Narendra Modi and his party clinched another five years at the helm of the world’s largest democracy in a landslide, yesterday.
To those on the right, this was no surprise — Modi was always going to be their saviour. A clean man with no stains of corruptions, an ascetic who ascended India’s political ladders by dint of pure merit, a leader cleansing the country of ‘60 years of misgovernance’, and someone singularly focused on, to borrow from Trump, ‘draining the Lutyens swamp’.
So, he won. As he should have. The crooked opposition has not just been defeated, but decimated. Good. The Italians deserved it.
The other end of the spectrum, though, was flummoxed. They woke up to a nightmare unfolding on Thursday morning. BJP is winning? Hmm, alright, that was expected. In a landslide? That’s surprising. In an election with the largest turnout in history? Wow. And a bigger victory than the 2014? What the fish!
Enter liberal meltdown.
Reactions started pouring in from the left, castigating their fellow countrymen for being illiterate chowkidars and propelling a saffron brigade to power, not for the first time, but a second. What about the lynchings, they cried! Someone asked about the extrajudicial killings in Tuticorin, someone mentioned minority rights going for a toss, and of course, someone brought up demonetization. It was a victory for bigotry, they said, calling their right-leaning neighbours, friends, and colleagues Hindutva extremists.
As if only the right helped Modi win. You wish.
Of course, it was Mr. Narendra Modi’s supporters who exercised their constitutionally-endowed suffrage, but it’d be nonsensical to ascribe the victory to just the right. The left played a huge part in electing Narendra Modi and his supposed bogeymen to power.
How? That’s a good question. Imagine you are a lone soldier facing an opposing army that’s smart, well-trained, and united by ideology. This army is drowning you in a sea of abuses and deploying words as weapons.
You are a lone soldier and you’re a little scared — you start developing a minority complex. You are tired of the vitriol and want to bash your opponents’ heads with something — you see your hands to find you have just one weapon — a vote, to elect someone who you believe represents you. You thought you were alone, but you look around to find a billion ‘you’s. Every one of the billion ‘you’s let loose the only weapon in your hands. The opposing army is decimated.
That’s exactly what happened here.
I say so, because I saw the same thing happen 10,000 kilometres away in the United States of America, in 2016. Hillary Clinton and her supporters called Trump’s supporters ‘a basket of deplorables’. Sure, she didn’t agree with their worldview or their ideologies, but basket of deplorables? Really? Of course that pissed them off — what did you expect? In response, they could mow down a few liberals (they did that!) or they could vote the demagogue into power, just as a screw-you to the left (they did that, too!)
By assuming that everyone whose colours were even the slightest tinge of saffron had blood on their hands and hatred in their minds, I believe the left pushed the right, at least to some degree, to do the same in India.
I saw cases where people refused to meet someone just because the latter is a BJP supporter. If liberalism espouses tolerance for those who disagree with our views, how is this liberalism? I saw someone who voiced his opinion on Islamic terror, being called intolerant. If liberalism stands for and calls itself a bastion of free speech, how is punishing someone for speaking freely liberalism? (On a related note, saying free speech is free speech only as I define it, isn’t free speech at all!)
As Will McAvoy says in the Newsroom, if liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so goddamn always? Maybe these are some of the reasons why.
I don’t mean to protect all of the right as victims of vilification by the left — of course there are duplicitous, hateful, ignorant leaders and followers. I don’t mean to absolve Narendra Modi or supporters for masquerading rhetoric as answers to questions on unemployment or demonetization. I don’t even want to get into the anti-national label that the right is so fond of slapping on anyone who dares question the current government. No. But painting everyone with the same shade of saffron without understanding the reasons for their support to a particular ideology, is ignorant at best and insensitive at worst.
Democracy has always been a Hobson’s choice —–you choose the devil or the deep blue sea. One may detest someone like Sadhvi Pragya and still vote for Narendra Modi, because of lack of a viable alternative. In other words, for whatever reason, one may prefer the devil over the deep blue sea. By vilifying one of those choices and the supporters of that choice, the left has achieved a peculiar kind of Streisand effect where trying to shoo away something only made it stronger.
Liberals, today, would do well to introspect and act true to their definition — liberal and open-minded. Talk to that school friend you’d written off as a Modi bhakt. Speak to the colleague, without the usual liberal condescension or air of smugness, who sends anti-Congress forwards on WhatsApp. Try to understand, without a smirk on your face, the notions of the neighbour who feels Hindu khatre mein hain.
Do this, because really, Indian democracy and civility khatre mein hain.