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India’s European dilemma as a ‘Vishwa Shishya’: Strategic delusions & idea-centrism issues

Abhivardhan

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The year 2020 marks the shedding of ideological obscuration amidst democracies. Geopolitics and the face of ‘realpolitik’ is undoubtedly at the centre of many problems and avenues that the world accordingly faces. India’s dilemma therefore – is different. In many aspects, India has a fortunate position, unlike EU and the US, which we must never ignore. In terms of constitutionalism, India can learn the social coherency and the urge of credibility towards its institutions from Europe, while in terms of the of the dynamic nature of a democracy and its three sections, it can certainly learn from the US. In terms of strategy and information warfare, India needs to learn from Israel and Russia. In addition, in terms of harnessing the global supply chain and enabling the middle class in India to grow, it can learn, if not inspire from China, Bangladesh and Japan. However, to learn is different from the art, handiness and clarity to adopt or implement. For years, India has been a different ‘Vishwa Shishya’ (term coined by Harsh Gupta, one of the authors of ‘A New Idea of India’), where even the understanding of the term is not as literal as the term even depicts. Vishwa Shishya means someone who can be a ‘disciple’ of the world, in a rigorous, focused and devoted manner. For a constitutional cum civilizational state like India, the internal and exterior annals of learning and relationship towards the world itself have been crispy, confusing and improving. No disciple is perfect, and it is certain that there are strategic, constitutional and economic backlashes that are faced in general. Therefore, even if Europeans or Americans see India differently in a technocratic or Newtonian manner, the depiction itself is not complete, neither absolute.

Even if you see the 6 stages of Indian Foreign Policy as beautifully explained by India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar in the 4th Ramnath Goenka Lecture, 2019 – then you will find that the 2nd and 3rd phases of vulnerability, recovery and regional assertion flipped India’s earlier ideological connectivity with Nehruvian Socialism (political and economic). The social faction of Nehruvian Socialism met its gradual end in the 4th and 5th phases, when economic growth and balancing ties with the US, China and Russia was important. Despite the fact that in the matters of politics, society and economics, there are still some percolations or strands of degeneracy of India’s civilizational ethos, there is no doubt that a sense of revival is imminent, which will be more or less a struggle, for not a long time. The current stage of energy diplomacy, which India stepped in since 2014, has been adventurous – and is reaching the logical conclusion of its beginning in 2020, which was fast because of the expose of the global conditions due to one pandemic. However, the impact is still not much significant, because rebounding and strategic protectionism will drive countries to become competitive. India and ASEAN countries are at the verge of the same. In fact, towards the likelihood or non-likelihood of Joe Biden winning the US Presidency, India is seeking an outreach towards the Democratic Party with the hope that the US is still bipartisan. Under Joe Biden, this would seem calculatedly true (if he wins), and this therefore must not be ignored. Considering the mess that the US Presidential Elections 2020 have become, and the Democratic Party’s deep divisions within, it is clear that the benefit of doubt over the transformation of the realpolitik conditions of the international community will be now central to two important regions – the Indo-Pacific up to the Far East & continental Europe. The article attempts to declutter India’s dilemma towards Europe over two important issues – strategic delusions and idea-centrism.

India and Europe – Moderate & Natural Partners

There is no doubt in asserting that India and Europe are moderate natural partners, in areas such as trade and environment. A report from the European Parliament also suggests that the potential impact of an EU-India trade agreement at between €8 billion and €8.5 billion gains from increased trade for both sides, with a more noteworthy upsurge of trade gains likely towards the Indian side. The study also refers to additional potential gains from enhanced coordination on the provision of global public goods, such as environmental standards. Even in culture, Europe and India are not far, but closer in a reasonable manner. The EU in India organizes cultural fests with the Indian Government and participates in the dialogues and consultations openly. Even Ambassadors from European countries are open to participate with India reasonably. However, the real issue begins when India and Europe, at social levels, clash. This clash is not civilizational, but has both ideological and cultural aspects, which exists, and is not affably even noticed properly by the European community, if is done by the Indian community. The problems, which affect the coherence of cultural-personal relationships between India and Europe are ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism.

There is no doubt to expect that Europe and India do share some common worldviews, which in general is not so close, if can be near to coherency. Whenever we estimate the US’s views on India, we often jump on Hinduphobia and the Kashmir question/affinity towards Pakistan or kindness towards the Muslim Brotherhood, which is merely a limited angle to see the trajectory of Indo-US relations. Similarly, the argument kept that ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism exists as a problem is not merely a monolith of differences over religion and human rights, because the issue of Hinduphobia, like in the US, is more related to the lack of awareness and consciousness in culture policy and diplomacy, which very few Non-Resident Indians reflect in the Americas and Europe, unfortunately. The problems that India as a civilizational state faces, are definitely real, but cannot be overestimated, nor exaggerated. Same applies to those people, who exaggerate Eurocentric world views and act ethnocentric over India and its internal political and social problems – like they intend to do in the case of Africa as well. This exaggeration, has been at peak in the US for long, if not is so much in Europe, where a set of people taint the Indian worldview unreasonably. India’s communication and counter-information strategy has been weak and unfit, which is not completely owed to the Indian Government’s mistakes in dealing with information warfare from the West. In fact, the burden must be shared by the Eurocentric and ethnocentric Western media, which has not been non-partisan for a long time, despite the fact that colonialism and cold war mentality are over. Ideological obscuration, therefore is not the basis of European worldview, in completion, but it also does not mean that Europe cannot suffer from the lasting effects of lack of cultural sensitivity and mobility. The mobile and supportive behaviour of the Central and Eastern European bloc towards India has been a positive act, and will help foster better Indo-EU relations. Inviting center-right and few far-right MEPs to visit the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir in 2019 is not an ideological move, because Eurocentrism is not just the disease of those leaders, who are socialists (even libertarians and conservatives have a lack of awareness of India’s cultural sensitivity and mobility) & so, even Christian conservatives, and libertarians could have made mistakes in understanding the Indian state. Fortunately, the feedback was positive enough, which is a significant win for India. Even the uproar over the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 was unfounded – because the classification of a particular set of people given for the purpose of citizenship into India, does not bar people from earning citizenship into India through legal means, which is naturalization (for outsiders). Unless the Citizenship Amendment Rules of 2020 or 2021 come, no absoluteness over the same matter can be reckoned by the European side over the constitutionality of the Act, and thus, even this claim is unfounded.

