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What is likely to replace the first republic? When? How? Can we still save the republic? What is to be done? 

These are the most critical and difficult questions of our time that political sense and political science must confront. They do not admit of a “correct” answer, at least as long as history admits the inescapability of contingency. Let me only, in conclusion, sketch three possible courses that the journey of democracy may take in the near future, without assigning probabilities. 

The first route leads to a long Indian summer. We may be witnessing a quick transition from the first “socialist, secular, democratic republic” to a quasi-democratic, firmly majoritarian, and crony-capitalist republic. We could date the inauguration of the second republic to 2014, when the BJP started consolidating its electoral, ideological, and coercive power into a new one-party dominance system. Unlike the famous Congress system of consensus, the new “BJP system” is based on a concentration of power, a sectarian ideology, and the social exclusion of minorities. This second republic need not have a new constitution for as long as the Modi regime can define and redefine the threshold of tolerance for deviations from constitutionally mandated procedures. The constitutional form of parliamentary democracy may remain untinkered with, yet for all practical purposes India could become a Latin American-style presidential democracy where the supreme leader draws power from the people and is answerable only to them. The public could be continuously mobilised to undo the republic. 

In such a new dispensation our political system, while retaining the label “democracy”, would in practice be describable as “competitive authoritarianism”. Elections would be held without fail, but only in order to affirm the supreme leader’s popularity. Instead of being one among many episodes in a representative democracy, elections might then become the only available democratic episodes. Any form of political contestation outside the electoral arena – dissent, protests, and human-rights struggle or civil-society activism – would be ruthlessly suppressed. For its survival and popular endorsement, the second republic’s ruling dispensation would depend on occasional electoral endorsement, a massive propaganda machine, formal and informal regimentation of the “independent” media, indirect control of the judiciary and other “autonomous” institutions, continuous crusades against “internal enemies”, and regular military adventures, especially preceding an election.


Also read: India attracted the world once. But it wasn’t because of its ambition to be a Hindu Rashtra


India may never formally be declared a Hindu Rashtra. It would be unnecessary, for the second republic is likely to be a non-theocratic majoritarian state with a de facto hierarchy of religious communities. An American style “melting pot” model could be tried in India, with the pot bearing a distinct Hindutva stamp. We are unlikely – or so I hope despite the Delhi riots of February 2020 – to witness large-scale anti-minority pogroms, in part because the regime would like to avoid the international outcry that is bound to follow such violence. In any case, since the need of the day in our second republic would be to reduce the minorities, mainly Muslims and Christians, to the status of second-rung citizens, quotidian put-downs and symbolic violence would suffice. 

Dalits and adivasis may not face the same kind of onslaught, because the ruling regime in the second republic would be cognizant of the political benefits of accommodating them, at least symbolically. To grind their noses into the dust would in any case seem unnecessary, given a de facto hegemony of upper-caste Hindus. In our New India the politics of social justice would effectively have taken a back seat, with any expression of Dalit or Adivasi upsurge being nipped in the bud or tamed. While the imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi states would be deemed an unnecessary upsetting of the apple cart, cultural homogenisation in all other respects would be the state’s agenda. Our second republic may not be quite the Hindu Rashtra of Savarkar’s dreams, but as close to its 21st-century version as required and feasible. 

And now to consider the second possible route. This would involve a period of uncertainty, a no-man’s land between the first and the second republic. It may result from simultaneous movements in both directions, preventing either a firm hegemony or its effective reversal. The counterbalancing could come from various directions. The BJP might keep losing power in the states while continuing its success story at the centre. The regional forces might, belatedly, offer effective resistance to the BJP’s political hegemony and its drive for cultural homogenisation. Or the BJP might lose national power in 2024, only to bounce back sooner or later, as Indira Gandhi did quite soon after her defeat in 1977. This might delay the transition to the second republic. Though unlikely, opposition might even come from within. An intense power struggle within the BJP, however inconceivable it seems at the moment, might possibly defer or deter this transition. We cannot rule out another version of this internal challenge: a party other than the BJP might use the template of nationalism and Hindutva, or its milder versions, to defeat the BJP in elections. As a popular advertisement has it, “Impossible is Nothing”.


