Liberalism can be defined as a political philosophy that arose with the clamor and desire to achieve Liberty and Equality against the wishes of well entrenched dynastic despots that denied them both. While Classical Liberalism veered towards Liberty and was supportive towards anything manifest that increased an individuals liberty vis a vis an established authority, social liberalism advocated Equality more than Liberty. It is another matter that historically social liberalism was more used by despots as a popular plank to power than those that advocated a mixture of both the social and classical approaches.
In a present context real Liberals using a mixture of both approaches should advocate a healthy dose of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to practice ones beliefs, individual rights, gender equality, a government generally indifferent to religious contexts except where religion or its zealots trample on individual rights and democratic norms for example. Thus in the Indian context it is important we look at these ‘liberal traits’ in particular with respect to the self styled Indian Liberal elite claimants today. Who exactly claim that mantle, who do they usually represent or rather what kind of political forces do they represent and who they consider their antithesis.Also with respect to those broad traits that define who makes a liberal today, how would we qualify this Secular Liberal Indian Elite.
At present the loudest claimants to this Liberal legacy happen to be rooted in and around the bungalows of Lutyens Delhi. A media which has fed of them, moulded public opinion as they wished, spoke with as refined an oxford accent as they could pass muster. Liberalism became associated with traveling ‘Phoren’, speaking in an accent, drinking at star hotels, womanizing all traits one was unlikely to find in native villages across the country. Thus a true liberal, open minded Jat villager from Chaprauli would always be ‘liberally’ inferior to that Che Gueverra T-Shirt sporting St Stephens guy drinking scotch at Le Meridian whose father is a Businessman and had family contacts with Rajiv Gandhi’s PA in the PMO. However much the Jat was open minded it just does not match to the ‘liberalism’ that the St Stephens dude exudes. The Che Gueverra T Shirt irony is lost here as it simply does not arise. Elite rules implied that Jat deserved the excesses of an emergency not this dude.
Modi changed this equation. In a very sophisticated but unsubtle manner he kicked the butt of that dude, literally called his dad a good for nothing dalal, and to top it all called them illiberal in comparison to this ‘theth’ Gaon ka Jat! Now that just did not apply to this dude, it applied to the media that fawned the connections, loved the scotch, the women that flowed in this circuit and the political setup that sponsored this club. Modi told the Jat and millions of others that this was a setup that kept them from achieving their dreams, that this setup was responsible for the emergency and the corruption prevailing all round the country. The English brew that this elite was drinking literally spurted out of their mouths. They could not believe the attack coming from someone who hardly could speak a polished sentence in English, had hardly any degree from a Padre saintly named institution.
With the advent of Vajpayee’s term in the late 90s, the elite was determined to crush any notion of liberalism that the village ‘aam’ kinds tried to exert in any form. 2002 was an ideal start point. With the panning of events recently it was this elites misfortune that the man at the helm was Narendra Modi. Almost 10 years they could hold him. But the more they held him his base consolidation kept increasing. 2013 events just took over. Modi was bursting that chimera of liberalism this elite had nurtured falsely for so long. Modi was telling them liberalism is not about how you hold a wine glass in your hand, but in giving opportunity to all citizens irrespective of gender, race, color, religion. This was now breaking the vote banks of those that banked on community, caste and religion to nurture their constituencies. The Media which had developed many cosy relationships with business, political elite was lost. It however gathered every bit of resource to try and malign the man. But the man was one step ahead and was communicating the message directly to the people using all possible technological innovations and resources and the media itself got maligned and mauled beyond credibility. The dude in the Che Gueverra T looked now backward and dumb in comparison to some of Modi’s own cheerleaders. The tables had turned.
People saw through that this elite espousing social equality from the ramparts of 5 star bars created nothing but inequality in the 60 years they had ruled the country. People saw that the liberal elite political tables were loaded against the tolerant and benevolent majority. People saw they were being divided by a loathsome and selfish media. People saw themselves in a man working selflessly and tirelessly 18 hours a day for the country and related and voted. He gave vision, he gave hope, he gave all his effort. He didn’t hide behind vote banks of caste and religion or trepidation at taking hard decisions. The facade of liberalism from this elite started slipping. The hypocrisy of a bogus campaign against intolerance was nurtured a year ago and it failed miserably in that it exposed the inherent hypocrisy of most who took part in it and exhorted it.
When the intolerance bogey failed the elite took up cudgels for those that advocated breaking India. The ‘Bharat ki Barbaadi tak Jung ladenge’, ‘Bharat Tere Tukde Tukde honge’ brigade. The Jat villager who may till now have thought his upbringing did not make him liberal enough as the Scotch sipping dude, now was fully aware and alert that Modi that his liberalism was different from those that supported such language. While he still tolerated that vile gang, he would never vote for those that supported and gave those same people a political backing. True Liberalism would have at the maximum “tolerated” such acts not exhorted or given massive political patronage as did the Lutyen elites. The liberal mask had all but fallen by then.
Whether it is freedom of the press, freedom of faith, individual rights as the Govt is taking up on the Triple Talaq issue, people began to clearly see that the principles of true liberalism are better represented by a Gujarati and Hindi speaking PM Modi than this selfish elite. Social media and in print too now the excesses of the emergency have been roundly getting exposed to the new generation. Nehru’s curtailing of the 1st amendment also has been widely circulated in different forms of media now. The cookie has crumbled and in what spectacular style. And now after Modi’s magnum opus in UP, it is not going to return to be the same ever. Let the elite know it is Modi the Liberal as opposed to the Lutyen Fascists is what is now evident.