Strategic Delusions and its Percolation

Now, why ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism is not myopic to the Indian Government, but to Europeans? Is awareness the only reason? Perhaps not. Europe is very much open in terms of engagement and diversification, and blaming a set of Far-Left/Far-Right political leaders is just an unreasonable method to deal with the problems India and Europe have had for some time. In this century, the European Union needs a defence arrangement (to end the over-reliance on NATO for good), to reckon a non-defeatist and science-security-centric technology leadership (which is being fought among China, the US, India and ASEAN, to name some) and finally, a relevant global competition policy (which is urgent considering the expansionist designs of China in Eastern Europe and the Scandinavian region). In all 3, the situation is quite not much grown, and the migration crisis has already caused some Central and European States to ignore the EU over migration. Although migration is an issue of zero concern to India, there is no doubt that India is eager enough to be patient to seek a revitalized and transformed Europe, which can balance populism and political correctness, like Emmanuel Macron over Islamist extremism, which Angela Merkel could never be able to do so. India’s arduous support of Macron and his diplomatic and personal dignity is not a populist anti-Muslim move, but a clear indication of what reformed multilateralism looks like.

Also, the US is more damaged as an institutional democracy, which is owed to the 12 years of over-personalization of the sanguine nature of the Presidency it relies on. Frankly, it is a bipartisan failure, of both the Democrats and the Republicans, but considering that the Republican party intends to move forward and not endorse Donald J Trump’s rants, they will never ignore the achievements of the 45th President – but rather capitalize on the same reasonably. The Democrats however, have some really bad years ahead due to their stance over the Critical Race Theory, and the Black Lives Matter campaigning, which in no way helps the minorities. In fact, as per the AP VoteCast survey on the US Presidential Elections 2020, around 35% Muslims voted for Donald J Trump, including a more diverse coalition of women, Latino and black voters. The white vote has plummeted, which is insanely interesting. Also, the House Republicans have gained amassed benefits in their numbers, even if they cannot grab the majority this year, which shows that the end of a Trump Presidency, will undeniably lead to a degeneracy and decay of the democratic socialists and cultural Marxists, who dominated the image of the Democratic Party for long, and destroyed their credibility around the world. The relationship between democratic socialists and cultural Marxists in the US & Europe is also not unfounded. However, considering France and Germany’s unison over resisting political Islam and China, which will be significant in Europe in the coming years, the political disease of eurocentrism is set to be cured better, thus making the European political faction cautious about their worldviews. A reasonable definition of anti-Semitism also has been adopted by the Global Imams Council, which is a reasonable move, not only in the eyes of UAE and Saudi Arabia, but also the European right, which has to stand up reasonably. European secularism will also take a dramatic turn. France’ Macron is a perfect balance between the Far-Left and the Far-Right in Europe, and before Chancellor Merkel leaves world politics, she will never be intending to taint the Christian Democratic Union in Germany, and therefore empowering the Far-Right Alternative for Germany. Thus, the four years of Trump Presidency, even if have been turbulent for Europe and its institutional cum ideological values, have given a sense of learning to Europe to expose itself to a stronger and resilient worldview, which is coherent.

Additionally, Europeans are now realizing that they need to bridge and change their policies over three significant countries – India, Russia and China. With India, Europe is set for a trade deal any year soon, in clear opposition to the treachery of the values of European liberalism (or libertarianism) committed by the Chinese Communist Party led by Xi Jinping. Taiwan cannot be ignored anymore, as not only the US, but some EU member-states are leaning to endorse the leadership there in a moderate and transforming resistance against the Chinese wolf-warrior diplomacy. With Russia, the range of complexity depends on the state of Central Asia, where if Europe and NATO do not control Turkey (supported by Pakistan), then the US might step in assertively. However, it is in the best interest of Europe to sanction and take action against Reccip Tayyip Erdogan. Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the umbilical cords to the geopolitical transformation of defence partnerships between India and EU member-states. India already is in course for defence partnerships with Kazakhstan under the nose of China, as Eurasian Times reported. Thus, a better vision of multiculturalism – which started from Europe (not the US) in the 1990s can be presented to the international community, which will be welcomed heartily by the Indian Government.

IDEA-CENTRISM AND ITS DIMENSIONS

India shares the values of multiculturalism that Europe concedes to. Secularism and multiculturalism, despite being amazingly different, are essential to India and Europe in general. Indian secularism is not based on Semitic faiths such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism (although several attempts were made in India to impose the same, unfortunately by the Indian National Congress and the Nehruvian socialists for years). Instead, India’s vision of secularism, in full agreement with Rajeev Mantri and Harsh Gupta’s A New Idea of India – is composed of respect and devotion towards the civilizational heritage and diversity of India’s geography and cultures, which cannot be limited to the term called ‘Hindu Nationalism’ & the idea of coherence instead of artificial tolerance towards different Semitic and non-Semitic faiths, frankly. India has always welcomed people of different faiths, and will do, whenever it feels reasonable enough. Also, the dimension of sovereignty in India, is not ideological, but pragmatic, based on (1) a feudal governance model, which is often misinterpreted as ‘quasi-federalism’ under Indian Constitutional Law (since the Government of India Act of 1935 and other colonial adoptions from the British is still present in India) and (2) central to the concept of competence, and not power (which the Western and Indian media represents worse on unfounded claims). Kautilya, the architect of the Mauryan empire always embraced the idea of competence over a micro-managed servility towards power as a corrupt concept. It was Ashoka who destroyed this empire, because of his micro-management of governance and the eulogization of his identity as a King equivalent to that of a God, which never happens commonly in the history of Indic kings. Celebrating the cult and its diversity is not unfounded, neither unreasonable for the Indian people, because of years of mistreatment of the Indian state and the judiciary of the religious, social and cultural institutions of the Indic community. For example, the word Dharma is not equivalent to the word ‘religion’ and ‘Jati’ is not the English word ‘caste’, which unfortunately, has been a colonial misrepresentation of the Indic culture. Thus, the feudal system of constitutionalism from the British had its own reasonability in India, which now can be effectively transformed to a federal but responsible and accountable system of governance. India knows it very well that dominance in the information age is based on decentralization, not over-centralization of the state machinery. This inspiration is not directly American, but European – because if we see the laws (passed and in process to be proposed or passed in the Indian Parliament), many of them on information technology, AI and fintech are directly inspired from Europe. The Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 is definitely inspired from the General Protection Data Regulation with some Indian modification of course, for example. Therefore, there is no doubt that India is eager to learn from Europe, its old friend. What Europe should do to express gratitude is to transform and revitalize its approach to strategize some limited identitarian European values, which are universal yet pragmatic, which starts with the European Parliament and the European Commission’s leaderships. Center-right, libertarian and Center-left politicians are better than Far-Right and Far-Left parties, and even when we see the current state of the COVID19 pandemic, we will find surveys proving that the Far-Right, for example, is suffering pretty well, especially in Germany and Austria. Center-right parties will have a better stronghold, but if their public health policies are not reasonable, then mere populism or assurance will not help the people. On the other hand, in India, the Culture-conservative and governance-libertarian governments in India (state-level) are doing significantly well in their efforts to curb the COVID-19 virus and its spread. Some socialist governments in India are not doing well, like West Bengal and Kerala, while the Central Government in India is well-prepared in contact tracing, decreasing the number of deaths and even handling the quarantine zones, which no one would have ever expected from a country like India, whose health infrastructure is a serious mess. India has been cooperative and helpful towards ASEAN countries, like what European Union tries to do with the Middle East and even some non-EU member-states as well as the Commission did since March 2020.

