Liberalism in it;s current avatar in India is losing out in the political and governance stakes. Here is a look at what ailes liberalism in India
Liberalism is an oft abused word in India. The definition of liberal says “a person willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas“. A liberal is someone who is not rigid and welcomes new ideas. In India a liberal should be someone opposing religiou dogma of all religions and promoting new ideas, while not denigrating religon itself . But we are aware how liberalism in India has got mixed with communism (in a form not practised even in China and Russia nowadays) and is a conglomeration of elites who have supported the Congress rule for decades.
These post independence elites absorbed intellectuals, economists, novelists/ actors and journalists/ news anchors etc. to their ranks in the 60s to the 90s. Alignment with the Congress meant that they could never oppose the evils within Islam and Christianity. So obviously their target was Hinduism. Over the decades this metamorphosed in hate for the Hindu religion and way of life. Remember how fireworks on Diwali are the major source of air pollution, but the firwork display is so spectacular on the new year’s eve.
However, the liberals were successful in showing Hinduism as the root of all problems that plague India. They helped the Congress to exploit the fissures of the caste system and ensured the Congress had the support of one-two major Hindu caste groups in every state. The pandering to the Islamic clergy already ensured a steady 10-30% votebank for the Congress (and later the post-mandal regional parties who used the Congress strategy).
However, the denizens of the liberal universe in India received a rude shock in 2014. An usurper from outside the Lutyens world called Modi captured the liberal citadel of New Delhi and pushed the Nehru-Gandhi empire to the fringes of Indian politics. Modi was a rare combination of mandal (his being an OBC) and kamandal politics (his being a RSS pracharak for decades) and a development based political model (shown in Gujarat). To the horror of the liberals, Modi was not a Brahmin but from the Other Backwards Castes (OBC). They could attack him for being from the RSS ranks but could not effectively target his caste.
The liberal foot soldiers were sure to retaliate violently as the downfall of their benefactors meant a fall in the fortune as well. They have continued in that outrage mode ever since and even after received a second blow in 2019. Right till the result day, the Congress ecosystem and their liberal hanger-on were confident that the infalliable Modi would be defeated by the inevitable anti-incumbency.
Since the 2019 general election results, the liberals have gone in depression mode and have been dreaming about a communist style revolution uprooting Modi from power in New Delhi. They are clutching at straws afraid at the spectre of Modi ruling the country for four more years. The liberal hopes were ignited when the Shaheenbag and similar movements across many states began to oppose CAA and NRC implementation (though NRC formally does not exist ouside Assam).
But Modi predictably stood his ground and the COVID-19 pandemic forced a retreat by the Shaheenbag crusaders. This has caused a flurry of articles from the liberal camp bemoaning Modi’s never ending luck. This is probably anger at Modi’s knack of converting adversities into opportunities. The liberal ecosystem tried to trap Modi after demonetization, Pulwama attack, CAA implementation but failed every single time.
Many recent articles insinuate that the COVID-19 pandemic helped Modi get away from the criticizm about a bad economy and widespread protests by Islamists against CAA. Liberals believe Modi has successfully deflected the blame on to the pandemic. Now economic downturn can be blamed on the virus. Also the momentum of the Shaheenbag movement has dissipated and it might never be able to stand up again.
Some liberals blamed Modi for enforcing the lockdown a bit late while others criticised Modi for having an unnecessary lock down that would bleed the Indian economy. However the fact is India was amongst the first major economies of the world to enforce a nationwide lockdown. Criticize Modi as much as you want, but this step probably saved the lives of tens of thousands of Indian citizens.
Liberals have now started criticizing Modi government’s move to export HydroxyCholoroquine (HCQ) to around 20-25 countries as an attempt to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The question being put forward is that the interest of Indian citizens is being sacrificed by Modi to score brownie points at the world stage. The praise from US Prez Trump, Brazil Prez Bolsonaro and Israeli PM Natenyahu is already causing heartburns to the liberals. The liberals forgot that Modi bannd exports of the drug until he was assured that India had enough stock for it’s own needs. HCQ ia not a vaccine for the Corona virus. In fact HCQ cannot even help prevent corona infection. However, HCQ could help reduce the death rates among the infected and critically ill patients. HCQ is an anti malarial drug and we dont have 100% medical proof of it’s effectiveness against this pandemic. However, more and more stories are coming out showing that HCQ can help save lives of critical COVID-19 patients.
Here liberals forget an important point. Modi is human and he is bound to have failures along with successes. However Modi has already made it clear on multiple occasions that his failures are not on account of bad intent or motives. The citizens of the country have seen Congress’s intent of open loot of the UPA tenure from 2004-2014. They are the best judge of a politician’s intent.
Liberalism in India has had some major failings in recent years and there has been no serious introspection about the root causes. The liberals cannot totally go against the Nehru-Gandhi family given the favours provided by them over decades. Modi isn’t interested in getting the liberals on his side, so any chances of getting favours from the current regime are zero. The liberal reaction on the current tablighi jamaat fiasco also proves that they cannot comment against Islamists. These failings mean that the liberal criticism of Modi and BJP government or of Hindu religion would not be taken seriously by majority of the citizens of this country.
The advent of social media (SM) in a big way post the year 2010 meant that liberals are increasingly unable to run their agenda without opposition. The liberals have still not got used to common citizens calling out their hypocrisy on social media. But they cannot leave social media, as SM increasingly sets the agenda for mainstream traditional media nowadays. Many discredited journalists have not taken to making Youtube videos. But they could hardly make any impact in public opinion inspite of getting millions of views.
The liberal community is still trying to find a way to discredit Modi and create a 2011-12 Anna Hazare like movement which was the beginning of the end for the UPA. Rather they should try and work hard for the next four years to establish their credibility again in the eyes of citizens. This can only be done by the reversing the ills discussed above. The day liberals start criticizing a BJP politician and a Congress politician in equal measure, they would have started on the way to rehabilitating their reputation. The day the media praises Yogi Adityanath in the same way it praises Uddhav Thackeray, the liberals would have gained some respect in the eyes of this country.
However, this is easily said than done as many of the liberals are indebted to the fountain head of corruption in this country. No course correction would mean a slow decay of liberalism over the next two decades. It is a hard but necessary choice to be made by the Indian liberals.