OPINION | With Combination of Vikas, Vishwas and Rashtravad, Time is Ripe for a Soft Nationalistic Social Right

The world is swinging right. Politically and otherwise over the last decade, there has been a sociological shift towards the right across the world. In 2014, the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, showed that India also was moving towards the right of centre. Six years later, many argue that the right is the new centre.

In 2014, Modi was the first to outline the possibility of a new political and ideological dynamic – a nationalistic social right. A political thought that borrowed heavily from erstwhile socialism (especially the welfare, social upliftment and centralised control aspects), added to it a heavy dose of ‘vishwas’ or pride in religious identity and topped it with a generous sprinkling of nationalism.

In trying to drive home the point, the BJP over the last six years has flirted often with extreme positions on the latter two mixes of the formula that has eclipsed its efforts in ‘vikas’ (social welfare and development).

Many of the BJP voters and supporters of this new political mix do not subscribe to the hard-right and hyper-nationalism posture adopted by the party. However, their rejection of the Left and the erstwhile leftist-socialist political narrative is greater than their dissonance with the BJP’s hard posture.

Also, Modi continues to stand tall among peers as a deliverer and a performer. He continues to enjoy the trust of a large section of the electorate and remains the fulcrum of the BJP’s ‘vikas’ narrative.

It was very interesting to hear RSS senior voice Bhaiyyaji Joshi stress upon the need to de-link the BJP from all Hindus. He went on to say that taking an anti-Hindu position to politically oppose the BJP is wrong, clearly establishing that the party does not represent all Hindus.

The recent success of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), however, throws up another interesting possibility. Arvind Kejriwal, along with the AAP think-tank, have heavily but smartly borrowed from Modi and the BJP’s playbook. They steered clear of a direct confrontation with Modi, maintained a safe distance from the Left, the leftist-socialist Congress, and adopted a softer and healthier tone of discourse. This was a stark departure from the party’s confrontational, accusatory and vitriolic tone from just over a year ago.

While the BJP went hard and hyper around Shaheen Bagh with ‘Goli maaro gaddaron ko’ (shoot the traitors) and ‘Mini Pakistan’, AAP dialled it down, focused on ‘kaam’ (work) and chanted praises of the eternal bhakt of ‘Ram’. Very smart, tactical and it reaped rich dividends. Yes, there were the free ‘bijli’ (electricity) and ‘paani’ (water) incentives, but it was the tone that separated the AAP from the BJP despite both deriving from the same playbook.

The AAP has now opened up a political position that the BJP will find hard to counter. That of soft centre-right, which is nationalist and socialist while maintaining the inclusive ethos that defines India.

It remains to be seen if the AAP can replicate this template across India as it aims to fight local body polls in all states. It will also be interesting to see if all the regional satraps who have been looking for a non-Congress, non-Left alternative will learn quickly and get on board. It won’t be long before the Indian voter will be served a similar ‘khichdi’ of ‘vikas + vishwas + rashtravad’ by the two political options. Only one will be spicier, the other will appeal to a softer palate. Has the BJP wisened up to this? Who will the voter choose?

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