A fortnight ago, I managed to catch the night show of Jolly LLB 2 at the O2 Arena. Like most rational beings, the popcorn bucket and the tray of nachos are mandatory accomplices. When the barista asked me how much cheese I wanted on the nachos, head tucked into my Whatsapp screen, I mumbled , “A liberal amount.”
The young girl looked at me in astonishment and asked, “And how much is that? A little, a lot, a whole lot?”
I muttered a silent admonition at the dire lack of good education among the youth in England to even understand the meaning of ‘liberal’.
Who’s a Certified Liberal?
The movie was great fun, as was the tray of nachos with the liberal amounts of cheese. And the portrayal of the justice delivery system in Lucknow in the film was spot-on. Only a few days later ‘Lucknow’ and ‘liberal’ came back to haunt me.
The rise of Yogi Adityanath from the mutt of Gorakhpur to the citadel of Lucknow led to the liberal paranoia machine churning out prophecies of doom straight out of Macbeth.
The pot which threw out the prophecies was well-fed with YouTube videos showing the unilateral and unequivocal focus of Yogi ji – Hindu Dharam ki Raksha – from threats within and without. No ifs, no buts. Very Sunny Deol-esque. Let us, for ease of reference, term Yogi ji, Modi ji and the other happily single members carrying out the above goals as "communal".
By implication, all others not in the happy club above are sad. Sad about the election outcome and mourning the last rites of secularism in India. Let us call them Liberals. Make no mistake, the Liberals are multifarious in numbers, highly intelligent and equally argumentative as they are cantankerous. They oppose communalism. What a lovely bunch of bleeding hearts.
They also oppose casteism. Bravo. Regionalism and proliferation of nuclear weapons as well. Applause. They also don’t like war and generally oppose American excesses around the world. Salute. Hey wait, they sometimes propose things as well. Rights of minorities. Rehabilitation of refugees in Kiribati. Water purification plants in Bastar. You get the drift. So if you do one or more or all of the above, you are a certified Liberal.
Oh and one more thing. Never ask a Liberal to explain in one sentence what he stands for. Because he will start with stating a hypothesis, build a paradigm, propose a narrative, challenge assumptions and end the discourse with ten questions in response to your one basic one.
Eavesdropping on a dialogue between two Liberals is a bit of mind f+@#. They will wrestle with the most succinct way of saying something. Except after all that effort, you are left in more doubt than you started off with.
Shampoo-Sachet Style of Politics
I am all for the proliferation of debate and questioning and challenging ideas. But what the Liberals missed in the regime change in Lucknow is that the electorate delivered their decision with total finality. Again, no ifs, no buts.
The campaign built around PM Modi was drip fed with sound bites. Almost like a sachet of anti-dandruff shampoo. Nourishment to the Hindu roots, shine to the long strands of the “vikas” economy and nullifying any threat to the above two. What is there not to understand? You either buy into that sachet or you don’t at the EVM parlour.
But the large liberal mass opposing PM Modi will first deconstruct his role in the 2002 riots notwithstanding a judicial clean chit, highlight selective portions of his more volatile speeches, harp about the shrinkage of the open spaces of liberal debate, point out the grave dangers to our constitutional apparatus and so on and so forth. And then they will trash much of the already subdued opposition as they will turn on the mainstream media, non-governmental organisations and other worthies.
Problem with the Liberals
The end result? There will be social media excreta on every possible topic of debate and all actors involved. So to trash all and raise more questions than offer answers, becomes their “dominant framework” of understanding.
As a consequence, the ability to grasp the shampoo-sachet style political discourse erodes rapidly. Then, the condescending attitude to all things anti-liberal. Typical responses would be: “read,” “logic isn't your strong point,” “flawed and muddled thinking” to anything put out in public by the communal brigade.
Also, if you dare breach rules of Oxford Parliamentary-style debating such as introduce a new point, say thirteen milliseconds into the argument, that has to be disregarded irrespective of its merits. The Liberals carry a heavy baggage indeed, strewn with numerous frameworks, rules and sub-rules of framing debates and usually never having a solution which works in the real world.
Misreading the People’s Mandate
Whether or not Modi ji succeeds with his shampoo-sachet style political communication, we ought to let his voters decide.
But, for the Liberal light infantry to pooh-pooh Modi and Yogi supporters as somehow less aware, less educated, less knowledgeable about debate frameworks is missing the entire picture.
Lastly, the inability to endeavour to engage on the issue of political preference over and above doctrinal pedagogy is misreading the Modi mandate altogether. One recent malignant development among the liberals is to justify running down Modi supporters using their own technique.
Of course, using shampoo-sachet epithets like family-line-mixing profanities would be beneath them. So they resort to vivid analogies of shoving giant pineapples up the rectal path as to somehow show down those asking for Yogi ji to be given a chance.
Engaging with the Modi-Yogi Phenomena
Each is entitled to their own fantasies, but thinking that appropriating the language of the militant right, iced with suave English, is a grave error. That emboldens the right to continue their assaults on things outside the shampoo-sachet understanding.
Of course, the Liberals sitting in ivory towers often in faraway lands will be the last to cow down, but by bringing down the level of debate, they lose a historic opportunity to understand and engage with the new phenomena that the rise of Modi and Yogi portends.
(The writer is a London-based lawyer. He is the author of the book Seven Attempts. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)