The Indian Redemption in 2020: Beyond Woes of Populism and Secularism

Populism is not a new phenomenon that was backed by right-wing politicians alone in India. Since times when the British Raj embraced limited or pseudo-democracy, the liberal and conservative sections within the Indian National Congress and other political organizations came into being. I would not get deeper into the political woes of the left and the right, but we should get deeper into the problematic nature of (a) ideological purity; & (b) politics of binary complex and entitative seclusion. Why? These two ideas have disturbed but shook the moral nature of constitutionalism around the world in several democracies. India is no different at least in this case, but I do not believe that Modi’s politics is populist as a whole. The political communication that races the politics of the Bhartiya Janata Party may be similar to those of Boris Johnson in the UK and even Donald J Trump in the US. But it has certainly nothing to do with the core agenda of PM Modi. In this article, I will explore the redemptive nature of the Indian Constitutionalism of the present and analyse clinically as to how the idea of secularism and popular sovereignty is being misfed and misused.

We must understand this: ideological purity is the idea in political science where any individual or group may designate that they have adopted an ideology & in any activity, they pursue or encourage would be based on the tenets of ideology. For example, Communists would not embrace the privatization of Public Sector Companies if they follow their rule-book of ideology, but Capitalists urge for more commercialization and privatization of public services if they are not getting benefits. In India, our people fell into the prey of ideological purity since the 1900s, and the liberal and conservative (by psychological aspects) sections of the Indian society were divided by a secondary layer of political understanding.

(Here, while I prefer the term 'political understanding’, the term only includes the fact that people make a footprint of their political decisions by a multi-dimensional aggregate of their choices.)

In order to weaken the diversity of choices, political understandings are monopolized. This monopoly means there may not be any significant growth in the political understanding of the people because they are encouraged to form an electoral/representative monopoly to achieve ideological purity. Now- I know you may feel that this is not so straightforward. Yes, I agree. But when different dimensions of an ideology are created, different aspects of political thought can be clubbed to retain this kind of monopoly. In India, it happened at large and many wrong notions were created among the masses about the political events that happened and would happen.

Now, let us understand this problem at large by comparing two political parties carefully — the Indian National Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party.

The INC while being the Grand Old Party embellished people to be the champions of liberal secularism, the party that believed secularism in India is untouchable to religious values — while realizing the fact as well that every identity must be respected. This commitment was signified by the then Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in one of his writings, 'Ferment of Asia’ published on 18 October 1949. Read it carefully.

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This statement is very important because it shows and proves that when you discuss politics, you have some subjective arguments and you can be central to those, but you never idolize your biases or subjective understandings in the name of ideological purity. Nehru’s philosophy attached to the INC’s approach towards the Indian foreign policy was centred to accept realities and render space for both the liberal and conservative sections of the Indian society. I do not say his reign achieves this goal because it wasn’t the case. But, there was a separation between the chaotic public-level perceptions committed to serving an ideology and the ideas that the 1947’s Congress had.

While the BJP had no existence, it was another story. But the fringe that led to its formation via the Jan Sangh and the ex-Congress members— played an important role in the politics of ideological purity.

In coming years, the both the BJP (include Jan Sangh before BJP as well) and the INC created their political upfront, raised their ideologies and ushered tactical approaches to create complex layers of political seclusion. This diverted the legislative character of the elected representatives in the Indian Parliament and lobbied the supremacy of partisan representation above mass representation in India.

A lobby of loyalists or politicians embraced the culture of ideological purity by embracing narratives over the idea of federalism, rule of law, secularism and other basic features of the Indian Constitution among the people wildly. They fuelled their political interests, but they diverted the rational and ethical character of democratic liberalism and constitutional morality, and now — in 2019, some academics and a large group of people are worried over the risks that Indian secularism does have, which according to my understanding, is a hoax.

