Two sides

The other side of polarization is unity. Sometimes its other face. No Indian can doubt the unity within the Bharatiya Janata Party. Leaders speak in the same voice, they overlook the same transgressions of the law, they go after the same prizes - for the good of the nation - and condemn all expressions, lifestyles and groups of people that do not subscribe to this sameness. This is one model of unity. Critics of the BJP would say that this sameness is fundamental to the agenda of polarization of which many accuse the party. It seems that what started as the dream of a "Congress- mukt" Bharat for the BJP became that of an "Opposition-mukt" India. That can only happen with the annihilation of parliamentary democracy, which would be the logical culmination of unity-as-sameness and the triumph of the programme of polarization.

  • Published 6.06.18
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The other side of polarization is unity. Sometimes its other face. No Indian can doubt the unity within the Bharatiya Janata Party. Leaders speak in the same voice, they overlook the same transgressions of the law, they go after the same prizes - for the good of the nation - and condemn all expressions, lifestyles and groups of people that do not subscribe to this sameness. This is one model of unity. Critics of the BJP would say that this sameness is fundamental to the agenda of polarization of which many accuse the party. It seems that what started as the dream of a "Congress- mukt" Bharat for the BJP became that of an "Opposition-mukt" India. That can only happen with the annihilation of parliamentary democracy, which would be the logical culmination of unity-as-sameness and the triumph of the programme of polarization.

But polarization implies two sides - one which polarizes and the other which is pushed away. What the Kairana Lok Sabha by-election result demonstrated was an unexpected unity among apparently disparate groups and parties - on the other side of the polar divide conjured up by BJP rhetoric. The complexity of that difficult unity was symbolized by the history of the winning candidate, Tabassum Hasan. She won the seat for the Rashtriya Lok Dal, although she had come from the Samajwadi Party very recently, and had represented the Bahujan Samaj Party earlier. This depicts the range of parties confronting the BJP: the SP and the BSP supported the RLD candidate along with the Congress. The RLD lost its hold on the Jat peasant community in Uttar Pradesh after the Muzaffarnagar riots pitted the Jats against the Muslims in 2013. Almost inevitably, the BJP won the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 and the assembly elections of 2017, riding on the memories of Muzaffarnagar. That was again the BJP's burden in the bypoll campaign. Although patient and strategic campaigning by the RLD brought back the Jats - the BJP had disappointed them - it was not just the parties that united. The voters, Jats and Muslims, although divided once, also showed what unity can mean. Opposition unity was evident elsewhere too. Whatever its future, this is not unity in sameness but unity in difference - once imagined as the stuff and spirit of India.

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