Also read: India’s democracy crumbling? Constitution shows how to create democracy in unlikely settings


There are other possibilities as well. The balancing might come from a hidden hand outside the electoral-political domain. Attempts to smother diversities could trigger resistance from other social cleavages, such as caste and language, that the regime might find difficult to overlook or polarise to its advantage. Or, while the regime continues to dominate elections and public opinion, its success might be undermined by abject failure with handling the economy. Signs of such failure are in evidence already: an economic slowdown that does not look just cyclical; farm distress triggered by an agrarian crisis and accentuated by climate change; the highest recorded rate of unemployment, and rising inflation.

So far, the regime’s handling of the economy has been amateurish at best; its attempts with data suppression and impatience with ideologically unaligned economic advisers have, to put it euphemistically, raised eyebrows everywhere. It is possible, therefore, that the large numbers of those at the bottom of the pile will begin to connect their economic distress and absence of hope on the horizon with an incompetent government and punish it. Popular movements could channelise such disaffection. Even as the institutions of democracy keep collapsing, powerful movements might, as they have in the past, fill the vacuum for a time and retrieve some democratic balance. Any or all of these counterweights to the BJP might temporarily halt or slow the hegemonic march of the BJP, but not challenge its fundamentals. For all we know, in real life this might be the most optimistic scenario. 

A third route, a mirage for the moment, promises a reversal of hegemony and reclamation of the republic by the public. This route too involves a radical transition: there can be no return to the ancien regime represented by parties like the Congress. In this route, the second republic would show a new configuration of power, a renewal of the idea of India, a new social contract. It may be hard to visualise what such a transition might entail, let alone how it can be brought about. The last essay in my book (chapter 15) tries to respond nevertheless to this all-important question: “What is to be done?” The strategy suggested there (in 2017) remains relevant in its broad outlines. The immediate focus should be on mass movements on the economic front, mainly involving distress-affected farmers and unemployed youth. In the medium run, a political reconfiguration involving existing parties and social movements would be needed. In the long run, there can be no escaping the battle of ideas that necessitates a reaffirmation of nationalism, the recovery of pluralist religious traditions, and a reconnection with our languages. 


Also read: Modi calls Constitution a ‘holy book’ but his government violates its letter and spirit


The strategy and the tactics of this third, counter-hegemonic, route need constant fine-tuning. But two lessons are already clear. First, a struggle to rescue Indian democracy cannot be separated either from the battle to save the Indian model of a diverse nation, or from the need to resurrect the promise of an inclusive welfare state. A single point “save democracy” or “save constitution” movement is unlikely to succeed. The political battle has to go hand in hand with struggles in the economic and cultural spheres. And second, the electoral arena may not be central to the historic mission of reclaiming the republic. We are unlikely to witness a repeat of 1977 when an authoritarian ruler quietly stepped down after an electoral defeat. Mass mobilisation and popular resistance outside the electoral arena are going to be prerequisites for any effective reversal of the hegemonic power. 

The ongoing anti-CAA movement of 2020 offers a glimmer of what such resistance might look like. It is hard to anticipate how this movement might appear in the mirrors of the future, or even by the time this book is published. It might well turn out to be a short-lived protest of the north-east and the Muslim community. In any case, such a movement is unlikely to become the fulcrum of a counter- hegemonic politics. And yet the dynamics of this movement does have all the elements of what a dramatic turnaround might involve: the outpouring of masses on the street; an outburst of new ideas, slogans, and poems; the sudden fusing of issues and social groups; the evaporation of fear in the face of state repression. 

Such hopes appear romantic today. But if democracy is about instituting uncertainty into the heart of public life, there are perhaps no reasons powerful enough to snuff out all hope. 

This excerpt from Making Sense of Indian Democracy by Yogendra Yadav has been published with permission from Permanent Black and Ashoka University.