Thus, it is clear that the pair of India and Europe can certainly do better in terms of cooperation and transformation of the global economy, global health and environment system & the world of multilateralism, instead of the pair of India and the US. No one should ignore the potential of an Indo-US cooperation – but over relying on a skewed democracy like the US is often risky for the resilience of the Indian democracy. India can adopt and maintain the transformation of QUAD to its logical beginning as of now, as it presides the UN Security Council, the Shanghai Cooperation, G20 and other significant forums along with the Executive Bodies of the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization. It is however also in the best interest of Europe, like India to have a meaningful and not over-reliant relationship with the US. Instead, Europe can look towards the global south and transform a resilient and meaningful network of partnerships swiftly, in the interest of peace and security, and so, a reasonable model of economic development. The US will be significant in the coming years to combat ideological obscuration and culture wars, which India and Europe would never to intrude much. Thus, one US election cannot decide in absolutism, as to how the state of the world will be – as the impact of the changes made by President Trump will help more, and damage less, the global order. This is therefore the best moment of a charted territory in the relationship between India and Europe to revitalize and protect the liberalism that the rules-based international order is fond of, which is not misused by anyone, whether it is the US, or China or Russia.

About the author: Abhivardhan is the Chief Executive Officer of Internationalism and the Chairperson & Managing Trustee of the Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law.

In terms of strategy and information warfare, India needs to learn from Israel and Russia. In addition, in terms of harnessing the global supply chain and enabling the middle class in India to grow, it can learn from China, Bangladesh and Japan. However, to learn is different from the art, handiness and clarity to adopt or implement. For years, India has been a different ‘Vishwa Shishya’ (term coined by Harsh Gupta, one of the authors of ‘A New Idea of India’), where even the understanding of the term is not as literal as the term even depicts.

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Opinion

BIDEN’S SUMMIT FOR DEMOCRACY RILES CHINA

Joyeeta Basu

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President Joe Biden’s two-day “Summit for Democracy” on 9-10 December 2021 has riled China to no end, maybe because an invitation never went to it in spite of it having the world’s best form of democracy, which it calls the “whole process democracy”. An angry Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week, during a conversation with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, “The US seeks to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries under the banner of democracy and abuse democratic values to create divides.” As reported by the Chinese media, Wang Yi asserted that socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics was whole-process people’s democracy, which had proved to be very popular among the Chinese people. He dismissed American democracy as beset with problems and said that it would be hypocrisy if the US claimed that it was a defender of democracy. Wang asked the international community to perform two tests, the first one being how many countries considered Washington the model of democracy. He said the results would be awkward for the US. And the second test would be to measure people’s satisfaction toward their governments, and a “certain country would be put on the spot” in this case too. China has flooded social media with posts singing paeans to Chinese-style “democracy”. Given the angst on display, it is obvious that China is extremely sensitive on this issue, making clear that “procedure”—obviously elections—does not make a country a democracy. This is in the realm of alternate, in fact spurious reality and in keeping with the Chinese habit of trying to rewrite history and now language. The shrillness of the tone is understandable, especially at a time when reports suggest that the Chinese economy is under pressure, the gap between the haves and have nots is increasing, Xi Jinping is asking his country to return to a past of austerity for the sake of “common prosperity” and is single-handedly wrecking the private sector. When there is a downslide, no wonder it’s time to repackage authoritarianism as Chinese-style democracy to a people who were given prosperity as a functioning alternative to people’s power. It also shows how badly China takes to a loss of face.

China’s reaction to Taiwan’s inclusion in the summit has been near apoplectic. The inclusion came on the heels of Xi Jinping issuing a threat to Joe Biden during their virtual meet that whoever tries “to use Taiwan to contain China” “will get burnt”. That interaction would have hardened President Biden’s resolve to invite Taiwan to the Summit and he should be commended for his action. However, in this context, it is difficult to understand the rationale behind inviting Pakistan to the Summit—a country that is ruled by the military. Also, terrorist state Pakistan is beholden to “iron brother” China, has one of the worst human rights records in the world, has led the US up the garden path in Afghanistan and has installed by force a Taliban government in Kabul. A crime should not have been rewarded by an invitation to the Summit. And then to have Pakistan reject the invitation!

Mention also must be made about India, the world’s most populous democracy, which will be present at the Biden summit and rightly so, notwithstanding the fake narrative being created by the Pak-Chinese axis about India becoming an “electoral autocracy”. However, when it comes to China, India’s silence on the way Beijing muzzled democracy in Hong Kong was baffling—for that matter even on Chinese threats to a dynamic democracy such as Taiwan. Whenever it comes to China, India’s caution can be unsettling—be it on human rights violations by China is Tibet and Xinjiang, or about China’s role in spreading the pandemic across the world. For that matter, it is surprising that India put its stamp on the statement issued by the RIC (Russia-India-China) meeting, promising participation in the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Even though India’s participation in Winter Olympics is negligible, a statement could have been made by at least announcing a diplomatic boycott of the Games, as both the US and Australia have done. Quietly turning a blind eye to China’s atrocities, or at the most make an oblique statement, does not behoove the world’s largest democracy. It’s time to stand up for India’s democratic values.

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Opinion

A lethal touch to the ‘Preamble’ of India’s Constitution

The politics of our country is on a test drive of majoritarianism being ferociously provoked as a cause for achieving national unity. In consequence and eventually, everyone starts feeling insecure and the state appropriates a role for wartime preparedness against the heightened environment of insecurity.

Amita Singh

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Can people in top public spaces be excused of their deadly contributions to aggravating turbulence in national governance? Most recently, such a disproportionate use of their right to ‘freedom of expression’ in firing illogical and perilous cannons against modern India’s security heritage, the Constitution is disturbing if not shocking. The Chief Justice of a High Court of the country’s most sensitive state and a seasoned bureaucrat turned politician lead the chorus against the ‘Preamble’. It is doubtless that the current government’s rise to power was on a radical Hindu card and for that reason lashing the snaky wand of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ to divert people from looking into many of its other ethical and legal lapses in the Parliament, appears to be part of a larger strategic design. The Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court Justice Pankaj Mithal who wants Preamble to rewrite ‘Secular India’ as a “Spiritual Republic of India” followed by an experienced bureaucrat turned BJP politician K.J. Alphons, who introduced a private members’ Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to substitute ‘socialism’ to ‘equitable’. 

