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What makes Modi’s BJP invincible? The cynicism that India is dead

The anti-CAA movement didn’t pose any political challenge to BJP. It’s the hope it generated that was dangerous — the idea that ordinary people could believe in a better India.

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One of the less talked about pillars of the BJP’s dominance is the cynicism it engenders in its opponents. When opponents are turned into cynics, they start agreeing with the BJP: on the nature of the Indian nation, the outlook of the ordinary Indian, and most importantly the overwhelming and unshakeable power of the BJP. Especially over the last few years, much intellectual space among the BJP’s opponents has been colonised by this overweening cynicism, which curiously insists on making the BJP even more mainstream and themselves even more fringe. The Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan at Ayodhya is the source of the latest round of cynicism.

Hegemonic parties sustain their power by convincing people of their invincibility. This invincibility is always a myth, but it becomes a self-perpetuating myth when it spreads outside the core of its supporters. When even opponents start to believe this myth of invincibility, they either collude with the ruling regime or are reduced to paralysing cynicism.

There are three specific beliefs that are propagated by both the BJP and its so-called most vociferous opponents, which create this myth of invincibility. One, that the majority of Hindus in India subscribe to the notion of Hindutva. This majority also has an inherent and overpowering hatred of Muslims, which for some reason was dormant in 2004 and 2009. Two, that a consolidated Hindu identity has decisively triumphed over caste and regional identities in the political imagination of ordinary people. These political identities, shaped over many decades of popular struggle, have now suddenly lost relevance, as did the social justice and democratic ideas that animated them. And three, the BJP is structurally too formidable to be defeated electorally, and will therefore rule India for the foreseeable future. 

Also read: Mourn idea of India, but don’t forget that the idea of people is changing too

The illusion of invincibility 

The BJP is strategically invested in propagating all these three beliefs, because its dominance feeds off its invincibility. The massive rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ‘thali’ and ‘diya’ spectacles, frequent opinion polls, and the controlling of dissent — all are meant to constantly reinforce the illusion that the overwhelming majority is with Modi. If the BJP’s efforts are not effective enough, useful collaborators among its ideological opponents help reify this illusion into the dominant image of the party by agreeing with them.

For both the BJP and these opponents, the terms of reference of political debates begin in 2014. The nation has been irreversibly transformed since that year zero of Indian politics.

It’s useful to remember that three decades of Left hegemony in West Bengal was not just based on deep-rooted, local clientelist networks of patronage, but also on its image of invincibility as the only game in town. As soon as that invincibility was shattered in the panchayat polls of 2008, the Left Front’s fall was imminent. In these polls, held in the wake of Singur and Nandigram movement against land acquisition, the Left’s vote-share plunged from nearly 90 per cent to 52 per cent, and its decline has been irreversible since. In hindsight, the Left was only as strong in West Bengal as people thought It was.

No one could foresee the Left’s implosion in 2006, when it had won an even bigger majority in the assembly election. But every era of political dominance creates the seeds of its own downfall.

Yet, many of our metropolitan elites have given up on ordinary people. In such circles, it is indeed encouraged to view Indian society as wholly and irredeemably in the clutches of the worst forms of bigotry. It is considered naivety, delusion or even an outcome of ‘privilege’ to have any positive conception of India. Or to believe that we, as a people, have the moral capability and political wisdom to claw out of the undemocratic hole we find ourselves in.

Also read: Who represents India’s Muslims? Thanks to CAA protests, we now know the answer

Cynicism, a function of privilege

But aren’t we just too bigoted as a nation? Let’s look at Ayodhya. There was a previous, unsuccessful attempt in 1990 to break the Babri Masjid, which was met by police firing that killed 17 Hindu kar sevaks. Mulayam Singh Yadav, who ordered the firing to protect the mosque, would go on to attain even bigger political success and become the chief minister multiple times of the Hindu-majority state of Uttar Pradesh. The political trajectory of the CM who allowed the mosque to be broken, Kalyan Singh, would broadly run in the opposite direction. And, yes, this irredeemably regressive ‘cow belt’ state would make a Dalit Mayawati chief minister four times. All this was achieved within this generation, and happened with the votes of ordinary people, not the righteous outrage of online activists.