The Case of Redemption to Reform Dysfunctional Constitutionalism: Symptoms and Cures

We must understand this carefully: to understand India, it is a failure to view its sections the way we look at the West. It is thus also not justified to strictly define who is a left/right-wing politician, because, in reality, this never works out. What harm it does is when politicians divide themselves and the masses by diffusing the ethical, integrable, coherent and autonomous nature of political individualism by pushing the agenda of some ideological purity and seclusion. This, however, is not that stage of politics where dissent is blooming. When there are some unreasonable political developments — the phase of politics becomes thirsty for redemption and retribution. By concept and purpose, constitutionalism is a concept of legitimation operated by public morality. Democracies tend to follow the liberal order not because liberalism is a political vendetta. Liberalism is a structural concept, and often it can be detached as a separate political concept that is not immune towards a challenge from another political realm. It has happened often in the 2010 decade in various democracies, and India is no unfamiliar to redemptions. Let us take the example of secularism as a concept of the Indian Constitution. The Basic Law signifies that the Government and its separated organs perform public functions of secular nature. With regards to the nature of public duties, the Government is bound to act secular. However, a mere ignorance of the constructive message of what and how the rule of law does pertain can cause redemption. Let us understand how this happens, i.e., some common symptoms:

  • Reversing judicial pronouncements by passing a law and causing redemptions;
  • Supporting any adverse political cause that boasts an untouchable nature of state secularism, without affirming, practising and establishing the autonomous nature of state-sponsored secularism;
  • Gaining political power and creating a regiment of 'othering' among people, and embracing abstract but untrue notions of political diversity without clarity, exercise and purpose;
  • Exercising regimentation of ideas due to hateful political inclinations;
  • Lack of conversational ability among state and non-state actors of internal nature to reach out and create ethical autonomy and trust as an imperative;

We can understand the genuine problems of constitutional, social and political redemptions that India is suffering today. While the world looks at India and hopes it is economically strong again, it is important to understand that India’s contribution to the global economic cycle is very strategic. Jeff Bezos when visited India, laid his intent to invest in India like Apple and other companies. There is no doubt that Brand Modi and Brand India is being hoped by the West and Eurasian counterparts, and while Sergey Lavrov embraces Delhi’s entrance into the Eurasian Economic Union, Boris Johnson wishes to (still speculative) make a pro-Brexit deal with India, China intends India’s entrance into the RCEP, India is just failing in some aspects to become economically strong. Although this is reasonable to concur that India is detoxifying its corruption and irregularity woes, as Anand Mahindra speculated in his remarks, IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath’s remarks on India’ role in the global economic slowdown is impeccable and understandable.

There are protests going throughout India and trust, discourse and rationality as a part of generic discourses are losing their touch. Nevertheless, the stakeholders involved in the issue must seek contact of purpose and strategic bargain among themselves in order to achieve real peace. Further, India has the potential to defeat the Westphalian woes of American International Law as a political imposition, by using the diplomatic edge it has which is sponsored by Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo, and to some extent, whether regretfully or not, by Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron as well. India’s Shadow Diplomacy is gaining grounds because it can balance populists like Bolsonaro and Trump, while does not ignore its own role to become a stabilizing power. This term of power-sharing was recently used by Dr Jaishankar at the Raisina Dialogue in January 2020.

It can be easily reasoned that under the Modi Government, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, India has fared worse rankings in case of being a democracy at large. There is no disagreement with the due matter that India is facing some moral deficits internally, and this problem is acknowledged by some of the key members of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, the Prime Minister himself and the Indian President Kovind too. In their speeches and recent writings, they acknowledge the problem of economic slowdown, some pinpoints of democratic backsliding (indirectly) and its certainly undeniable. However, the Mood of the Nation Poll by the India Today Network shows an impeccable development, for which we must laud Modi and the BJP. While an 11000-user survey is yet contestable and several aspects over the same can be adjudged, it proves in many ways that the Indian political thought is federal, and becoming rational day by day. Fringe groups do exist, and that is undeniable, but the politics of pseudo-populism is being alleviated and influenced on its own, and it would not persist as a narrative of victories and glory but would seek resistance from those who expect real and collaborative economic development. Om Shanti!

Founder and CEO, Internationalism™ | Founder & Chairperson, ISAIL | AI-Law Futurist | YouTuber | Researcher | Poet

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