In both cases, demands are made to confuse state authorities from more concrete and clearer tools of governance to a fuzzy and mystic garden of free atoms. An insight into an epistemological history of either ‘spiritualism’ or of ‘equity (equitable)’ suggests that despite massive intellectual debates, court battles and wars, these two words or metaphors have never reached any definitional agreement. Moreover, these suggested changes in the ‘Preamble’ is not an end of a benignly appearing demand but a grinding wheel of anarchy that this nation would be left to suffer as even on a minimal scale it would need massive and far-reaching changes in all other Chapters from Citizenship, Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy, Fundamental Duties, Union and State relations, Parliament, Local Governance, Election and Representation laws, Chapter XII of Finance, Property, Contracts and Suits and Chapter XX of Amendment Procedure given in the Constitution. Are people ready to take this fatal dive into a surreptitious sea of self-destruction that our neighbours are entangled in and struggling with?

The Preamble is the life and blood of our Constitution and constitutes its basic structure as explained comprehensively in the 42nd Amendment Act. It is the opening statement of the Constitution but was the last to be brought together in the Constituent Assembly as a gist or a spirit of how the Republic would be governed. There are many instances when members of the Constituent Assembly rose up to express, what came in news as ‘poetic heights’ such as Pundit Thakur Das Bhargav’s unambiguous utterance in the Assembly that, ‘the Preamble is the most precious part of the Constitution. It is the soul of the Constitution….It is a key to the Constitution. It is a jewel set in the Constitution.’ Yet, despite mammoth support, Nehru and Ambedkar could not insert secularism in the Preamble. Three decades later it was left to Indira Gandhi to complete that task which had become indispensable for a nation that also carried with it religious brigades and personal laws which consistently challenged the state to resolve religious inconsistencies. It became important that the state remain distanced and separated from the sphere of religion.

Secularism keeps belief systems of the state separated from the belief systems of private and personal or of the faith practised by communities. The public school systems should not be driven by religion and should take to religious teaching in books and in classrooms, the coexistence of all faiths and belief systems. As Sardar Patel had expressed in one of his speeches on 5 June 1949 that “…a healthy secular outlook is the foundation of true democracy.” Nehru had, however, expressed to Andre Malaurx during the freedom struggle that his biggest challenge is to “.. to create a secular state in a religious society”. Everyone knows the circumstances in which the Union of India was created through the stupendous diplomacy of Sardar Patel and timely action by Indian forces. Many compromises were made to win freedom from the British and the biggest was to accept the idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan and accommodate 566 Princely states. Yet while this was being done Patel was also taking stringent action against the banned RSS outfit led by Golwalker to accept in writing his allegiance to the national flag and the Constitution of India which he was not ready to give. The most obvious expression to keep religious brigades at bay or out of the governance of the country was to accept ‘secularism’ as a basic feature of our country.

In contrast to this enduring ideal of ‘secularism’, the CJ Mithal suggests a precarious idea of its replacement by ‘spirituality’. Ironically, the judge seems to be ignorant about the vast cross-cultural analytical literature on the subject. There is no single, widely agreed-upon definition of spirituality. A wide-ranging field of definitions emerges from the oldest scripture Vedas to Mesopotamian, Judaism, Islamic and Catholic definitions of spirituality. The word is open-ended and becomes more obscure when attempts are made to define it within a particular faith but it rarely gets attention outside any faith. This word glows up every faithful and connects them to their universal ideal and raises the individual from gross worldly existence to ‘beyond body experiences’.An interesting historical review of ‘Spirituality’ by Walter Principe in his 1983 work, ‘Toward Defining Spirituality’ found the term portentously undefinable. As he expressed that even after accumulating more than 100 definitions one is probably further away from its true meaning. However, the suggested ‘Spiritual Republic’ by the Judge would have to choose a historical context, a religious ideal to connect to the Supreme in a realm of the spirit or the transcendent. This comes into play even though spirituality differs from religion because human spirituality is composed of relationships, values and life purposes that religious doctrines inscribe in human brains from birth. Spirituality is truly practised by saints who can renounce the world and look down on worldly pleasures while giving away whatever they possess. There are many saints in every religion and to say that spirituality can still become a unifying bond practised by the state will only bring back the pre-renaissance or pre-Bhakti Yuga period of persecution of innocent citizens at the altar of Churches, Mosques or Temples. God forbid if that’s the future some people are imagining for a progressively advancing free Indian nation.

Similarly, ‘equitable’ is again fraught with many undefinable questions. Interestingly, the language of the law is more meaningful than a legal document itself. ‘Equitable’ is a word within which is embedded a notion of goodness, fairness, justice, equality and a life of dignity but all these embedded notions are further defined in their own ways which make enforcement of ‘equitable’ impossible. Socialism promotes equitable distribution in the context of a society that has a definable database for distribution. Why are such unnecessary terminological conflicts being created without proper homework on legal semantics? In legal language, the semantic domain provides a most appropriate meaning to issues in law as these abstract words by their very nature are not static and can never be defined the way they are being suggested for the Preamble. Alphons missed the point! 

The Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala 1973 unambiguously explains that the ‘Constitution is not a document for fastidious dialectics but the means of ordering the life of people’ and its core values are various facets of the spirit that pervades our Constitution in different scenarios. Justice Holmes in Abrams v United States (250 US 616) made an apt comment on such controversies, ‘A Constitution is an experiment as all life is an experiment.’ In Nakara v. Union of India, the Supreme Court settled the fact that the basic framework of Socialism is to provide a decent standard of life to the working people and especially provide security from cradle to grave. This primarily envisages economic equality and equitable distribution of income. So where is the perceived need for replacement of ‘socialism’ by ‘equitable’?

The politics of our country is on a test drive of majoritarianism being ferociously provoked as a cause for achieving national unity. In consequence and eventually, everyone starts feeling insecure and the state appropriates a role for wartime preparedness against the heightened environment of insecurity. Much can be read in the words of Felix Frankfurter in his tribute to Justice Holmes, “Whether the Constitution is treated primarily as a text for interpretation or as an instrument of Government may make all the difference in the word”. The private member’s Amendment Bill is explainable as a distracting design from more important matters which need our attention but CJ Mithal is merely playing a good host.

The writer is president of Network Asia Pacific Disaster Research Group (NDRG), Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), and former Professor of Administrative Reforms and Emergency Governance at JNU. The views expressed are personal.

Can people in top public spaces be excused of their deadly contributions to aggravating turbulence in national governance? Most recently, such a disproportionate use of their right to ‘freedom of expression’ in firing illogical and perilous cannons against modern India’s security heritage, the Constitution is disturbing if not shocking. The Chief Justice of a High Court of the country’s most sensitive state and a seasoned bureaucrat turned politician lead the chorus against the ‘Preamble’. It is doubtless that the current government’s rise to power was on a radical Hindu card and for that reason lashing the snaky wand of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ to divert people from looking into many of its other ethical and legal lapses in the Parliament, appears to be part of a larger strategic design. The Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court Justice Pankaj Mithal who wants Preamble to rewrite ‘Secular India’ as a “Spiritual Republic of India” followed by an experienced bureaucrat turned BJP politician K.J. Alphons, who introduced a private members’ Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to substitute ‘socialism’ to ‘equitable’. 