Yet, cynicism is often a function of privilege. You only lose all hope when you can afford to, when things don’t affect you directly. Is it any wonder that this cynicism is much more likely to be found among upper class Hindus than the working class Muslims who were at the forefront of Shaheen Bagh?

This is why the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) movement, despite its limitations, was a challenge to the government. In its composition, a largely Muslim movement, it did not pose an immediate political challenge. But it was the hope the movement generated that was dangerous — the dangerous idea that ordinary people could believe in a better India, and step up to face the might of this government, using the ideals of the Constitution.

On the contrary, cynicism can never build, it can only destroy. In its helplessness and impotent anger, it lashes out at everything in sight. Since the BJP is invincible, you start attacking the alternative forces broadly on your side. The Congress, the main opposition party, also becomes the enemy. Since it is a ‘janeudhari’, neoliberal party of ‘soft Hindutva’, it must be destroyed to usher in the utopian party of authentic, fully compliant secular and egalitarian principles. Yet, as the example of Israel shows, in a country lurching Rightward, the opposition space vacated by a long governing centre-Left party (Labour) is more likely to be taken by centre/centre-Right parties rather than a more ‘principled’ Left party.

Also read: Beyond secularism & fascism: CAA gives opportunity to re-imagine clichés about idea of India

The power of the ordinary people 

This article is not an argument for denial, the BJP’s victory in 2014 did indeed represent not just an electoral victory but also an ideological triumph. Yet, the triumph is still — in historical terms — novel and shaky, let alone final. There is a large intellectual space between denial and defeatism. A grounded idealism would not only create a hope of victory, it will also help construct the alliances that make it possible. Cynicism is only good for whining and bickering, in pitting ever-small fractions of BJP’s opponents against each other in clashes of purity and virtue.

What can unite us is an allegiance to some basic, common idea of the nation and some faith in the wisdom of ordinary people. This was the basis of the freedom struggle, an umbrella movement of disparate ideologies united in a singular objective. Gandhi, the architect of the mass freedom movement, believed in the essential ‘goodness’ of human beings. This was why he could build a movement, which the more intellectual ‘moderate’ members of the Congress had put beyond the capacity of the “illiterate masses”. If, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta has argued, we need a second freedom struggle to rescue India, we must first renew the belief that the nation of Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar is not dead yet. Like any idea, it will only be truly dead if we believe it to be so.

The author is a research associate at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. Views are personal.

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  1. This author, a hindu lineage convert to muslim because of coercion or bribe, is dreaming of Gandhi-Nehru India. Ordinary people are now really in-charge. Gandhi and Nehru duo destroyed the very soul of India’s democracy by pushing aside a democratically elected PM in Patel because their design was nefarious. These Indian muslims (hindus with a alein name and religion of invaders and looters) are better off to go back to their roots. India should erase all monuments of colonial and mughal era completely and keep only those built by ordinary and good Indians.

  2. Yes the ordinary people have realised as to what mistakes they were committing for last so many decades.Thatis why this party has come.Of course you may try , there is no wrong in it . But you people have to try at least for another two decades .

  3. biggest mistake is that in 1947 after giving Muslims their own country, they were allowed to stay back and spread pus in indias body politic

  4. As always, the Hinduphobic piece of shit named Asim Ali continues to rant against Hindus. This Islamist dog barks all day. We want Muslims to be either converted to Hinduism (Ghar Wapsi) or sterilized or deported so that the Muslim PROBLEM has a FINAL SOLUTION.

    BJP is actually a secular party, while Congress is blatantly Muslim appeasing.

    I want an incredibly pro-Hindu party that can implement the agenda that I just described to solve the Muslim Problem

    • Führer Idi Amin Sarma: Wow ! The deadly Nazi ghoul hibernating in you has been roused hasn’t he Sir ? Telling indeed that in India in 2020, you should be using the very language of Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler of the 1930s and 40s. Clearly, history repeats itself. Indeed, you are something unique Führer Sarma – you are Adolf Hitler, Sanjay Gandhi and Idi Amin all rolled into one.

