David Frum
Center right tangle
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

Note: Reposted From My Old Blog. This is a old post written in the immediate aftermath of 2009 elections. However it is still relevant. Featured image of David Frum

For those coming late, we continue from where we left . Here are the rules, I will show the error of Center right ways, and I restrict my argument to electoral viability.

Some people might note reappearance of Underpants Gnomes from one of the previous  posts, and find it unimaginative. To that charge, I plead guilty, and submit (in my defence), that ,most of Indian political thought can be reduced to underpants gnomes theory without missing much of essence.

Gnomes in the famous South Park episode had a somewhat lousy business plan.

Phase 1: Collect Underpants

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: Profit!

In contrast the proponents of center-right have a relatively more elaborate road map to political ascendancy, best summarized as.

Phase 1: Discard Hindutva (Because it is electorally inviable or/and unpalatable to prospective alliances)

Phase 2: Adopt economic reforms and liberal social mores as political platform (Because it is election winner)

Phase 3: Majority!

Now the plan is sensible as long as one doesn’t insist on it adhering to the reality, for the reality is a bit different.

Specifically it is not clear that Hindutva is electorally inviable. For sure, a certain section of urban India, to be more precise the section which is informed by English language media, responds unfavorably to antics of Sangh Parivar and its ideological soul mates. However it must be taken into consideration that Hindutva was never meant for the particular demographics. The target demographics for Hindutva,  in its suffused form, was either middle class Hindu living in smaller cities and towns or, in its more cathartic form,  the vast rural hinterland.

Now there are reasons why Hindutva by itself wasn’t sufficient for electoral majority. For one Hindu identity has never been as overriding as Islamic identity and unless there is a sense of impending danger or great grievance Hindus tend to focus on more materialistic pursuits. The fact that Sangh Parivar never made any sincere attempt to articulate what it hopes to achieve with Hindutva or it was never in position to implement whatever agenda it had for Hindutva just ensured that after the heady days of Ram Mandir movement Hindutva stalled electorally.

What this implied, or should have implied at any rate, was a. To make Hindutva more substantial for the electorate* and b. on parallel develop saleable agenda** for governance. That this didn’t happen is the main cause why BJP has declined to such an extent. However, this doesn’t mean Hindutva has become a liability. Provided we get rid of the more unsavory elements, call them lumpen Hindutva to make a distinction, and not pine for the votes of Cosmopolitan flotsam, Hindutva can still provide at least the electoral edge to win the elections and at most provide a foundation to enact broader agenda for resurgence of India. It will be a mistake to drop H word .

Now if the case for discarding Hindutva is weak, case for adapting economic reforms is ever weaker. Problem with proponents of center right is that they are swayed by the “no one I know voted for Nixon” syndrome (orconfirmation bias if you will), since they observe support for liberalization around their vicinity, they conclude it is a winner. Well I have news for them, it is not, as evidenced by failure of India shining. Now the counter argument may be that the campaign was inept and selling agenda of reforms needs more fine tuning, an argument with which I agree, however I also think that Hindutva can be sold, and I don’t see if I have to reject Hindutva because it is not such an easy sell, I see no reason why BJP should adopt reforms being even more difficult to sell electorally. To further weaken this position consider Congress won 2009 ostensibly because of its tax and spend schemes.  I say ostensibly because I don’t agree with it, however if I have to pick a reason for its win, it will definitely be socialism over economic reforms which didn’t take place at all.

Therefore we see that the center right clique by arguing on bases of electoral viability ironically discredits its own plank.

And with this I hope I was successful in confusing everyone.

*,**  Selling is important than everything. It really doesn’t matter how good a program we have, unless it can be sold to voters, it has no value.