Monday, March 10, 2008

The secular/communal divide is a fissure that runs within most citizens

Home > Edits & Columns > COLUMN Why the idea of Modi wins
Pratap Bhanu Mehta Indian Express: Monday, December 24, 2007
The worrying trend for our democracy is that Modi is yet another symptom of our yearning for a politics that is anti-political.

Modi has created a new paradigm in Indian politics, whose ramifications will be felt for years to come. Modi’s win calls for a serious reflection on the so-called secular/communal divide.

  • Why does secular politics carry less credibility than it ought to?
  • Why does secularism remain a mere slogan, a straw that bends in every wind?

Part of the reason is that the secular/communal divide is not, as the Congress would like to believe, a divide between two species of Indian citizens: one secular and one communal. It is a fissure that runs within most citizens, rather than between them.

  • On the one hand, there is an easy acceptance of diversity, a discomfort with a politics that is too polarising, and an acknowledgment of modern constitutional values.
  • On the other, there is group competition, a sense of incomplete nationhood for which someone must be held responsible, and fear.

What gains the upper hand in our psychic economies, is a product of a complex politics. Managing this contradictory psychic complex requires, as Gandhi understood better than anyone else, a subtle therapeutic politics.

But such subtlety is beyond the Congress. It too has acquired a deep investment in a politics of competitiveness amongst groups. It has exacerbated a paradigm of citizenship where caste and religion, rather than becoming irrelevant to people’s rights and opportunities, become more central to their self-understanding. And it projects opportunism rather than trust.

Secular politics India has become an astonishing combination of imbecility, indecision and indolence. With Modi now becoming a preeminent figure in national politics, the risks of running with the Congress’s construal of what constitutes secular politics are even higher... In politics, if the contest is between sincerity and an utter lack of trustworthiness, the former will always have an advantage even if tied to an unsavoury cause.

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