      But getting back to your rant about your perceived Hindus are victims mindset.

      I am a Hindu and I do not find anything remotely Hinduphobic in Mr Asim Ali’s incisive article. And as a Hindu who does not – I reiterate does not – believe in the Abrahamic nonsense of proselytisations and conversions, I do not believe that Muslims should be converted to Hinduism through the idiotic, un-Hindu, Hindutva ideology of the RSS and the BJP.

      As regards sterilisation of Muslims that you suggest, ostensibly inspired by Sanjay Gandhi, PM Indira Gandhi’s son who believed in sterilising the poor during the hated Emergency of 1975-77, well, you would be opening Pandora’s box Führer Sarma. It may be Muslims today, Dalits tomorrow and tribals the day after. Ideologies of the type you adhere to always succeed in finding and singling out a scapegoat for the problems of society.

      Your talk of deportation of Muslims from India reminds one of Idi Amin, the crazed, cannibalistic dictator of Uganda of the 1970s who threw out Asians, largely Indians from his country. Idi Amin succeeded as most of the Asians held British passports and they were allowed to settle in Britain. But where will you send India’s Muslims Führer Idi Amin Sarma ? And what if Muslim countries in the Middle East where more than 10 million Indians are employed decide to do a tit for tat ?

      It is truly frightening that ordinary Indians like you would espouse and endorse the same genocidal violence that Adolf Hitler unleashed upon his own Jewish citizens through his infamous “Final Solution” policy. But not all that surprising either – after all, the RSS, the ideological mentor of the BJP was inspired by the fascist and Nazi movements of Europe of the 1930s and modelled itself after the Hitler Jugend amd Mussolini’s Blackshirt. And Indians venerate a man who has been raised in the very same RSS and has a pogrom under his belt to boot.

      As the British novelist Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)said:

      “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.

  5. “second freedom struggle to rescue India” ..sad….bekaar gutpaji always supports extremist seperatists etc to earn living.

  6. What better can we expect from the platform of bekaar gutpa.these hindu idiotic gutpas Roy’s Desai’s can’t speak a word against terrorists of terrorist religion which preaches to kill or convert other religion ppl .because these idiots knew that terrorists religion guys will cut theirs and give it in their hand unlike hindus who don’t react even if some one says Ramayana is mith etc. So easily they target Hinduism and encourage anti Hinduism on their so called liberal sickular platforms.

  7. I agree Gandhi Nehru dead.but Ambedkar will never die.iadore him iworship him.heshould have been p m of inda.why fear hinduthwa or Hinduism. There is no Sharia law in Hinduism. There is equal rights for women in all aspects.there are rules and reservations to up lift down trodden,scs,and sts.hindus allow to worship any God. Fine if you don’t believe in any God also.

    • You cannot believe in both Ambedkarite principles and Hinduism at the same time. Both are irrevocably incompatible.

  8. Bro, in your dreams would you be able to drive your real motive of Ghajwai Hind. Modiji has been sent to protect our culture. People who still believe in two nation theory should leave. If you really believe in Bhai Bhai; lets start with undoing the Partition. Would you have the balls to do it. First time we have a leader who understand the enemy and its modus operandi.

  9. Yet another Hinduphobic author from the stable of The Print, dreaming of Ghazwa-e-Hind. It is worrying that education is not making some Muslims liberal and secular but turning them into Islamists like Sharjil Iman.

    • Mr Subhasis Ghosh: In keeping with your tradition of jettisoning unreasoned, fact free and putrid Hindutva dung in these columns, you come up with another instalment of bullshit – er cow dung – when you accuse the author of promulgating bizarre ideas such as “Ghazwa-e-Hind”.

      This article by Mr Asim Ali delves attempts to explain the trajectories and ideologies that one has seen in India over 4 decades or more. I do not find any references to Ghazwa-e-Hind, there is no Hinduphobia and nor is the author an Islamist. However, for bigoted and blinkered gaurakshak apprentices like you, the mere fact that the author is a Muslim incapacitates the few brain cells you have.

      Mr Ghosh learn to argue, we all know that you know how to abuse. And if you can’t muster a cogent argument stay away from these columns and go drown yourself in your gomutra lota.