In both cases, demands are made to confuse state authorities from more concrete and clearer tools of governance to a fuzzy and mystic garden of free atoms. An insight into an epistemological history of either ‘spiritualism’ or of ‘equity (equitable)’ suggests that despite massive intellectual debates, court battles and wars, these two words or metaphors have never reached any definitional agreement. Moreover, these suggested changes in the ‘Preamble’ is not an end of a benignly appearing demand but a grinding wheel of anarchy that this nation would be left to suffer as even on a minimal scale it would need massive and far-reaching changes in all other Chapters from Citizenship, Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy, Fundamental Duties, Union and State relations, Parliament, Local Governance, Election and Representation laws, Chapter XII of Finance, Property, Contracts and Suits and Chapter XX of Amendment Procedure given in the Constitution. Are people ready to take this fatal dive into a surreptitious sea of self-destruction that our neighbours are entangled in and struggling with?

The Preamble is the life and blood of our Constitution and constitutes its basic structure as explained comprehensively in the 42nd Amendment Act. It is the opening statement of the Constitution but was the last to be brought together in the Constituent Assembly as a gist or a spirit of how the Republic would be governed. There are many instances when members of the Constituent Assembly rose up to express, what came in news as ‘poetic heights’ such as Pundit Thakur Das Bhargav’s unambiguous utterance in the Assembly that, ‘the Preamble is the most precious part of the Constitution. It is the soul of the Constitution….It is a key to the Constitution. It is a jewel set in the Constitution.’ Yet, despite mammoth support, Nehru and Ambedkar could not insert secularism in the Preamble. Three decades later it was left to Indira Gandhi to complete that task which had become indispensable for a nation that also carried with it religious brigades and personal laws which consistently challenged the state to resolve religious inconsistencies. It became important that the state remain distanced and separated from the sphere of religion.

Secularism keeps belief systems of the state separated from the belief systems of private and personal or of the faith practised by communities. The public school systems should not be driven by religion and should take to religious teaching in books and in classrooms, the coexistence of all faiths and belief systems. As Sardar Patel had expressed in one of his speeches on 5 June 1949 that “…a healthy secular outlook is the foundation of true democracy.” Nehru had, however, expressed to Andre Malaurx during the freedom struggle that his biggest challenge is to “.. to create a secular state in a religious society”. Everyone knows the circumstances in which the Union of India was created through the stupendous diplomacy of Sardar Patel and timely action by Indian forces. Many compromises were made to win freedom from the British and the biggest was to accept the idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan and accommodate 566 Princely states. Yet while this was being done Patel was also taking stringent action against the banned RSS outfit led by Golwalker to accept in writing his allegiance to the national flag and the Constitution of India which he was not ready to give. The most obvious expression to keep religious brigades at bay or out of the governance of the country was to accept ‘secularism’ as a basic feature of our country.

In contrast to this enduring ideal of ‘secularism’, the CJ Mithal suggests a precarious idea of its replacement by ‘spirituality’. Ironically, the judge seems to be ignorant about the vast cross-cultural analytical literature on the subject. There is no single, widely agreed-upon definition of spirituality. A wide-ranging field of definitions emerges from the oldest scripture Vedas to Mesopotamian, Judaism, Islamic and Catholic definitions of spirituality. The word is open-ended and becomes more obscure when attempts are made to define it within a particular faith but it rarely gets attention outside any faith. This word glows up every faithful and connects them to their universal ideal and raises the individual from gross worldly existence to ‘beyond body experiences’.An interesting historical review of ‘Spirituality’ by Walter Principe in his 1983 work, ‘Toward Defining Spirituality’ found the term portentously undefinable. As he expressed that even after accumulating more than 100 definitions one is probably further away from its true meaning. However, the suggested ‘Spiritual Republic’ by the Judge would have to choose a historical context, a religious ideal to connect to the Supreme in a realm of the spirit or the transcendent. This comes into play even though spirituality differs from religion because human spirituality is composed of relationships, values and life purposes that religious doctrines inscribe in human brains from birth. Spirituality is truly practised by saints who can renounce the world and look down on worldly pleasures while giving away whatever they possess. There are many saints in every religion and to say that spirituality can still become a unifying bond practised by the state will only bring back the pre-renaissance or pre-Bhakti Yuga period of persecution of innocent citizens at the altar of Churches, Mosques or Temples. God forbid if that’s the future some people are imagining for a progressively advancing free Indian nation.

Similarly, ‘equitable’ is again fraught with many undefinable questions. Interestingly, the language of the law is more meaningful than a legal document itself. ‘Equitable’ is a word within which is embedded a notion of goodness, fairness, justice, equality and a life of dignity but all these embedded notions are further defined in their own ways which make enforcement of ‘equitable’ impossible. Socialism promotes equitable distribution in the context of a society that has a definable database for distribution. Why are such unnecessary terminological conflicts being created without proper homework on legal semantics? In legal language, the semantic domain provides a most appropriate meaning to issues in law as these abstract words by their very nature are not static and can never be defined the way they are being suggested for the Preamble. Alphons missed the point! 

The Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala 1973 unambiguously explains that the ‘Constitution is not a document for fastidious dialectics but the means of ordering the life of people’ and its core values are various facets of the spirit that pervades our Constitution in different scenarios. Justice Holmes in Abrams v United States (250 US 616) made an apt comment on such controversies, ‘A Constitution is an experiment as all life is an experiment.’ In Nakara v. Union of India, the Supreme Court settled the fact that the basic framework of Socialism is to provide a decent standard of life to the working people and especially provide security from cradle to grave. This primarily envisages economic equality and equitable distribution of income. So where is the perceived need for replacement of ‘socialism’ by ‘equitable’?

The politics of our country is on a test drive of majoritarianism being ferociously provoked as a cause for achieving national unity. In consequence and eventually, everyone starts feeling insecure and the state appropriates a role for wartime preparedness against the heightened environment of insecurity. Much can be read in the words of Felix Frankfurter in his tribute to Justice Holmes, “Whether the Constitution is treated primarily as a text for interpretation or as an instrument of Government may make all the difference in the word”. The private member’s Amendment Bill is explainable as a distracting design from more important matters which need our attention but CJ Mithal is merely playing a good host.

The writer is president of Network Asia Pacific Disaster Research Group (NDRG), Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), and former Professor of Administrative Reforms and Emergency Governance at JNU. The views expressed are personal.

