Future of Indian Politics
by Amitabh Tripathi on 23 Jan 2010 4 Comments

As we enter a new decade, we need to answer some serious questions we have encountered. One is what the future of Indian politics holds. For two decades we have witnessed ups and downs followed by major social churning and economic overhaul. These decades also saw the rise and fall of Hindu nationalism in politics and the decline of communism as an ideology of the elite and middle class.


In the last decade of the 20th century, Indian politics revolved around the polarization of non-Congress parties, and in 1989 the Left Front along with the BJP formed a coalition to keep Congress away from power. The BJP used the opportunity to project itself on the national horizon, but in 2004 it had to make way for Congress resurgence.


To project the next decade in Indian politics, we have to look back at the dynamics of our politics in general and political developments in the decade of the 1990s in particular. The Indian political system is as diverse as the country and has three broad segments which can be called political constituencies, or divided on the basis of ideology: Gandhian ideology, Socialist-cum-Communist, and Hindu nationalist.


Gandhian ideology attracts a huge chunk of people in India, but is not necessarily the Gandhism preached by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi himself. In India, Gandhian ideology means avoiding confrontation, not to solve a problem but to buy peace for a while, and get more focused on one’s daily routine. This ideology doesn’t believe in confronting historical issues, but offers appeasement and slogans of peace, brotherhood and non-violence to justify non-deserving concessions to buy peace. Most people in India feel our system is not meant to give good governance and so it is better not to expect much from the establishment and be content in limitations.


Socialist cum communist ideology belongs to the same school of thought, though their approaches are slightly different. Communists were unable to broaden their mass base because of their obsession and passion for the negation of God. India is an ancient civilization where Dharma and culture derive from spiritualism. Dharma teaches practical and most suitable ways to attain spirituality and culture integrates spirituality into everyday life. From time immemorial, India has observed the basic principle of plurality which demands respect of others’ identity, unless he imposes himself on others and inculcates institutional efforts to destroy the basic principles of plurality and co-existence.


Having hailed from a village background, most socialist leaders were aware of the potential of losing their base in following the godless communist agenda. This Socialist cum Communist segment has never been able to form its own constituency independently.


Hindu nationalist ideology comprises the third segment in Indian politics and was very much in existence before independence when the British replaced the Mughals. The whole freedom struggle and fight for independence was part of an unfinished Hindu renaissance carried out by several sages, political personalities and organizations. Even Mahatma Gandhi adopted the methods of the Bhakti movement with his Ramdhun in order to reach out to the masses. His call for swadeshi was mixed with emotions of economic independence, political independence as well as cultural independence. When India got freedom it was able to get only political freedom, and the ongoing Hindu renaissance was frustrated without political clout, but the unfulfilled desire for Hindu Rashtra did not die and it is very much alive.  


The last two decades saw a major change in Indian society with the growth of the middle class due to liberalization and new economic opportunities. This opened the gate for young people in small towns who were educated in semi-medium convents as well as in the Hindi medium or regional languages, with strong middle class values and faith. This semi-urban middle class is gradually replacing the traditional high class elite from top jobs and can be called the biggest coup which has gone unnoticed by analysts and political observers.


The coming years will see a sea-change in the face of Indian politics as the middle class has a more humane face; has earned its position and knows the sufferings and pain of those short on resources. This gives hope for a new kind of politics in the near future, with a blend of socialism and capitalism, though not with its traditional definitions of socialism and capitalism.


Two decades of liberalization and globalization have brought new ideologies; freedom is one of them. The new middle class has become more conscious of its Dharmic and cultural identity, but at the same time more freedom loving and global aspiring. It is more open to new ideas and wants to believe in itself rather than tutored by others.


The new middle class will change some priorities of Indian politics, one being Gandhian ideology. Most young people praise Gandhi but don’t even know why they are praising him; they think it is politically correct to call him an ideal and most don’t know what Gandhian ideology means. So it is not proper to judge the relevance of Gandhian ideology with his so-called following. Gandhian ideology in the Indian political context is largely concerned with status quo in the terms of governance and historical questions. As the middle class becomes more vocal for political participation and its charter of demands, this situation will not last long and very soon this group will come out with a clear political strategy; then there will be huge political turmoil as some established ideologies will fall.