  10. 1) ANTI CAA PROTESTORS were against HINDUS who are facing ethnic cleansing in pakistan Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

    2) Even in Kashmir because of anti HINDU government. HINDUS FACED ETHNIC CLEANSING.

    3) RIOTS on the basis of rumours to create an environment of fear in HINDUS is being implemented.

    4) Extreme religiosity without any importance to science and education is creating a belligerent and fundamentalist community.

    5) Continues pressure by religious leaders to get people converted is creating a unsafe environment for people of other religious beliefs to live in peace.

    6) NO body to disabuse the notion that NOBODY IS GOING TO BURN IN HELL for being IDOL WORSHIPPERS.

    6) ALWAYS living to lead a better AFTERLIFE rather than enjoy life as it is today is creating a community who flare up at any rumours and attack religious places of other communities as in DELHI AND BANGALORE.

    7 ) No person from the community ready to look into what ails it . BUT is ready to declare themselves VICTIMS.

  11. What, pray, is a “better India”? Another country where Muslims will be molly-coddled and encouraged to become drug dealers and criminals at the cost of the rest of the population? Go away!

    • Drug dealers are being helped by the BJP to make biopic on the PM. As I can know from his name, the one such dealer who made the biopic, is not a Muslim. Do you want him to go away too?

  12. Biased article Most hindus subscribe to hindutva ideals is like saying that most muslims support isis
    Extremely cliched like every muslim author
    Invoking Israel,Lecutring about principles of Gandhi Nehru only on Hindus but silent on
    riots in Sweden
    Giving castiest eg to show how divided is Hindu society but not a word on shia sunni
    Going ga ga over Ayodha but 2 churches in Turkey converted to mosques
    Using unnecessary fancy words inorder to coverup problems in their own community

    • Why go so far as Shia Sunni? The Muslims of the subcontinent have a strict caste system. At the top are the Ashraf, who descended from foreign invaders, the ones that did the genocide of the followers of Dharmic religions, the plunder and destruction of places of worship, rape of women and forced conversions. The next are the Ajlaf, those Hindus who converted to Islam, either because they did not have the spine to stand up or die for their beliefs, or could not handle the burden of taxes like the Jazia tax. The saddest is the case of the Arzal. They were sweepers, manual scavengers etc. They were promised an egalitarian religion, only to realize that at times they are even denied entry into Muslim burial grounds. Have you ever seen any of our luddite liberals or selective secularists writing about it? And dont expect Shri Shekhar Gupta to Cut The Clutter on this topic. He was still figuring out how normalise the Bangalore riots and now has been hit by the one in Sweden.

    • If you enjoy articles written by Hinduphobic writers, and that is your constitutional right, try one ones by Zainab Sikandar and Bismee Taksim. Fatima Khan does not make the cut. She is lot more balanced.

      • Mr Subhasis Ghosh: Care to explain on what basis you claim that the article is “Hinduphobic” ? Is it because the author is a Muslim? Or is it because you are itchy-testicled gaurakshak who gets high inhaling the hot air of Arnab Goswami and who lacks the intellectual ability to muster a cogent argument ? Or is it something you smoke? Care to clarify Sir? Thank you.

  13. Author has gone nuts becoz of BJP in power . He is conveniently forgetting that vote share of 50% in UP is no without support of every section of Hindus . the fact this this with news pouring everywhere ppl can not be kept slave to anyone’s imagination such as leftist and intellectuals . We do see what is happening to minorities in Islamic countries . 2nd BJP is far more committed to welfare of country taking along poor than sloganeering that has been under rule of khangress and leftist. third BJP is being portrayed by ppl like you as anti poor but this is the only party which share leadership with every section of society . BJP is only party which truly believe and work on equality to all than seculars who have made Islamists above law and super citizen . LIst is very long and your mind is excessively biased to see these with practical eyes so no matter how much shekhar gupta and his stooge like you peddle your narrative ppls will do what is correct and the correct is Justice to all appeasement to none as voiced by MODi. Next 50 years is for BJP if they keep working of HIndus . YOu keep grieving as much as you can , without any beaning on the ground .