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MASKS, VACCINATIONS WILL TACKLE SPREAD OF THE NEW COVID-19 VARIANT

Priya Sahgal

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Even if the new variant of the Covid-19 virus is yet to spread in India at the scale it has spread in Europe and South Africa, all the trappings that accompany a new variant are there on the ground at Delhi’s T3— the fear, panic, and the chaos. With international flights ready to resume from December 15, the airport had groomed itself to resume activities and the focus was on flights taking off. But once Omicron was detected and global alert bells rang, India too put in its new norms which included testing of those passengers arriving from the list of ‘At-Risk’ countries. These include the United Kingdom, all 44 countries in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel. The testing centers which were earlier there at the airport during the Delta variant had since reduced their staff. Now suddenly in the blink of an eye, they were told to begin screening the arrivals yet again. Almost overnight, they had to not just ramp up the testing but also set up the supporting infrastructure.

Those passengers who were landing from other countries were not at risk of getting caught up in the rush and simply added to the already crowded airport. The site of the tests is between the aerobridge and the immigration counters. But here is the catch: the said corridor is not designed to be a holding area but a transit one. Now suddenly with as many as three to four flights landing at the same time you had passengers crowding this confined space waiting for the test results that took anything from two to eight hours. If you signed online for the RT-PCR test before boarding the flight the fee is Rs 500 and you have to wait eight hours. Most passengers (at least those who could afford it) on landing opted for the Rapid PCR test that cost Rs 3900 and took two hours for the result. In the meanwhile, the only option for the passengers was to wait and have coffee from the vending machine that was installed as recently as December 2nd, the very next day after the new rules came into being.

Crossing immigration is another nightmare with long queues even at the counters earmarked for those needing special assistance or those with a diplomatic passport. This takes anything from two hours to beyond. And don’t think you are in the clear yet because the baggage belt brings its own chaos. Because so many passengers are still stranded at the testing sites, their luggage has been taken off the belt and is lying around. So, all the best for identifying your bag amidst all those that have been offloaded from the belt. The civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has been monitoring the situation and has held several high-level meetings to figure out a solution to ease this mess, so let’s watch this space.

So far India has recorded 21 cases of Omicron in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Delhi. The testing at the airport will only tell you if you have Covid or not. But to figure out which variant, one will have to send the results for genome sequencing, a process that takes anything from five to seven days. In the meantime, there has been enough exposure at the airport testing center to spread the virus if a passenger tests positive. And the one thing we know about Omicron is that it is highly contagious.

The other thing that we suspect— though it will take further two weeks to establish this as a certainty— is that the virus is not as lethal as the Delta variant. As we have learnt from the Delta variant, closing our borders does not stop the spread of the virus. What stops it is masks and vaccinations. While vaccine hesitancy still looms large in our villages, most of those who have taken the two doses are now ready for their third. Especially the health care workers and the elderly. The government is mulling a third dose but does it have the requisite funds for it? In the meantime, unused vaccinations are lying with private hospitals as most are opting for the government centers offering a free dose, especially now that the rush has eased. The government needs to find a solution to balance the two.

And in the end, if indeed the new variant isn’t as lethal as the Delta one (even if it’s more contagious) we may be moving towards the scenario where covid gets flu-like status. Which honestly is the best-case scenario that everyone is hoping for.

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Reset of India-Russia relationship a necessity

The changed world order and their alliances with each other’s rivals have necessitated a reset of the Indo-Russia relationship.

Semu Bhatt

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Russian President Vladimir Putin was in India for the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit. This was the first in-person meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Putin since their meeting in November 2019 on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil. The visit was short but significant as this was only the second time that thae Russian President travelled abroad during the pandemic, after his trip to Geneva this summer for a meeting with US President Joe Biden. 

This year marks 50 years of the signing of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation between India and the Soviet Union, a treaty that sent a strong signal both to Washington and Beijing back in 1971. The shifted sands of geopolitics have put India and Russia on different trajectories in the 21st Century that has brought them to a situation quite opposite to the one in 1971—the US has inched towards India, while Russia has taken to China and some extent to Pakistan. The Indo-US or the Sino-Russia ties are not time-tested like the Indo-Russian ties but have evolved due to convergence of interest between the partner nations against a common threat—China, in the case of India and the US, and the US in the case of Russia and China. The changed world order and their alliances with each other’s rivals have necessitated a reset of the Indo-Russia relationship. By choosing to visit India, that too at a time when India-China tensions are running high, Putin is giving a clear message that Kremlin’s foreign policy will not be dictated by Beijing, and that New Delhi remains an important partner of Moscow. India, on its part, is signalling its strategic autonomy by holding the inaugural “2+2” foreign and defence ministers’ dialogue with Russia, like the arrangement that India has with the Quad group countries—the US, Japan, and Australia. India has also gone ahead with the arms deal with Russia even when it comes with a risk of potential sanctions by the US.

Defence trade forms the bedrock of India-Russia relations. Although the arms procurement from Russia has witnessed a steady decline under the Narendra Modi government, Russia remains the biggest defence supplier to India amounting to 58% of India’s imports in the period of 2014-18. A large base of Russian equipment, weapons and platforms are currently in military use in India—missiles, aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine included. India is and will remain dependent on Russia for the maintenance and upgrades of the systems already in use and for the ones in the pipeline. India’s diversification of defence purchase, and its ambition to create a robust domestic defence manufacturing base, means the imports from Russia will continue to drop. However, Russia will remain a critical partner given its willingness to transfer sensitive defence technologies and joint developments.

India aims to expand its non-defence trade with Russia, especially in the energy sector, but the set target is far less than the current Russia-China trade. As of now, defence is the sector where New Delhi is more valuable to Moscow not only because it is the biggest buyer of the Russian military-industrial complex but also because, unlike China, India does not indulge in intellectual property thefts or reverse engineering and does not pose a threat to the Russian arms market with own exports. India is the second-largest defence importer in the world and Russia’s top defence trade partner. It can use its position to negotiate best deals with defence suppliers (Russia and others) as well as to ensure that Kremlin pays heed to Indian sensitivities regarding weapons deals and military alliances with China and Pakistan.

India needs a dependable P5 nation that would stand by India’s national interests, especially as the veto-wielding China turns increasingly hostile and as Pakistan turns into a Chinese colony. Russia may speak the harsh language at times or turn an occasional blind eye to Chinese attempts against India, but it has never voted against Indian interests at the UNSC. Irrespective of Russia’s uneasiness over the Quad grouping and the Russian foreign minister referring to Indo-Pacific as Asia-Pacific, Russia is supplying advanced systems like S-400 to India despite Chinese objections. Its ties with the “iron brothers” notwithstanding, Russia was the first P5 nation to formally state that abrogation of Article 370 is an internal matter for India. India and Russia also have no bilateral disputes or rivalries and have adopted silence over, if not supported, each other’s sensitive issues, be it Kashmir or Crimea.

