The Liberal's Guide To Surviving RamRajya

The Bihar Assembly Election of 2015 was a shot in the arm for the Indian liberal. As Nitish Kumar took a barb-wired stick to BJP's plans of consolidating India under the saffron flag, the ideological opponents of Hindutva felt the foundation of the dam to harness the right wing surge had been laid. Riding this zeal past the reversal in Assam, the liberal gained hope from BJP's declining prospects in the run up to the UP assembly election. News channel polls across 2016, saw BJP cede its leading position to first BSP, and then to SP - as it pulled off a change in narrative through the dumpster fire of infighting and the subsequent rise of Akhilesh from its ashes. The alliance forged with Congress further buffeted hopes, with the 'Khiladi-Anadi' duo of Akhilesh and Rahul lit up the campaign trail. Whatever happened in the remaining 4 states, UP was the Holy Grail and the springboard to the 2019 General Election.

As the results unfolded on the 11th of March, jaws dropped harder than the beats in a Gurugram Fortuner - as BJP scooped 312 of the 403 assembly seats in UP. Having also swept UK, BJP pulled off yet another feat with its tally in Manipur, poised to form the government on account of favorable smaller parties (NFP & NPP) and independents. The significance of an Indian nationalist party dominating the politics of three North Eastern states - Assam, Arunachal and Manipur has been largely lost in the rapture over UP. So far it had predominantly been perceived as a Hindi heartland player. It went on to form the government with Biren Singh, a former Congressman as its CM. Furthermore, while the Congress was favorably positioned to form the Government in Goa, BJP clinched it - leveraging nationwide momentum, power at the center and superior availability of "resources" to woo independents and minor parties.

With the media frothing at the mouth with all the excitement, people thought this was the pinnacle of having your mind blown. BJP saying "challenge accepted", made Yogi Adityanath the Chief Minister. Scientists are said to be working on quantum mechanics based technology to read the human mind. If such a machine existed today and was applied to a randomly selected Indian on the evening of Yogi's elevation to the CM's post, the output would have certainly been ':O'. If BJP adding 3 states to its kitty with a super-majority in the home state of the 'Ram Janam Bhoomi', wasn't enough to signal the onset of RamRajya; the selection of the saffron clad crusader to head India's most populous state certainly was.

With hysteria lurking at the gates, the liberal is distraught with fears of an unmitigated right and diminished prospects of checking the juggernaut of Modi in 2019. Emboldened by the victories and soon to be empowered with a majority in Rajya Sabha, unlocking the superpower unilateral legislation - has RamRajya arrived?

Well, if it has, here's a 4 point guide to surviving RamRajya:

1. Debubble:

"All those trekking selfies on my newsfeed had me convinced Vanvaas would be fun." - JSR

Echo chambers aren't unique to liberals. Conservatives live in their own bubble, best exemplified by the Fox News fed parallel universe of the Republicans in the US. India too has developed an entire class of citizenry that shapes its political viewpoint based on skulduggerous Whatsapp forwards. However, the liberals have suffered politically from being in a bubble while the right wing bubble has expanded to a majority in an ever increasing number of electorates across the world. Convinced of the prospects of their victory, liberals elsewhere and in India have lost touch with the ground reality to a great extent. In a common symptom - supporters of Hillary Clinton in the states and AAP in Punjab, and the opponents of BJP in UP have been found patting themselves on the back for a victory that went on to elude them. It is thus crucial for liberals to pop the bubble they're in, in order to bolster their chances of prevailing in the future. Furthermore, the lost masses need to be drawn out of their bubbles and this can only be achieved by debubbling first.

2. Dismount & Engage:

"...before I opened my mind up to it, they were just monkey people. Who knew they would turn out to be my greatest ally!?" - JSR

One of the major factors that drive the fence sitters into the arms of the hard right is the high horse on which the liberals are perched. This works on two levels. First, it alienates them and leaves them finding the right-wing more approachable and relatable. Secondly and more importantly, it compounds the liberal bubble - leaving them at a disadvantage in terms of reading the issues crucial to the electorate and imbibing them into the progressive agenda. Engaging the "others", without condescension or sermon is the most potent undeployed weapon the liberal has. Even when right-leaning individuals soldier on with spite and seemingly deficient notions, the liberal must resist the urge to ridicule and forsake. Through engagement, the liberal can amplify the reach of its viewpoint and learn the concerns of the masses - strengthening its political reach.