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23 Comments Share Your Views

23 COMMENTS

  1. Yadav’s idea of an ideal India is where the nation comproises with every caste group, religious group. Thank god that India is dying off.

  2. After reading a few paras of this meandering pointless essay I gave up!!!! The thought which came to my is that Shri Yadavji सारा दिन, दिन पर दिन रोते ही रेहते है! Forever a cry baby. He and I think all his candidates lost their deposits in the last election. Both he and his communist buddy, Shri Prashant Bhusahan keep keep forever crying. I think both had an extremely unhappy childhood and probably given milk powder instead on mother’s compassion. They really need to go for serious psychiatric treatment. If that is not possible then please ask them to become Rudalis, they are made for it

  3. Yaar Yogendra, tum se jyada jhoota, makkar aur dramabaaz cum hote hain.
    Tum to Rajdeep ke bhi baap nikle.
    You were hunky-dory, when , Congress, BSP, SP. DMK, Communists and openly terrorist supported TMC, were ruling.
    The anarchy, corruption, violence and every ill of society was kosher but now Modi government is frightening you with imaginary fears.

    Please either do not push your pen, unnecessarily or open your trap.
    You may end up better without them then with them.

  4. Lunetic Leftists thoughts by Yadav , in 1947 sane communists, Leftists and secularists supported creating of Pakistan by saying Muslims and Islam in danger , Indian Muslims created Pakistan but not moved out of India , why , because they realized after partition that they can have both India and Pakistan , with the help of Gandhi , Nehru , Congress and communists they slowly increased their political vote bank and started vetoing nationalist parties and with their population increase , which ever state or areas they reached 50 percent, they kicked out Non Muslims parties including congress and created their own kingdoms , example Kashmir , North Kerala , Hyderabad city , parts of UP, Haryana, Assam , where only Muslims will dictate the political outcome , where Muslims population is around 20 percent, they will support Non BJP party’s , but with ultimate aim of encroaching that area . Wake up Hindus before remaking India turned in to Kashmir .

  5. The first “socialist, secular, democratic republic” operated for 70 years on the famous Congress system of loot by consensus, which disproportionately enriched the politicians, the Babus of all types, the protected industry owners, their brokers and the intellectual parasites.
    The losers are fearing the new “BJP system” claiming it to be based on a concentration of power, a sectarian ideology, and the social exclusion of minorities.
    They must remember the EMERGENCY, and how it had to be withdrawn under the pressure of the people. Have faith in the intellect of those, who may not be PhDs but surly know their interest.
    In absence of cultural homogenization, we will end up being Lebanon, Syria, Libya and IRAQ where nobody knows who is shooting whom. The national affinity has be stronger religious or ideological affinity.

  6. Your article it self has the roots / reasons of failure of people (left /socialist+psudosecular + communist + psudo liberal + bihari) people like you. The pendulum which went to extremely left+jihadi has not not even swung to center yet, forget about right Hindu side. Until that happens it will not come back to center. To tighten you belt and enjoy the ride. The thought process exhibited in the article shows you still have not understood the problem itself, so forget about the correct solution. Till then BJP has free ride.

  7. Yogendra jee….can you please share the brand you smoked while writing this… surely is stunningly hallucinogenic….the ease with which you presume indian people will become doormats is cringeworthy to say the least…I suggest you get a bandgalaa stitched…govt may confer you a Padma award…even in their dreams they wouldn’t have assumed such hegemony…I must say schadenfreude…does come to mind instantly …there is a certain degree of pleasure in seeing you lament like this…though it’s totally fantastical and highly unlikely….but do share your brand 😉

  8. The Hindus want protection of their culture and religion. Unless you “intellectuals” understand this, no amount of theorizing is going to get you any kind of “Republic”.