The new middle class is living in an era where access to information has made it impossible for any group or class to call itself privileged. In the history of humanity, besides wealth and other circumstances it was advance information that made a few people privileged as they were able to anticipate and make future projections and enhance their status; but easy access to information has made it easy for an ordinary person to know his rights and assert them. This information boom will make it impossible for political establishments to goof up things and will demand a more radical vision for reformation on governance.


Middle class seeks pride and security and this way of thinking demands a radical change in our security doctrine and foreign policy; this demand cannot be met without shedding the myth of Gandhian peace and non-violence. The security scenario for India inside its territory and outside its borders will become grimmer in coming years and the country will face more serious real threats and attacks from neighbouring countries which will not only change the doctrine of security but also the mindset of the people to become more patriotic and assertive.


Socialism in India has behaved as a surrogate child of Communism and tried to enthuse pro-poor politics with a mass appeal to overthrow the social system they hated as a Brahmin hierarchy. In the decade of the 1990s, when the Ram Temple movement gained momentum and several leaders other than Brahmins were respected for their dedication to the Dharmic cause, the myth of communist and socialist propaganda of Dharma as a weapon in the hands of Brahmins to exploit the downtrodden waned and this propaganda was confined to academia. It is another story that these leaders often raised demands for reservations and more exclusive rights. But now the country is moving towards more cohesive public-private participation. 


One very positive undercurrent which has gone unnoticed is that the new middle class cares more for its roots. A new generation with responsibility for social integration is emerging and can be witnessed in various remote areas where many are working for the upliftment of their roots. This change will enlighten people in remote villages and bring them out of the clutches of selfish politicians.


In coming years, socialism as an ideology will convert into community development. Indian socialism has grown pitting middle class to lower class as social division, but in the new scenario simple people with lower middle class backgrounds have occupied higher posts which earlier were monopolized by the traditional elite club. This has encouraged others to wait for their chance and has reduced so called lower class recruitment in the socialist movement.


This is the main reason why ideologues who campaigned against globalization are unable to convert it into a mass movement. In the near future there is no scope for social uprising on the economic divide. Political parties in future will have to be more responsive to this constituency of community developers.


Hindu nationalism in India has always been a romantic idea. The recent defeat in the general elections led some senior Congress leaders to taunt the BJP defeat as a mandate against its idea of the nation. Certainly the BJP lost two consecutive elections; but BJP paid the price for not being able to translate Hindu subconscious aspirations into political constituency. Hindu nationalism does not depend on the survival of any particular political group, and even after independence some leaders in the Nehruvian Congress dared to sustain Hindu nationalism and their efforts were more commendable than those of the BJP which played a crucial role in putting Hindu nationalism on a ventilator.


In future Hindu nationalism will find its place in the Indian political system not because of the BJP’s efforts, but because of natural developments.


The Islamic movement has been a bone of contention for Hindus. In the long history of encounter with Islam, Hindus have learned to live with it as well as contain it, but the political system and leaders have failed Hindus. Islam is roaring to capture its lost ground and in the last two decades Islamic revival has globalised its approach, ideology and mechanism.


The collaboration of leftists with Islamists on a global scale has given the movement more recognition among the leftist intelligentsia. Islamic terrorism is only one of the tactics of this movement. The movement has very intelligently used terrorism and jihad as a tool for negotiations to get a new deal from democratic countries and to impose censorship on others to deny them the right to debate Islam. Democratic countries are more vulnerable to these tactics and succumb to pressure and give the followers of Islam more privileges to buy peace. In coming years India will face a lot of social churning due to the growing assertiveness of the Islamic movement. The new middle class has started feeling uneasy with terrorism and Jihad, and the Muslim demand for reservations and rapid growth in population will put Hindu identity in danger.


The theory of Hindu nationalism rests on the aspirations of Hindus to sustain the continuity of spiritual, dharmic and cultural identity. Indians follow the principle of plurality but are not ready to shed their unique identity, and in the last two decades Hindus have become more assertive about their identity and more worried for their future generations. This concern for the future will make them more active and Hindu nationalism will gain much attention in fields of academia and power centers.


The unique phenomenon which will emerge, and the liberal-leftists will be unable to digest, is the evolution of Hinduism as a fashion with political clout in domestic politics and in global politics.


India is synonymous with the Hindu Nation, but for long was unable to express herself because staunch Hindus lacked the political clout to convert it into a modern phenomenon. But the last two decades have made a difference and coming years will witness some radical change in Indian assertion and politics.    


The writer is a Hindu social activist and promoter of the Indo-Israel Friendship Forum  

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