Reclaiming the narrative can't be done till the fissures in society are repaired. Polarization drives wedges in society and our age is one where the divides have grown. The long arduous process of fixing things must start on a micro level by disallowing political disagreement to come in the way of bonding. If the hostility is shed, it will enable individuals to first gain each other's trust and mutual comfort, and only then can the process of introducing the counter-narrative begin.

3. Revise Battle Strategy:

"It's real tempting to keep chopping them heads, but he can keep growing them back. You need to wait for the right time and go for the navel." - JSR

Outrage can be an extremely potent weapon or absolutely futile depending on how and when its deployed. Any efforts towards the expansion of RamRajya must be checked, with the due amount of outrage used as a battering ram. But unmitigated outrage at every step of the way only dilutes its impact. Furthermore, outrage has a tendency to overwhelm tangible and nuanced argumentation. Therefore, it must be throttled and let loose strategically and in conjunction with an informed argument. For example, it's instinctive to go "whoa, Yogi is a friggin nutbag is why", whereas what is needed is an argument identifying tangible demerits. Incorporating short and long term metrics, the conversation needs to be about divisive statements and acts he's committed and equally importantly - how despite 5 terms as the representative of Gorakhpur, the indicators of his constituency are dismal. While there is a fundamental problem with someone who is saffron clad, leading a state; focusing on that in itself as the entire argument does disservice to the larger issue. Moreover, it alienates a share of the population that can now be made to believe its an attack on their identity.

In RamRajya, the liberal will never be bereft of opportunities to attack, critique or protest the government. All forms of government are capable of deliberate acts of mass disservice at times and incompetence at others, and such actions must be opposed. However, right wing nutbaggery brings certain unique issues to the fray. While dealing with these issues, objectivity must be preserved, else credence is lent to the arguments of the fringe.

There is yet another layer to this. Creating an absolute adversarial position takes away the stakeholdership of the opponent. Think of this as a rudimentary example; Trump realizing that he had little or no shot at the black vote could disengage them almost entirely - only attending a prayer at an African American Church, and that too only to pander to the moderate white voters who wanted to assuage their guilt of voting for a racist. Similarly, because the BJP doesn't consider the Muslims as a viable vote bank; it probably sees a feasible political strategy in not fielding any Muslim candidates, antagonizing them for political gains and disregarding their interests with impunity. Disallowing such concrete adversarial positions from being crystallized is crucial to keep RamRajya accountable politically. Exercising objectivity to give due credit for good work and opposing with sagacity is the way to pavlovian train the Generals of RamRajya.

4. Reinvent - Politics & Narrative:

"We didn't have boats, so we built a bridge." - JSR

RamRajya 1.0 was built on the Ram Mandir issue. Having realized that the issue has lost relevance with the masses, it has since pivoted to seek and introduce new issues to achieve the same objective. It is thus impending on the liberal to reinvent itself as well - while keeping its core objectives intact. The term 'secular' for example, while being a core pillar of our democracy, has been dragged through the mud owing to the incompetence of some of its prominent champions. At some level, the BJP has hijacked the cause by repackaging it as an 'inclusive development agenda', thereby with great subtlety shedding its highest burden of protecting the minorities while still projecting the furtherance of their interests as a winning objective. This acts as the frail loin cloth protecting the 'Sabka Vikas' agenda under the rule of a divisive leader in UP. The gambit here being, "As long as we can deliver development, it's all good". In order to offer a strong counter proposition, inclusiveness must be rearticulated and the political movement around it stripped of the baggage of political figures that have failed it.

A new movement must be born from the masses to champion the virtues that are on the retreat and it is only through a complete purge and rebirth that it will survive RamRajya. It is thus crucial for liberals to not fall prey to grasping the nearest thing in reach as the alternative to RamRajya. Before supporting Nitish Kumar for example, one must remember that he is the culprit of a state-wide prohibition and was a happy lieutenant of the right-wing coalition for most of his career and switched to ally with the molester of Bihar when he saw politically expedient. Similarly, the present day leadership of Congress must be held responsible for being among the prime enablers of RamRajya through their corruption, nepotism and deviant politics. It will be only through impartial critique, long-term vision and sustained struggle that a new breed of politicians come to helm - capable of toppling RamRajya. These politicians are perhaps already in the ranks of Congress and other parties. They need to be unleashed by creating the right conditions for an upheaval.


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