  9. My God. Such doom and despair. Yogendra Yadav ji please remind us how heavenly we were pre 2014. Please remind us how many opportunities the perverted socialist gave us crores and crores of jobs and such less inflation. Please remind us how hunky dory all communities were and how secular india was and how kashmiri pandits are just on a vacation outside kashmir. Please YY ji remind us how all embracing congress and “secular” parties were of not just India’s diversity but also of illegal immigrants who thoroughly changed North east’s democracy. Oh I also forgot about how abundantly rich the Indian farmer was pre 2014. How horrible of Modi to snatch all this from India. I am eagerly looking forward for the “new republic” YY ji and his friends who signed the 7 point agenda will gift us mere mortals who stupidly voted for Modi twice. Oh our savior, please take away all our property and bestow upon us the communist utopia.

    On a serious note, india is still the same old republic. It’s just that it no longer wants to dance on the tunes of a few Left leaning elites. India has always been bigger and stronger than who led it. Despite allegations on supreme court, it is strong as always to protect rights and the constitution. I’d like to suggest you to be a real political leader and go to ground zero and fight politics and not right doomsday scenarios for India.

  10. I am afraid this is all a figment of imagination and story telling. If anybody is scared of religious influence is society, it is unfounded. Criminality in the name of religion, yes. A part of influential writers spinning tales, yes. But the society will emerge stronger. “Secular” is not for India. By definition , where secular is separation of state and religion, with special status based on caste and religion in the constitution and policies that discriminate based on caste ab=nd religion, how can India be a secular state. People like this writer is inimical to uniform civil code. So whither a secular state?
    We Indians know better
    Pluralism is the way to go. Each religion has to accept the other religions on as is where is basis. ( Foster a thinking that “Your GOD is as good as my GOD”) . This will happen with proper messaging by the media, leaders, “intellectuals” an “activists.”
    I will request “activists” like this author, who I definitely respect, to be more honest and constructive in guiding the society on the correct path

  11. Since 2014 democracy, constitution, institution s, secularism, idea, fabric, pluralism of India died so many times and continuing to die that it is become harder to pick up these bodies.

    Pre 2014 these were beacons of impeccable integrity, values and post 2014 suddenly it took a turn for worse.

    Kudos to author for waking up in May 2014.

    These illiberal and vacuous thinking and actions are the reason people see through dubious doublespeak.

    Let me tell you what common people see.

    Bhoomipujan is a long tortuous journey of 500 plus years of Aastha.

    In return our aastha is termed mythology, Ram has to provide birth certificate. Ayodhya which is synonymous with Ram and Sita, a birthplace on which a community center was hoisted.

    A community center built by a foreign invader on ram Janmabhoomi.

    A community center built on place of worship is Unislamic in addition any prayers offered is not accepted by their god. This is known to community in question still this case was fought since 150 years in court.

    Now they say it got shaheed and will be rebuilt once they have the lathi.

    If due to political correctness you stay silent aam aadmi can see through this doublespeak and disingenuous.

  12. “UNDER EDUCATED JHOLAWLLAS” WHAT DENIAL OF POWER MEANS TO THEM

    1] FIRST THEY EXERCISED POWER THROUGH BEING IN CHARGE OF GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS AND LEADING A LIFE OF POWER AND HAD THE POWER TO MAKE OR BREAK INSTITUTIONS . SUCH POWER NOW BEING DENIED IS MAKING THEM MENTALLY UNSTABLE .

    2] THEIR AGENDA OF KEEPING HINDUS APART THROUGH CASTE , WILL NOW AFTER SHRI RAM MANDIRIS BUILT WILL BE THOROUGHLY DISABUSED . AS SHRI RAM MANDIR WOULD WELCOME DEVOTEES WITHOUT ANY RESTRICTIONS OF CASTE WILL BLOW AWAY THEIR FAKE PROPAGANDA .

    3] CONTINUOUSLY WRITING LIES ABOUT “SECULAR VOTES” WHO WOULD ACTUALLY BE A BLOC VOTE ENSURED BY RELIGIOUS LEADERS FOR ONE PARTY HAS PROVEN TO BE USELESS NOW. AND THIS UNDER EDUCATED JHOLAWALLAS ARE FINDING OUT THAT CONSOLIDATION OF HINDU VOTES WOULD REDUCE THE FOREIGN FUNDING FOR ” PROFESSIONAL HINDU BAITERS AND PROSELYTIZERS ” .

