I quote from the meat of the article:
… the Shiv Sena is now reduced to fighting with the MNS, its own junior branch. Its electoral performance was such that even the BJP is distancing itself from it. It cannot have escaped Bal Thackeray’s attention that at the end of an active career of five decades, he may not have much to show for it.
In this, Shiv Sena is not that different from its older brother, the BJP. Their politics is based on envy, on the idea that the condition of those they champion—Marathi speakers for Thackeray and Hindus for BJP—is bad because of the presence of some others—non-Marathi speakers for the Shiv Sena and Muslims for the BJP. Thus, the uplift of ‘their’ people requires the persecution of the ‘other’ people.
This thought is not original either to the Shiv Sena or to the BJP. It is the standard ideology of all people who think that whatever their condition, someone else is responsible for it. Get rid of the other and you will be fine.
Alas, this is a fallacy. Prosperity does not come merely from majority rule, even if you can exclude the minority. It comes from the usual route of saving, acquisition of knowledge, enterprise and hard work. Many Marathi speakers know this and have prospered. They don’t vote Shiv Sena or MNS. Many Hindus have prospered and they find the BJP’s logic bizarre. This leaves these parties with a tough choice. You either admit you are wrong in your thinking and adapt to the evidence or you go even more extreme.
I now quote from the conclusion – and there is a sting in Desai’s tail, for he brackets the Communist parties too in this “politics of envy”:
This is not the case with only right wing parties. The CPM too is shrinking along with the rest of the parliamentary Left. It has competition from the Naxalites. If you have believed and taught that prosperity for the masses can come only by subverting the system, then you have to go on feeding false notions. The CPM has become too respectable to sustain the nonsense it used to preach. The Naxals show that the logic of that belief can only end in bloodshed.
The poor—the Marathi manoos, the Hindu, the proletariat—do not gain anything from such delusions. The leaders do and hence they find it hard to abandon them.
Lord Desai has done well to analyze the fundamentally illiberal politics of the “mainstream.” Theirs is all a politics of envy, of collectively persecuting some “others.” He says this is all “delusion,” adding the important fact that “prosperity comes from the usual route of saving, acquisition of knowledge, enterprise and hard work.” It is this fundamental truth that needs political space today. The Congress has been happy with all these deluded people in opposition, so that they could emerge a “lighter shade of black.” But this has only impoverished Indian politics in general.
The country needs liberalism in the mainstream of politics. This is the ideology that believes in the Free Market as the basis of co-operation and social harmony. The core belief is that there are greater gains to be made in co-operation and the division of labour than in warring; that we gain too when others gain. Further, this ideology is internationalist and inclusive – it seeks the whole of humanity under this market order. It wants none excluded. Free trade across political boundaries, peace, prosperity. Individual rights, individual liberty, individualism.
On a lighter note, Manas Chakravarty’s Sunday column on the “identity crisis” facing today’s Marathi manoos is worth reading as well. Especially his conclusion about Bengalis. Yes, indeed, we are all direct descendants of Led Zeppelin!