Russia is a key player in Afghanistan with access to every other player, including the Taliban. Indian and Russian interests align over drug trafficking and Islamist terrorism that is certain to emanate from Taliban-led Afghanistan. Russia has snubbed India by excluding it from the extended Troika and has sided with China and Pakistan concerning the Taliban, but it also created a permanent consultation channel for talks on Afghanistan between President Putin and PM Modi. Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, has been to New Delhi twice after the fall of Kabul. Russia is concerned that the Taliban, or for that matter Pakistan, cannot be trusted to stop the flow of terrorism or drugs into Central Asia. The situation in Afghanistan is very fluid and it is hard to predict what may happen, but a Russia-India, and possibly Iran, overt or covert cooperation to safeguard individual interests and influence cannot be ruled out.

While the risk to reward ratio works for Russia with respect to its ties with China, it is an asymmetric relationship between a former superpower and the next superpower. Russia is worried not just about being relegated as the junior partner of Beijing but also losing out in its historical sphere of influence in Central Asia. Russia has been doing its counterbalancing act vis-à-vis China and India, which, not surprisingly, is vital to that act—seeking investments from India (and Japan) in its Far East, the Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor that passes through the South China Sea, supplying sensitive defence systems to India, an impetus to the negotiations on a free trade agreement between India and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), cooperation in the Arctic and the joint venture on BrahMos missiles that will be exported to third countries including to some Southeast Asian nations. India will not be able to pull Russia away from China or become the third side of the dream triangle as envisaged by Russia, but from Indian, as well as the Western perspective, it makes no sense to let Russia-China embrace get any tighter by leaving Moscow with no other option. 

A strong relationship with the superpower US based on mutual respect and benefit is a desirable prospect for India. However, a neighbourhood driven by hostility from/towards the US is India’s current reality, which makes continued close ties with Russia particularly important. The fact that Russia enjoys good relations with China and India, and India enjoys good relations with both Russia and the US, put the two old partners in a unique position to leverage the ties. If the communication channels are open, if the expectations are realistic, if the focus is on the convergence of interests rather than divergence, and if the red lines are marked clearly, the “special and privileged strategic partnership” shared by the two nations will not only withstand the pressures of geopolitics but will thrive and may even bring some stability to the region.

Defence trade forms the bedrock of India-Russia relations. Although the arms procurement from Russia has witnessed a steady decline under the Narendra Modi government, Russia remains the biggest defence supplier to India amounting to 58% of India’s imports in the period of 2014-18.

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DON’T LET RUSSIA IMPACT INDIA’S RISE

Joyeeta Basu

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The near-complete lack of media interest in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India should be indicative of the loss in importance of India’s Russia ties. Compared to a US President’s visit to India, or the Chinese President’s visit, there were hardly any ripples over Putin’s visit, except in diplomatic and related circles. As for the people of this country, it was just another routine visit by a foreign head of state. And all this in the 50th year of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. But then in a post Cold War world, it is but natural that a has-been power, a rump of the former Soviet Russia—which not only lost the Cold War but also faced the humiliation of dismemberment—would not evoke much interest. Whatever be the history of so-called people-to-people relations with Russia, the common Indian has always chosen the capitalist West over a socialist and now an oligarchic Russia—a brief study of migration trends will make this even more apparent. In spite of this, it is Russia that our policymakers have chosen over the West, while sending their own children to the United States and other such countries to build a life. Worse, many of these policymakers continue to be in “love” with Russia, more often than not impacting policy. The Russian lobby in New Delhi is among the most entrenched, but losing some sheen lately, courtesy the warming up of ties between India and US and India’s forays into the Indo-Pacific through the Quad.

India-Russia relations have always hinged on defence, where historically we have put nearly all our eggs in the Russian basket. One argument offered to justify this closeness is “transfer of technology”. That the West did not give us technology, which Russia did; that the West has always been suspicious of India that it will pass on technology to either Russia or China. There is logic in such an argument, but also a refusal to see the reality. Why would the West transfer technology to a country that for decades stayed firmly aligned with Soviet Russia—the West’s bugbear—in the name of nonalignment? In fact, in spite of the current bonhomie with the US, a degree of suspicion about India persists among a section of US policymakers, as became apparent in a piece written by John Bolton in the Hill last month on India’s purchase of the S-400 and the possibility of sanctioning India under CAATSA (India’s S-400 missile system problem, 10 November 2021). Bolton, President Donald Trump’s one-time NSA, complained of India “sending contradictory signals” and wondered if India was “playing” Washington. As this writer has been arguing for a long time, what may appear as “strategic autonomy” to India, may appear as “strategic confusion” or sitting on the fence to the rest of the world at best, and devious game-playing at its worst.

With the rise of a malign force such as China the whole geopolitical terrain has changed. While we agree that it’s now a multilateral world, but there is no denying, that multilateralism functions within the broader contours of a bilateral world, where it is US vs China. And Russia is firmly aligned with China because of its own compulsions, including because it is battered by sanctions imposed by the West. Will hanging on to Russia’s coattails for the sake of the past help India against China? A simple question in this context is: In case of an India-China kinetic conflict, which side will Russia support? If the answer is Russia will “stay neutral”, then of what value are “time-tested” India-Russia relations?

There is no place for emotions in geopolitics. What matters is a country’s self-interest. Any loyalty to the past, if it is not serving the present, is a misplaced sense of loyalty. Also, it is time to diversify our sourcing of materiel at a faster pace, either through purchases or through making them at home. Even now 60-70% of our materiel is Russian. This component must be brought down. While non-strategic purchases like assault rifles are fine, the problem arises with systems such as the S-400 that directly impact US interests and have also been sold to China. As analysts have been pointing out, even if India somehow manages to evade sanctions in the S-400 deal by arguing that it was signed before CAATSA came into existence, what happens if Vladimir Putin now tries to sell the S-500 to India? In fact, as one analyst told this writer that there is a strong possibility that the reason why Putin is here is not to sell a few rifles but to try and convince the Indian government to buy the next generation S-500. How will India evade US sanctions if it decides to go for that deal? India will be playing straight into China’s hands as that will throttle India’s economy and big power ambitions.

Also, what is the world’s largest democracy’s opinion about Putin flexing muscles on Ukraine’s borders, threatening to invade that country? Turning a blind eye is not good enough. Replace Ukraine with India and Russia with China, and you will know why.

In short, talk Afghanistan, terrorism, drug trafficking, organised crime, vaccines, investments, space technology, dance, music, films, literature, friendship, buy rifles, but lessen dependence on Russia in the military and tactical spheres; don’t try to bring Russia out of China’s clutches, for that is not in Russia’s interest; don’t try to make Russia understand the value of Quad, for that is not in the interest of either Russia or China. Most importantly, don’t let Russia impact India’s policies in a way that it impacts India’s rise.

