Indian liberals’ meltdown is more dangerous than Modi devotees’ euphoria

Stop groping in the dark.
Stop groping in the dark.
Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
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If you are an Indian liberal today, first get over yourself. Get over your self-involved grief and your indictment of an entire electorate as bigoted. You might still know better than them—but for starters, accept their decision.

The new government isn’t a result of a coup or an unconstitutional takeover, but that of a popular election and free will. Begin by acknowledging that this is democracy at work. It may be flawed and damaged, but it is our democracy and it is free choice. Which means you also have the choice to dissent and disagree with the choice, but begin by respecting it.

There is very little grace or sense of proportion in this general bleakness. References from Harry Potter and Avengers: Infinity Wars about fighting the forces of evil that are upon us are cute, but grow up now.

Being woke on social media gets you a few RTs; it doesn’t put you in touch with ground realities. Ask Rahul Gandhi; his twitter game was on point. But only that.

Stop brooding, start listening

If the bhakt is a blinkered bigot, the liberal is a sulky space cadet without a plan.

In the run up to the election, Rahul Gandhi’s affable ineffectualness was passed off as innate nobility, the dynasty sentimentalised and cloyingly romanticised. Not having any kind of strategy to take on a super savvy and smart opponent masqueraded as an adherence to higher romantic ideals. This was la la land where “pyar kabhi haarta nahin hain” (love never loses)—sweet but wishy washy. It doesn’t give you a shot at running the country. Try Mr Congeniality instead.

And now the aftermath.

The liberal has decided that everyone who didn’t buy into the rudderless vision of the opposition is a bigot. It is dangerous. Hardliner, absolute views put you firmly in “bhakt” territory. That means you have cut off yourself from a significant number of people who opted for this government for reasons other than religion.

It also means you are operating in your own echo chamber—the bhakts have the numbers, you don’t have that luxury. You need to engage, you need to listen and accept that there might be alternatives to your absolute reality. The moral high ground is a good ego kick, but some pragmatism would work wonders, too. Start with listening.

Reality, like they tell you in your favourite pop culture references, has many realms to it.

There are people who are not bigots or bhakts but wanted a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government back in 2019. Call them cop outs, but they hoped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would struggle to make the numbers, yet manage to form a government. A reduced majority would be a slap on the wrist—make them rethink their politics of divisiveness and polarisation, get them to rid themselves of the loonies and focus on good, stable governance. This is a compromised version of la la land and mildly delusional, but then, it is a world of limited options, and you’ve go to choose.

Then there were those who didn’t want an unstable coalition with temperamental regional leaders and a clueless Rahul Gandhi presiding.

There were still others who believed in the BJP’s notions of hyper nationhood.

As a “liberal,” you must acknowledge multiple rationales and avoid indiscriminate demonisation of people who didn’t buy into your reality. For it is not them you are pushing into a corner, it is yourself. The more inflexible and hardliner you are, the more the chances the bhakt filter will be applied to you. It is called mute. Keep talking about the imminent apocalypse and blow that as well.

Your best chance is constant engagement with those who don’t share your reality. Get rid of those Harry Potter quotes and Avenger memes. The real world is a different ball game.

And now that you are done licking your wounds, come back with a strategy—a winning one.

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