    4] DEMOCRACY FOR THIS UNDER EDUCATED JHOLAWALLAS MEANS A WEAK AND CORRUPT GOVERNMENT WHO WOULD NEED THEIR SERVICES . WHO IN TURN WOULD DENY HINDUS THEIR HISTORY AND THE BOOKS WOULD SHOW HISTORY OF INDIA WAS FROM MUGHALS , BRITISHERS AND THE COMBINATION OF BOTH UNDER CONGRASS .

    5] INSPITE OF THE HISTORY OF ” SECULAR VOTES ” THAT WHEN IN MAJORITY THESE SECULAR VOTES AS IN PAKISTAN N BANGLADESH N EVEN IN KASHMIR RESORT TO ETHNIC CLEANSING IS LOST UPON THEM.

    6] ONLY AND ONLY THROUGH EDUCATION AND SCIENCE AND ENSURING THE COUNTRY PROSPERS EVEN WHEN FACED WITH INTERNAL DISRUPTIONS BY THESE DESPERADOS . DESPITE THAT HINDUS CAN ACHIEVE REAL RAMRAJYA.

    7] RAMRAJYA DOES STOP ANYONE FROM PRACTISING THEIR RELIGION . DOES NOT HAVE CONCEPT OF PROSELYTIZING. NOR WOULD IMPOSE TAXES AS WOULD UNDER OTHER DISPENSATION FOR HAVING DIFFERENT FAITH.

    8] YES RAM RAJYA WOULD ALLOW IDOL WORSHIP.

    THIS DESPERADOS ARE NOTHING BUT A SAD FOOTNOTE OF OUR GREAT PEACEFUL COUNTRY.

    • Well elucidated!
      When matters are so obvious, I wonder why the “intellectuals” feel otherwise. Theirs is a vanishing breed.
      So also the media, who make news only on negativity (Not now, Not in India but since decades all over the world); main stream media will become irrelevant.

  13. Grow up and move on Mr Yogendra Yadav, and save us from this cliched ‘idea of india’ shit. A lot of people never liked this top down idea of this imposed ‘Idea of India’.

  14. This pseudo secular intellectual is wrong in the sense that what he calls second Republic started with the rise of Indira Gandhi, who concentrated power in herself and family. It was being consolidated by Sanjay, but was cut short by his untimely murder by those who benefited. BJP is not concentrating power in single hand, like Congress.
    Further, these so-called liberals are more dangerous than communalists for India. They always creat rift in the Hindu society by differentiating among Hindus by separating us as Hindus, Dalits and tribals. And they desire to establish what he termed as third republic, an Anarchy. To prevent their dream of Balkanisation of India, any government of any party, should eliminate the word secularism from the constitution and it’s followers too.

  15. Let us not get too flighty about the future. There is one Republic, created by the Constitution. It will endure. No one who lives by the water’s edge will believe that the tide can only swell, rise, become tumescent.

  16. Forget Democracy. To save and preserve your sanity right now instead of the country, I suggest three immediate steps to be implemented by you.
    1. Stay away and stop supporting impotent leaders like Rahul Gandhi.
    2. Stay away and stop supporting parties which work against national interest (left, pseudo-secular etc.,).
    3. Stop and come out of thinking everything from minorities point of view. Think why the majority asking/jostling for a little space who have been pushed into a tight corner for many centuries through slavery, colonialism, cultural decadency and lack of self belief – makes the dominating minorities uncomfortable now.
    I pray to God that please let Mr. Yadav be reborn as a minority in any of the OIC countries and experience the hardship real-time.

  17. No wonder, Kejriwal responded to him with “peechhware par laat”. Such thoughts led to divison of India on religious lines, subsequent ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Pakistan BD Afganistan and Kashmir valley. Best solution implied in his arguments is for India to become a land of believers.

    Nauseating

  18. A very subtle and devious way of opposing BJP and promoting communism and trying to divide the public on communist way

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