  14. Like everything else, here too the opinion is based on the perception in North India, specifically, the hindi heartland. But India is not hindi heartland… There are a lot of diverse thoughts, ideas, ideology floating around in the rest of the parts of India. BJP is not invincible. But yes today the people trust the BJP more as compared to others. Specifically the PM Modi. It is for these others to gain the trust of the people. For that they will have to work hard, with committment. There is no short cut. Once they do that, they will realise that BJP and/or Modi is not invincible.

  15. Abe shinto has set a very good example by taking VRS or voluntry retirement.It is an eye opener to our P.M. Modi also who is accussed of half-Baked policies like CAA,GST,NEP ,Demonitisation which have yielded negative results and plunged economy downward.I am reminded of President Trump’s comments against Joe biden,when president said ‘He does not know whether he is alive or not [Joe Biden].Same applies to Narender Modi sarkar?

  16. Hindu hater Asim Ali is trying hard to invent garbage theories that remains in the imagination of Hindu haters only. For Hindus Hindutva and Hinduism are one and the same thing and it is part of their day to day life. Secularism and liberalism are part of Hindu way of life. Hindus now understand this simple fact that was muddied by librandus’ fake ideology made in China and forced on people by Congress foolish leaders. ThePrint would never succeed in fooling Hindus to agree to liberandu crooks’ rule again. Modi is not immortal but Modi’s dream for developing India and his dream of uplifting the poor of India would be alive forever. Hindu haters will disappear once their funding for anti-India activities dies.

  17. QURAN (98:6) “Surely the unbelievers(IN MUSLIMS) among the people of the Book and the idolaters, will abide in the fire of Hell. THEY ARE THE WORST OF CREATURES .”

  18. Sangh rule in hindustand will continue unchallenged for the next half a century. By then there won’t be any need for Sangh to exist, its goals would have been met a long time back.

  19. Congress remained in power post-independence because (a) it had an organization and (b) it had a leadership which could inspire both hope for better future and a trust in the leader.
    To destroy these two it took years. Mrs. Gandhi came back to power despite the emergency, because the opposition had no organization or credible leadership.
    It too over 30 years since for the opposition to come up with a strong organization and a leader that people perceived as trustworthy and capable of offering a better future.
    Both BJP and Congress have their core voter base which is not adequate to keep them in power. It is the floating vote which is influenced by better life and governance that keeps them in power.
    It takes years to build up such voter base and is it also takes to years to lose it. This voter is patient and willing to give concession for genuine mistakes.
    Most of the rhetorical theories are like child psychology the baby cries and you justify.
    Nobody is invincible.


  21. shaheen bagh movement not purely working class muslims it has involvement of political parties for their selfish gains, if you come and live in any Gulf country you will come to know how muslims in India enjoying freedom of all constitutional rights than any other muslim countries , no country in the world is secular than India exception being US though racial discrimination is rampart. when new nationalism spreading acroos the world sustainability of theory secularism no longer viable

  22. This article is best summarised as intellectual mast$rbation and ranting in an echo chamber. The pseudo-secular champagne liberals are reduced to looking back wistfully at a bygone era when they were gorging from the trough. Pathetic.

  23. The Problem is America’s influence in our Elections. America massively manipulates Indian Media n in turn the Indian Masses to believe that Muslims are bad, Ram Temple has to be built challenging Muslims n Muslims has to be dominated by CAA. All this is America’s Plan to make India, the next 1979 Iran. N create Hinduphobia across the World.

    • It is such articles reinforcing Anti Hindu bigotry, induce every thinking Hindu to rally behind BJP.

    • Care to explain why Mr Max? After all, any idiot can easily write 4 words and scoot off instead of producing an argument, right ?

  24. I have turned emotional by reading this beautyful article with tears in my eyes.
    Yes, the land of Gandhi Nehru Ambedkar will be kept alive with hope.
    We will not succumb to cynicism.

    • “Alive with hope?” The same hope that was denied to Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs when on the night of 19th Jan, 1989 howling mobs of ordinary Muslims, not terrorists, gave them the following options – Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (either convert to Islam, leave the land or die).

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