It was a point of pride for the left in India that they are the true secularists as well as above dirty caste politics (the left will at best acknowledge that class is caste). The left was (as usual) mainly ruled by the super-castes – EMS Namboodiripad belonged to the cream of the cream (the Kedarnath shrine in the Himalayas can have only Namboodiri priests. But there were also powerful leaders from so-called backward backgrounds as well, including the formidable VS Achuthanandan, the prince of the Ezhavas.
Good governance in the rule-book of the left used to mean no communal riots and (in earlier times) no corruption. But then the left in India became part of the ruling class and became corrupted. This had been predicted by the left’s own theoreticians who preferred to usher in the red revolution. Unfortunately revolutions aka “radical social transformation” is hard work, you have to kill of millions of people, deport others to gulags, and re-educate all the peasants. And after all the hard work they may still dump you for the promise of a nice pair of jeans.Shameful ingratitude indeed.
As the masses have abandoned the left, all one can do now is to cry over split milk and sneer at the “low information” voters. This is the tragedy of the left in India and elsewhere.
game-changing equation is being suggested here: that even those who do not
explicitly endorse majoritarian Hindu sentiments will vote for Hindutva—all
thanks to the new agenda of opposing vote bank politics, fighting corruption,
what goes around in the name of say good governance.
Here we can do well to recall Praveen Togadia’s tweet that Hindutva followers should not
be too opposed to Modi ordering the arrest of Bajrang Dal activists (they were
arrested on August 20th, 2013, by Gujarat Police after they had vandalized an
art exhibition in Ahmedabad which included art exhibits from Pakistani
artists). The reason Togadia provided: ‘Let him add secular votes’.
The RSS functionary’s views assumes a particular understanding of the Indian
voter for whom fighting vote bank politics and pitching for good governance
becomes more important than fighting the dangers of Hindutva politics. This
points to one emerging affinity in Indian politics today: that the wider agenda
of good governance and anti-corruption is compatible with Hindutva, that, for
example, fighting corruption is in sync with supporting Modi’s Hindutva. The
mainstream fight against corruption today might deliver itself at the feet of
How is this possible? How is it possible that Hindutva’s communal
polarisation often leading to communal riots and breakdown of the rule of law
becomes compatible with good governance? We get some answers through a close
reading of the recent riots in Muzaffarnagar (Sep 2013) and in fact its (non-)
resonance in wider Indian politics.
Muzaffarnagar pointed towards a new kind of riots. The strategy there seems
to follow from the ‘lessons learned’ from what ‘went wrong’ in Gujarat 2002,
where the high number of Muslims killed (790) attracted enormous press and
civil society attention around the world, and created a political albatross
that dogs Modi to this day.
Hence keep the number of actual killings low and
instead compensate for that by increasing those displaced and uprooted from
their land and homes—clearly the pattern in Muzaffarnagar riots, where the
thrust was on displacing Muslims (50,000), shattering their economic base and
means of livelihood, rather than on killings per se (‘only’ 37 Muslims killed).
The trick: keep communal polarisation low profile or low intensity and keep
chanting the mantra of development and governance!
Now many, among them ardent secularists and leftists, welcome this new
agenda of politics while opposing Modi/BJP. They think of good governance as
rightly taking us away from divisive issues and communal or vote bank politics
and open the way towards a more enlightened, rational politics based on genuine
issues of development and governance. A Muslim as much as a Dalit or an upper
caste Hindu or a jhuggi dweller all want basic amenities like water,
electricity, good schools—they all want good governance, don’t they?
So if only we could stop Modi or the BJP from coming to power, this agenda
is in itself very positive! It is by dint of this logic that scores of
secularist or left-leaning activists and academics have joined AAP which in
many ways is spearheading the good governance crusade. And yet in terms of its
articulation, effects and ramifications, the new agenda seems already set in
its affinity with communal politics. This is reflected in, say, AAP’s coyness
when it comes to talking about communalism. Their insistence that they are not
about vote banks so often seems to be a way to duck communal issues, a
hesitation to take on communalism—and definitely overlook its affinity with
Here we notice a major structural shift in Indian politics. This means that
Indian politics’ umbilical cord with communal politics and riots is magically
rendered invisible by the cunning discourse of good governance, transparency
and anti-corruption. Only a politics of radical social transformation can
dislodge this bonhomie of good governance and communalism.