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Mamata Banerjee cannot beat PM Modi in a New India

The biggest challenge to any party or alliance today is to get the support of people. You can get leaders but not masses and unless you get people to back your efforts, these leaders would be paper tigers only.

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Mamata Banerjee’s desperate attempt to form an anti-Modi front is likely to be damp squib like many other efforts made before her by various other leaders. Her assertion that there is no UPA (United Progressive Alliance) is correct but to assume that this would mean a readymade ground for the formation of an alternative front reflects the fallacy of her political understanding.

Her meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar in Mumbai is good optics in search of her political relevance at the national level after she has managed some good sound-bites in Goa and Meghalaya and also at the national level by making some eminent leaders join her party. But to make others accept her as a leader need many factors. A mere glue of anti-Modi-ism won’t work.

The Trinamul Congress (TMC) is trying to play a prominent role at the national level to increase Mamata Banerjee’s acceptability as a leader among various other political parties which are currently with the Congress namely the NCP and the Shiv Sena—this is true that the Congress does not have many allies. But for both the NCP and the Shiv Sena, the TMC does not add any might to their political existence. No one does charity in politics and what she would bring to the table would decide her fate.

There are two options left for her. One is to make every other splinter group of the Congress join the parent body and get the Gandhi family to order a democratic election and Mamata Banerjee wins the election to the party president. This is fraught with difficulties since the Gandhi family would not oblige so easily. They can trust a loyalist but not a rival.

The second option is to set up an all-India-based parallel organisation of her party- something that was done by the Janata Dal or other such parties. But this needs a lot of resources and a steely determination. And what would be the ideology guiding this party? Anti-Modi-ism won’t do. She is incapable to devise an ideology of her own.

The biggest challenge to any party or alliance today is to get the support of people. You can get leaders but not masses and unless you get people to back your efforts, these leaders would be paper tigers only. Many leaders in the BJP got intoxicated by public support and they decided to chart out a separate course. But they failed desperately and had to suffer the ignominy of rejoining the parent party and accepting a lesser status.

One caste-based party or issue-based regional parties have limitations. They cannot play a larger role at the national level. For that, the party’s ideology and its leaders will have to have a comprehensive vision for the country that would be acceptable to one and all. People must trust that you would be able to steer the country as per their expectations.

This is here where Prime Minister Narendra Modi fits the bill. He understands the aspirations of the country that has 65 per cent youths. This section of the population has often demonstrated the capabilities to rise above narrow considerations of caste and religion and to vote for development and faster development. The youths want transparency and accountability and a system that would guarantee them the dignity of being a citizen of this country.

Narendra Modi has earned this image through long and arduous struggle. When he was the chief minister of Gujarat, he worked hard to change the face of the State. Over a period of time, he became the choice of the country for the post of Prime Minister. It is not that the BJP wanted to project him. The party was forced to act as per the aspirations of the country to see Modi as the Prime Minister.

Without being jealous of Modi, Mamata Banerjee can work towards becoming a role model. Can she use the opportunity people have given to her to transform West Bengal on the developmental roadmap? Can she come out of minority appeasement politics and deliver justice to every section of society? Can she work to strengthen the nation’s security since West Bengal’s boundary has issues of illegal infiltration that are changing the population dynamics of the state? Once she had spoken so loudly in parliament on infiltration from Bangladesh.

The image of Mamata Banerjee is still of a rabble-rouser and a street fighter. She has failed to acquire the image of a matured leader who understands the issues the country is facing. Or, maybe she understands the issues but her politics does not allow her to publicly articulate these. When you are on the hot seat every move of yours is being watched.

If tomorrow, she begins a no-nonsense approach and implements good governance at every level of administration, she might acquire national prominence. It needs just flipping through pages of success stories of the Gujarat model which other States have tried to implement but in piecemeal. She would fit well into the development vision of Modi and would get faster development for her State.

Mamata Banerjee also must be acutely aware that nobody is permanent in politics and the position cannot be taken for granted. The BJP has emerged as a formidable force and is in main opposition in West Bengal and would do everything to unseat her from power next time. Her time is ticking. A magical formula has to be evolved or she would fade out like many others before her.

Mamata Banerjee and other leaders who dream to challenge Narendra Modi must understand that he has redefined the country’s politics. The issues of caste, religion, etc are there but these have been overpowered by the larger vision of a strong and developed country. Members of all social or religious groups need opportunities for better lifestyles and they find Modi to be their best bet.

The eyes of poor people glitter with hope at the mention of Modi. They get assurance their lives would change for the better. Opposition parties think that by taking away this hope they can defeat Modi, they are living in La-La land. It takes years of measured responses to be taken seriously as an opposition party. If a party decides to oppose whatever the Government is doing this would not go well with people.

Defence indigenisation has saved precious Dollars that used to be spent on buying crucial arms and ammunition. This has also put a check on corruption in defence deals. The purchase of crucial fighter aircrafts has secured the borders at a time when the country is facing a stand-off with China on the Eastern borders. How many of these opposition parties have lauded the efforts of the Prime Minister? They have on the contrary done everything to undermine the efforts of the government.

In such a situation who is going to support these parties? The youths of the country are today more empowered than ever before due to proliferation of the social media. Traditional media is forced to follow the agenda in social media unless they are not bothered about their image.

Across the globe, there has been an assertion of nationalist forces. What is good for the country and what is not is being openly debated on various platforms? The forces of radicalisation are facing stiff challenges everywhere. Leaders and parties are forced to take a stand on issues of terrorism and national security. No party leader in any country can dare to call its army chief “gali ka goonda” and still survive politically.

At a time when the country is bleeding and losing the lives of its army personnel and civilians from cross-border terrorism, no party would dare to be soft with Pakistan. If India gets beaten by Sri Lanka in cricket and there is clapping for a better display of skills, people would not mind. But if crackers are burnt on Pakistan’s victory over India in cricket by a section of the minority community, this would not be appreciated. Whatever rationalisation one may give reminding of the Tebbit test of the United Kingdom, the fact remains that the nationalist sentiment gets hurt at such naked celebration over defeat.

Mamata Banerjee has to decide which side of the fence she would like to stand. Whether she wants the support of some sections of society or all sections based on the interests she represents? The country needs many people aligned to the vision of bringing back the past glory of India – a country that preached love and brotherhood and had achieved prosperity few could imagine. Neither Islamic invaders nor the British came to India to do charity. They came to exploit the rich resources and those who settled here did so in search of better lives. India is rediscovering its energy to reclaim its glory and rightful place in the comity of nations.

The writer is the author of ‘Narendra Modi: the GameChanger’. A former journalist, he is a member of BJP’s media relations department and represents the party as spokesperson while participating in television debates. The views expressed are personal.

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