The recipe to political success has conclusively changed after seven decades. This may become apparent in the forthcoming Delhi assembly election, and thereafter in Bihar too if BJP wins both in alliance with its partners. In Delhi certainly, the BJP is gaining ground daily in the run-up to the 8th of February, and the AAP is likely to be forced to sit in the opposition. There is a reason for this, and it makes a much more portentous point for the future. The change has come about gradually, imperceptibly, unnoticed by most used to not seeing what doesn’t suit their world view. It is a change in perception of the realities that has worked itself, in an all but subterranean manner. And within the unflashy and largely silent majority. It has changed, in reaction to the excesses committed by the powers that be who mistakenly thought they had established a monopoly on India’s self-image. It has changed in smouldering anger at being vilified, pushed aside, exploited, ignored and taken for granted. By sheer repetition, propaganda and a Leftist recasting of history, people in the ruling elite of mostly high-caste Hindus and well-off Muslims thought that their version of The Idea Of India was well-nigh indelible- planted firmly in the Indian psyche for all time to come.
But now in 2020, a fundamental and tectonic shift will shortly become apparent, in continuation of the changes seen since May 2014. One that will pull the remainder of the carpet from under the Socialist-Lohiaite parties of India that came about in two stages.
Stage one was the Harold Laski influenced secularism of Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s. Stage two was the Jayaprakash Narayan led churning of the seventies. This latter spawned a number of regional parties and relatively lower caste Hindu leaders such as the Yadavs, alongside the more humble Muslims.
These political entities replaced the proxy-ism of the Brahmin-Chowdhary-Sayyid leadership of the INC. But, it began to jostle for the same Congress space. Which, to be fair, was indeed the entire political universe of the time.
The old majority governments that the INC enjoyed ever since independence melted away, and were replaced by an “era of coalitions” as IK Gujral put it.
A last hurrah of the old older was the majority government of Rajiv Gandhi in the eighties, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. That this opportunity to consolidate anew was wasted, is a matter of fact. The subsequent minority government of INC’s PV Narasimha Rao and others, the short-lived Janata Dal governments, the NDA coalition under AB Vajpayee and the UPA thereafter; all lived by the ways of the so-called coalition dharma aka the division of the spoils.
The monolithic vote banks of Muslims and Dalits and other backwards castes all voting for INC were fragmented forever. The Hindu revivalist parties, such as the Hindu Mahasabha, active at independence, the suppressed RSS, and the early Jan Sangh, were below the radar in terms of political power for all the decades till the Janata Dal experiment. They had been squashed by Nehru’s brand of secularism and only properly reemerged after the Ayodhya movement of the nineties that culminated in the first NDA government.
But, with the 10 years of the UPA that followed thereafter, it was seen as an aberration in the narrative by the liberal-left thinker, a “communal” fluke, unlikely to be repeated. It was understood that the BJP could not, indeed should not, get more than 160 seats or so on its own at any of the general elections going forward.
The prevailing political theory was that the Hindu religion in the hands of the RSS, BJP and their Sangh Parivar, could not unite people sufficiently, because it was casteist and controlled by a Brahmin-Bania nexus.
But the Muslims, particularly the majority Sunni, could be scared into fearing majoritarianism, and voting en bloc for a number of very similar socialist parties. All of them purportedly eschewed religion of any kind in the name of secularism but were increasingly forced into large doses of Muslim appeasement when their dependence on this demographic became more and more apparent. And this is what has once again turned the tide as the majority stopped believing in the secularism and socialism of the various.
So, not only did Narendra Modi win majorities for the BJP alone, plus more seats with the NDA, both in 2014 and 2019, the trend has flowed and ebbed in the states, municipalities and other elections too. Nothing is too small to be counted any more, and the BJP is always a contender. The reverse consolidation against excessive Muslim appeasement is working very well for it. It will likely win not only Delhi and Bihar but probably take West Bengal as well in 2021. And for the very same reason above all other things. The opposition, particularly the INC, the CPM and the TMC, sometimes calls it the polarisation politics of the ruling dispensation. But the public sees it as a legitimate reaction to the politics of Muslim appeasement. Particularly, since it seems to encompass many anti-national elements such as Islamic terrorists, fundamentalist Muslims and other radicals from the community, Pakistan and China sponsored separatism, murderous Maoism, dangerous fifth columnists masquerading as students in Communist- and Muslim-dominated universities.
There are a number of other states that may be wrested from Opposition hands such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, perhaps using strategies and tactics other than another untimely election, without offending the voters. This is because there are less and fewer takers for the Congress world-view and those that agree with it amongst the regional parties.
This makes the ultimate point that despite being 17% of the population of India, concentrated in some places, the Muslims can no longer deliver wins. Once absorbed, this fact may induce a change in behaviour amongst Muslim leadership. The Muslim masses too may become more accommodative of the majority Hindu sentiment. It will also force their political dependents to change their ways if they wish to survive in electoral politics.
This sea-change needs to be accepted by all concerned as early as possible because the old order is truly over like it or not. The voter has been sensitised about his best interests and cannot be ignored. If there is to be increasing plurality and tolerance practised by the people of India, it is incumbent on the Muslims to step back from their stridency and aggression. Special Muslim privilege may have to go, replaced, if all goes well, by a level playing field for all communities.
Fact is, it was this that was in the minds of the great men and women who wrote the Indian Constitution. But, over the years, this intent was deliberately subverted to suit the purposes of a power elite that is happily no longer in power. And unlikely in the extreme to ever return unless much changed itself.
The vestiges of the old order, of course, are still everywhere- in the bureaucracy, academia, the judiciary and so on. But without the ongoing oxygen of power, these supporters of an absent and deposed overlord cannot go on for very much longer. They too will have to revise and reboot their outlook.
There is always theorising about a revival for those who have fallen from grace. But history teaches us that some things, like a political order that has outlived its usefulness, cannot be brought back.
India is a land of Hindus in which the majority has been held to ransom in its own house, by some of its own people, for all this time. But now, that situation is being rectified, with structural changes that will be irreversible. The matter has now gone beyond politics into the birth of a New India that is still developing its content. But at a minimum, it will let the majority of the people breathe freely in a space they can call their own. The Minority tail will not wag the Majority dog henceforth.