This is a slightly modified version of the article ‘Winds of Change’, published in Economic and Political Weekly (28 December, 2013). As the year ends and we brace up for the big battle that lies ahead in the coming year, here are some reflections on matters that may have a bearing on that battle. Politics is undergoing a transformation, in India as elsewhere. But perhaps, more importantly, it is also what we have so far understood as politics, that is on the point of transformation. For over a century, social science disciplines have maintained a neat distinction between the political and the economic, between state and capital and so on. Marxism ostensibly challenged this false division – but only to assert that the real thing was ‘economics’; that politics was mere epi-phenomenon. But the story of capital was never an economic story alone. In diverse ways, movements in different parts of the world are about this forced division, and the destruction of politics that followed in actual life as economics became a domain of so-called iron laws and economic models began to determine the ways we were taught to see and understand politics. In the neoliberal 1990s and part of the 2000s, economic laws and the ‘needs’ of capital became sacrosanct – all politics was made to sing and dance to its tune. Only rank outsiders to this world could ask the emperor’s new clothes kind of questions. That is what seems to be happening. Till now, even those who saw that the emperor was naked, went on a maun vrata (vow of silence), fearing ridicule.
The dying old Kulin Brahmin in Goutam Ghose’s Bengali film Antarjali Jatra suddenly sprang to life on seeing his new attractive wife who had been married to him for the sole purpose of accompanying him in his life beyond as sati. Much like that character, the decrepit and ramshackle BJP seems to have suddenly sprung to life at the fantasy of power, having been out in the cold for almost a decade. And just as the young bride in the film was provided by another old impoverished Brahmin (his unmarried daughter), so an utterly impoverished Congress has provided the BJP with the most tantalizing possibility of what it might get in its life beyond.
How else do we explain the fact that the BJP after 2004, already in shambles with all its old leaders gone and its organization ridden with internal bickering and loss of direction, suddenly seems to have made such a comeback in the recent elections in five states? The ‘return of the BJP’ seems to be the overt message of the results of these elections. For there is certainly no doubt that in the past one year so, ever since the orchestrated rise of Narendra Modi in all-India level politics, the BJP’s fortunes too seem to have started turning. This development, however, was greatly facilitated by the Congress in more ways than one. The Congress seemed determined to hand over the game to Modi and the Hindu Right. Continue reading The Year That Was and the Challenge of 2014