In popular discourse, it is said
"BJP lacks a credible opposition, hence it is dominant"

But in 2004, Vajpayee did not face a v vibrant / charismatic opposition leader. He was up against Sonia

Yet he lost

In parliamentary democracies, it is alliances that make a difference
The reality is -

In terms of "alliances" BJP is always on shakier ground than Congress

Hardly any of its allies subscribe to Hindu nationalism
Nor does it have a widely influential "right wing" / conservative narrative or worldview
So while BJP needs to win 250 seats on its own to get to power, Congress barely needs 100-120.

This was just as true in 2019 as in any other year

The reason BJP does so well on its own is that Hindu nationalism + the charisma of Modi by itself gets it to 300+
But as Hindu nationalism either recedes to background or becomes "given" as a "fact of life" (like say gravity), BJP will need an alternative ideological narrative, to both maintain its popularity, as well as form stable long-term ideologically moored alliances
It is not as though Congress is ideologically on much stabler ground

But their "progressive" alliance has some ideological basis. Moored in populist liberalism, left-of-center take on the problems of society, economy and state

So UPA is a stabler coalition than NDA anyday

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More from @shrikanth_krish

2 May
Seemabaddha is a very interesting film grappling with modernity, upward mobility, and the ethically questionable choices people make under stress
My favorite bit of the film is a conversation b/w the film's protagonist (Mr Chatterji) - who is a young, dynamic executive, and an aged Tambrahm who works in the same office (Mr Ramalingam)

Chatterji is a go-getter. Ramalingam is a stoic karmayogi of sorts
At one level it is indicative of how different upwardly mobile demographic groups responded to modernity in starkly different ways in early-mid 20th cen
Read 4 tweets
1 May
Lately some parallels have been drawn b/w Hindutva and Woke-ism

It is tempting but flawed

1. Firstly Hindutva is not new-fangled. It is as old as Indian politics

2. Hindutva-vaadis dislike the West a lot. But they are v establishmentarian w.r.t. Indian traditions
In other words, their rebelliousness is against "Western establishment" and the high status accorded to western ideas, paradigms, intellectuals among other things

But when it comes to India, they are fairly conservative. Respectful towards traditional sources of authority
So these are people who may scoff at Western classics, western norms, western institutions

Thus suggesting they are "woke"

But in India, they will kowtow to hyper-trad figures like Shankaracharya among others
Read 5 tweets
27 Apr
We apply rigor and empirical validation to everything in life.

That's what is valued in academia, at our workplace

To compartmentalize and say -

I will be v rigorous / objective in all aspects of life
But turn v credulous when it comes to ancient lore

doesn't work I think
It should be possible to take inspiration from ancient lore and interpret them allegorically

Without having to declare your faith in every little detail

You can chant Hanuman Chalisa everyday w/o having to "believe" literally that Hanuman crossed several hundred miles of ocean
In fact "faith" in the little details can prevent you from focusing more on the abstractions and ideas buried between the lines

You cease to internalize the learnings, but focus on the superficial details
Read 7 tweets
24 Apr
Fiscal conservatism and the idea of a limited state demand that society should step up to fill the space left empty by the state

This means social insurances, strong families, religion -> Social conservatism

Fiscal conservatism / small state entails social conservatism
Back in the 1850s in say England, there wasn't any "welfare check" if you lost your job, or lost your leg, or lost your mind.

But yes, you could go to the country and stay with your aunt to recuperate

You can't do that now, as families are not as strong as they used to be!
I am reminded of the Victorian novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Where the protagonist (David) goes to his aunt's place (Betsey Trotwood) for long breaks

Or imposes himself on Mr Peggotty and his extended family
Read 5 tweets
24 Apr
An observation

The average joe in India uses terms "Aryan" and "Dravidian" to refer to "N.Indians" & "S.Indians" as two racial blocs

Nobody uses "Aryan" to refer to "dvija" castes and "Dravidian" to refer to rest

For most ppl, it is a simple mapping of language family to race
I feel this is healthy, though inaccurate

By associating these terms with geography only, we cleanse our political discourse

Because once the common man starts understanding these terms with a caste lens (which is also inaccurate in its own way), we will have no end of troubles
Today, for even the subaltern groups in North India - their self identity is "Aryan", as they speak an Indo-European language

Similarly the "self identity" (both in racial and lingual terms) for a brahmin in say AP or TN is "Dravidian"
Read 4 tweets
23 Apr
One observation on Indian Liberals
(going by my experience with big Indian liberal handles on twitter)

They don't seem particularly interested in reading liberal thinkers

Be it Hobbes, Locke, Mill, Jefferson

The intellectual interest in their own tradition is v feeble
In contrast, H-Right is keener to read its own foundational thinkers like Savarkar

On H-twitter, you do see a lot of "conservative" thinkers of different hues being discussed at least (if not read)

Ranging from Swami Karpatri to Rajaji
From Tom Sowell to Edmund Burke
This is in part because a lot of the "left-lib" opinion makers in India regard liberalism as "axiomatic"

They don't regard it as a "tradition" with its own set of thinkers

It is simply "true". No need to investigate its development
Read 5 tweets

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