For the second time in three years, self-avowed secularists-liberals are in mourning. In May 2014, Modi’s rise had left them bereft. They behaved as if it was the end of the world. They painted a grim picture, willing you to believe that what he did in Gujarat he would replicate on the wider, national scale. Though despite their best efforts they failed to implicate Modi even remotely in the 2002 riots, in which both Hindus and Muslims were killed, they continued to paint him a devil incarnate, who eats Muslims for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Of course, they were proved wrong. Aside from occasional noises by fringe elements notionally connected with the Sangh Parivar, nothing that has happened since May 2014 warranted the most scary stuff conjured up by the effete liberals who had traded intellectual freedom for little crumbs of patronage from the previous Congress dispensations. The best riposte to these arm-chair haters of the Prime Minister was provided by the ordinary people. Liberals might claim a monopoly of political wisdom, but in democracies the world over the last word lies with the voters. Repeated success of the BJP since 2014 speaks far more eloquently than the self-interested wailing by the usual Modi bashers.
Now, cut to UP, March 2017. Even before they could recover from the shock of the BJP triumph, especially when they all had persuaded themselves that their darling lads…er, ladkey, Akhilesh and Rahul, were all set to conquer the state, leaving the Modi-Shah jugalbanbdi sans their bansuri and been, they were left stupefied by the choice of Yogi Adityanath as the saffron party’s candidate for Chief Ministership. What a pity the winners did not give the liberal-secularist cabal in the media a veto on the selection of UP Chief Minister. Yes, the Gorakhpur Yogi had said a lot of awful things in the past. You could accuse him of many sins, but hypocrisy was not one of them. At times, particularly in election campaigns, he said what he believed would go down well with his dirt-poor voters in Gorakhpur and further afield in Poorvanchal. It wasn’t that others had not tried a counter narrative of extreme provocation and parochialism, but they often found stranded by the superior appeal of the saffron-robed Yogi with his easy mix of Hindu mythology and political pragmatism. Do notice that for years when Mulayam Singh Yadav had revelled in being painted Maulana Mulayam and Yadav Hridaysmart, it wasn’t exactly the secular-liberal cause he was advancing.
A lament of the Modi bashers is the near-total absence of an effective Opposition. Hopefully, these jaundiced critics will appreciate that the onus to provide a working Opposition does not lie with the ruling party.
Indeed, if an Indira Gandhi donned a salwar-kameez and paid obeisance at the famous Sikh shrines during the Punjab elections, or when the UP key ladkey visited all the famous temples in Varanasi ahead of the vote in the last rounds of polling in UP, it was perfectly kosher, since these dynasts supposedly embodied in their persons secular-liberal values. But when a Modi offers prayers at the very same temples in his parliamentary constituency, it hurts the sensibilities of these fakes masquerading as the Praetorian Guards of constitutionalism and secularism. In the holy book of our secularists, what is sauce for the goose is certainly not sauce for the gander.
The other day, when S.M. Krishna, hitherto a Congress veteran, who had been put out to pasture by the high command (read Rahul Gandhi), joined the BJP, there was much hand-wringing in the same secularist quarters. How could Krishna, whom we had made Karnataka Chief Minister, and later, Foreign Minister could betray the party, wondered a Congress spokesperson on a television talkathon. The anchor of an English language channel, which makes no attempt to hide its visceral hate of Modi-BJP, thought she had scored a point when she threw a couple of things Modi had said against Krishna when the latter was in the Congress. She seemed pleased with herself, though what Krishna, a Fulbright scholar and an epitome of polite manners, said, virtually silenced her. When a leader seems determined to drag the party to the grave, wisdom lies in not committing hara-kiri.
In any case, it is time for secularists to consider that in the post-ideological age, a free flow of political traffic necessarily becomes the norm, rather than an exception. Not long ago, when a rabid Shiv Sainik, Sanjay Nirupam or, a little earlier, Shankarsinh Vaghela, whose contribution in laying the foundation of the Jana Sangh-BJP in Gujarat is huge, joined the Congress and the two were accorded a pride of place in the party, it met ready approval of our secularist class. But when Krishna follows the current traffic towards the dominant political force, it becomes a crime. Apparently, an obsessive hatred of Modi seems to have dulled even the basic reasoning faculties of pseudo-secularists.
Post-UP, another lament of the Modi bashers is the near-total absence of an effective Opposition. Hopefully, these jaundiced critics will appreciate that the onus to provide a working Opposition does not lie with the ruling party. If Rahul Gandhi continues to be a non-starter, if others on the Opposition benches feel weighed down by their own private agendas, if no imagination or initiative informs the anti-BJP crowd, secularists ought to know who to blame.
Yes, without the Opposition there is danger of the ruling party getting arrogant and error-prone. The Opposition constitutes the other essential wheel of the democratic train without which the system would be vulnerable to failures. But raising the intellectual and political heft of the Opposition is its own responsibility. And it is not as if the relatively small numbers it has in the Lok Sabha should have necessarily precluded it from performing an effective role. It all depends on the quality of talent. All through the Nehru years, a numerically minuscule Opposition succeeded in holding him to account. In the time of his arrogant and self-willed daughter, even when the Opposition numbers were small, its voice was strong and sharp.
Put your hand on your heart, you moaners and groaners of the secularist-liberal brigade, and tell us where are the Vajpayees and Lohias, Kriplanis and Hiren Mukherjees, Bhupesh Guptas and Madhu Limayes today? Unless you envision the Gandhi scion overnight embodying in him these vastly talented stalwarts of yesteryears, the answer has to be a huge disappointment.
In the end, instead of shedding crocodile tears at the seeming loss of liberal-secular ethos, get a reality check. Shed your superiority blinkers and come to terms with the voter, who has spoken loud and clear. A true democrat will accept the people’s verdict, instead of finding clever ways to ridicule it.