJP has momentum on its side in states like Odisha and Telangana. The BJP is now polling a solid 15 per cent of the vote in Kerala and gaining ground in Puducherry. And then, there is Bengal.
Oh man, this hurts. Et tu, Bengal? All those decades we leftists spent in Delhi and New York glorifying the poverty of Calcutta and this is how you repay us? According to the 2011 census, Bengal had the highest number of beggars per lakh of population. I thought we were friends. You beg on the street. I take a photo of you begging and then go beg for an award at a film festival in Paris or Berlin. Our left-wing economists go to America to beg for Nobel Prizes. We are all in this together.
I was confused. According to my well accepted scholarly theories, the BJP was a party of Hindi speaking vegetarians. No, wait! Make that party of upper caste, Hindi speaking, vegetarian, cisgender, able-bodied males. Then how would I explain the BJP’s massive gains all over the northeast, Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Karnataka and now even Kerala or Puducherry?
They say that when in doubt, read more. And that’s what I did. So I began reading up the works of everyone who already agrees with me. I pored over pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post and scanned articles by some beloved Indian journalists who were present at my last award ceremony. Surely I was not the only one suffering from the post-2014 stress disorder.
Some patterns began to emerge. Like ‘undeclared emergency.’ Even if I can’t see it, I can believe that it exists. This continued for a while until I chanced upon a report by the famous V-Dem institute based in Sweden. They have concluded that India is now an ‘electoral autocracy.’
That’s when I had my epiphany. When confronted with evidence that contradicts my assumptions, I don’t have to reject my assumptions. I can pretend that both are true at the same time.
How? By simply juxtaposing the labels. For example, if I were to say that India is currently under a state of emergency, I could get contradicted on facts. But if I admitted that India is not under emergency, it would contradict my beliefs. But what if I said ‘undeclared emergency’? Then, I don’t have to reject the facts nor do I have to reject my beliefs. I can keep them both. Because undeclared emergency does not actually mean anything, I win.
Similarly, if I say that India is an autocracy, nobody would believe me. After all, which autocratic country would allow protesters to occupy a highway and literally build pucca houses on it? But if I admitted otherwise, it would hurt my feelings. So how about I say ‘elected autocracy’? Because nobody knows what that means, they have to accept my version of the story.
Like ’eminent citizen.’ If I told someone that they are not a citizen, they would feel insulted. On the other hand, if I admitted that I am equal to other people, I would feel insulted. That is why I have always called myself an eminent citizen. As with so many other things, the Communists figured it out first. Think ‘People’s Republic.’ I choose a label I want and then I add a qualifier which nobody understands. Now, it can mean anything that I want it to mean.
Armed with these revelations, I had my solution. Everyone who votes for BJP is upper caste, Hindi speaking, vegetarian, cisgender and able-bodied male. Even the females (I get bonus woke points for realizing this). What about the Bengalis who are voting for BJP? They are simply ‘Bengali Hindi-speakers.’ And what of the BJP voting Bengalis who love their fish and meat? No problem. They are ‘meat-eating vegetarians.’
Problem solved. Article in The Washington Post coming soon…