If only the Left looked
Sixty five years of an independent India is a story of lost opportunities. Countries with far meagre resources and much difficult circumstances have marched ahead of us. The deadly duo of Socialism and minorityism meshed in a milieu of rank opportunism which constitutes the true essence of centre of left politics in India has rendered the national edifice hollow.
While competitive minorityism of the kind where Parties do not hesitate in espousing the cases of terrorists to outdo each other has deepened the religious divide, born again socialism has bled the economy dry- squandering spectacularly the gains which six years of NDA rule had made after decades of stagnation under Nehruvian socialism. But all the sins of Leftist Politics do not deter the commentators from this camp to assume a tone of self righteousness and hold forth on the “vacuity” of Right Wing Politics and “lack of vision” of Right Wingers.
Hasan Suroor, in his latest article “Indian Right is Agenda Lite” paints a picture of an intellectually challenged Right Wing (mainly BJP and Modi politics), which incidentally has a better record of governance than it’s Left counterparts. But just as his understanding of Right’s contentiousness with minorityism is marred by misgivings and prejudices, so is his general understanding of Right wing intellectualism and the depth of its roots.
I would not like to elaborate much on the “minorityism” part for two reasons. One, because a lot has already been said by better writers and second because Suroor himself concedes, albeit grudgingly, that Right has a case when “it condemns the ‘pseudo-secularism’ and ‘minorityism’ of Congress and the Left, with some justification…”
The scope of an article like this does not allow sufficient elaboration of issues such as devolvement of power, federal balance, social security, subsidies, minority welfare etc. etc. in the Right wing discourse over which Suroor seeks elucidation from Right wing ideologues. It will be naïve, however, to assume that there isn’t sufficient elaboration of the issues by Right wingers. As such, I would like to limit myself to the lack of “eminences” among Right wing intellectuals as alleged by Suroor, and his accusations of a dearth of “respectable well-funded Indian right-wing think tank(s) … or high-brow journal(s) or newspaper(s)” articulating Rightist positions. Rather than celebrate the situation, one would have hoped Suroor to see, if he could beyond his prejudices, the scandal behind it.
At the outset, I will concede that there is a lack of “well funded” Right Wing think tanks, something which Indian Right should take up as a task of immediate importance. Now coming to the “eminences”, Arun Shourie has brilliantly exposed the farce of Suroor’s “respectable intellectuals”.
How their “eminence'” is manufactured; how it is a cabal of like minded people (Leftists who have made quite an enterprise out of state funding and doles) forming an incestuous mutual admiration club; how they have hijacked institutions and media; how they go about tarnishing the images of scholars and intellectuals who wouldn’t kow-tow their line. No surprise then that a formidable scholar like Prof Shivaji Singh remains an obscure figure because he taught at Gorakhpur University and not JNU or a Bank employee Shrikant Talageri, unknown beyond the pale of Voice of India readers, who would otherwise be a toast of intellectual circles if it was not for the suppression of diverging views by establishment intellectuals.
For all of Suroor’s babel over the lack of intellectual roots in Indian Right, it is in fact Indian Left which has a much recent history. It is necessary to understand the difference between Leftist presence in India and the crystallisation of an indigenous Indian Left, howsoever tentative the idea might be. Left in India for long remained a forward post of Comintern with no intellectual rigour to show off its own. It was simply acting as a forward post receiving instructions from masters in Moscow and London until Indian Leftists (both card holding and the pink communists in Congress) under the aegis of a benignly disposed Nehru cobbled up a semblance of Indian Left.
Even then, no Nehruvian or Leftist intellectual has come up with the originality of thought to match that of Tilak, Savarkar, Pal or Aurobindo. Post independence intellectual scene has only meant strangling the voices of Right stalwarts such as Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup by maintaining a deafening silence about them or slandering people like Arun Shourie who were difficult to ignore. I am reminded about an incident narrated by Prafull Goradia, one of the most sober Right voices, about an editor of a leading daily who had made it clear to his entire editorial team that he would not tolerate any stuff in his newspaper including innocuous letters to editor by “this communal bigot”.
Further, in the neo colonial Leftist view of “intellectualism” which relies heavily on western approval, for Indian Right to get any recognition from its Leftist counterparts, not that it should bother, is still difficult. Indian Right isn’t German Right which will find latent sympathies in common Christian values with its French counterparts, for example. Unlike Left internationalism, Pan Islamism or transnational Christian brotherhood, Indian Right is unique to India and given its peculiarity can expect zero sympathy or enthusiasm from others.
The western liberals, so far as their fleeting interest in Indian Right is concerned, have their views coloured by a downright hostile Indian media- their only window for information. So if Mr Suroor was waiting for Indian Right Wingers to get invitations in seminars at Western Universities or six column op-ed space in Western newspapers for bestowing “eminence’ upon them, it was quite unlikely to come. But this does not mean Indian Right is inconsequential as an idea or that it lacks force, it is only that its relevance lies in India alone.
Further, even if we have heard a little less from Indian Right and find the intellectual scene dominated by Left, things are going to change rapidly with the advent of new age media which does not allow the control of information and opinions as in the old game. However it is doubtful that the new intellectual Indian Right will still be able to impress Mr Suroor and his likes. That is not just because Mr Suroor and Left want their own terms of intellectual reference but also because Indian Left, ever so eager to push itself into a more centrist spot of late, is actually dogmatic in its approach. It is given to certitudes like “we know what happened in Gujarat”. They remain contemptuously oblivious to the findings of Justice Nanavati or the apex Court, believing only their own versions.
As in the past, with whatever resources at its disposal, Indian Right will continue waging its intellectual battles but not to satisfy either Mr Suroor or the Leftist standards. It will continue to appeal to the vast populace of India and its long cherished sense of “Bharatiyata”. And as Mr Suroor has acknowledged it in the beginning of his piece itself, Right is gaining and gaining handsomely in Modi’s rise. And this, not the ivory towers of Leftist intellectuals, is where it counts most.