Debates between conservatives and Liberals
There are hot political debates going on between BJP (led NDA) and Congress (led Opposition) in TV shows. These debates often morph into debates between Conservatives and Liberals. Both the sides should sense the pulse of the people and act responsibly; else, they will pay a heavy political price.
The Opposition (led by Congress, and supported by Leftists and many state parties) claim to be liberals because they champion minority rights, and are against ban on cow slaughter. Most of them are against capital punishment (even for militants and those who commit heinous crimes against innocent people). They want talks with Pakistan to continue even after the worst provocations. When Kashmiri militants and students pelted stones, when mobs attacked police and security forces, and even set fire to police stations, they wanted police and security forces not to retaliate. Many of them speak for naxals and students demanding aazadi for Kashmir.
” BJP says pseudo-liberals have nothing but contempt for counter-viewpoints.
They believe respect for national anthem is optional; some of them even question the concepts of India as a nation and its boundaries. They believe every writer, artist and film producer has unfettered freedom of expression even to offend the sensibilities of others. They believe individual right to privacy is more important than national interests, e.g., they are against using Aadhar to verify the credentials of people for subsidies, rations, payment apps, etc.
BJP calls them ‘pseudo-liberals’ and question their double standards. By definition, “liberals” should be willing to respect or accept the behaviour or opinions different from their own, and must be open to new ideas. BJP says pseudo-liberals have nothing but contempt for counter-viewpoints. They quote examples of denial of US visa to Modi before he became the PM at the behest of ‘liberals’, their silence on triple talaq, when Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of Kashmir, and when Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen were physically attacked.
The Opposition call BJP conservative because the latter don’t believe in cow slaughter, Hindutva, capital punishment, unforgiving attitude to Pakistan, giving freed hand to police to handle law & order as per the prevailing situation on the ground rather than treating offenders with kid-gloves, etc. In fact, they charge some of BJP’s Hindutva-hardliner supporters of even criminal acts involving vigilante policing, mob justice, and extortion, which even the PM and RSS chief have indirectly acknowledged.
BJP people draw a distinction between themselves and vigilantes who are either fringe players or belong to extreme Hindutva ideologies. BJP supporters claim they are liberal too.
Till BJP came to power in 2014, UPA believed they had the people’s mandate and so BJP had no ‘locus standi’ to even question their liberal or secular positions. But after BJPs came to power, the Opposition started calling BJP majoritarian, and didn’t accept BJP’s right to govern based on their own ideologies. They believe the Constitution should be interpreted extremely liberally as they do, though BJP may have got the mandate of the people.
” ‘Minority rule’ is not what the Constitution envisaged, as it will defeat the very essence of democracy.
India is not a ‘liberal democracy’ technically, though liberal value systems are incorporated in the Constitution to prevent any Government from becoming majoritarian. However, the extent of ‘liberalism’ has not been defined.
There are some rights of minorities (religious, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, etc.) which even majority Governments cannot take away; they are protection of existence, protection from discrimination and persecution, protection and promotion of identity, and participation in political life. Subject to protecting these basic rights, and governing strictly by the laws of the land, Governments are meant to govern based on the majority viewpoint; of course, where consensus is possible, it will be ideal. ‘Minority rule’ is not what the Constitution envisaged, as it will defeat the very essence of democracy.
Let’s try to understand what the people of the country seem to want (NOT based on any objective study, though it can be established with sample surveys by media or still better, by using NSSO or some such neutral body, if need be).
People, by and large, are likely to support minority rights guaranteed by the constitution; regardless, even if the majority or the Government doesn’t agree, these minority rights are non-negotiable. But these rights are what are stated, and NOT what the Opposition parties may want to stretch/ interpret them as.
People won’t support conveniently-selective liberalism, as they want a strong Government providing them good and fair governance. They want rule of law to be enforced, the nation and its borders protected with full might, police and defence forces to be respected, development to be vigorously pursued, corruption and leakages to be eliminated and those who act against the national interest to be contained if not punished. People are surely not interested in extreme liberalism some activists pursue vigorously, nor in vigilante activism of some activists in the opposite camp.
Issues like ban on cow slaughter, triple talaq, capital punishment, right to offend others’ sensibilities, need to stand up during national anthem, widespread use of Aadhar for identity check and eradication of leakage of Government money (except where it affects the fundamental right of citizens), law & order, dealing with naxals, dealing with unrest in Kashmir and elsewhere, dealing with student agitations where they call for unrest or separation, relationship with Pakistan, etc. are areas where BJP and the Opposition have strongly differing opinions.
” Democracy gives power to the people… the power to decide who should govern the country. Typically, the majority of the people the world over are neither over-conservative nor over-liberal.
The Government of the day should have the right to decide on policies, precisely because these are only debatable and are not non-negotiable. The best way to debate these issues is in the parliament and through elections. Whoever wins decides. If people don’t like the decisions of a Government, they will throw them out at the next opportunity. Yet, the Opposition parties always have the right to challenge the Government on these issues, without obstruction.
Democracy gives power to the people… the power to decide who should govern the country. Typically, the majority of the people the world over are neither over-conservative nor over-liberal. These extremes are positions taken by activists on both the sides. When conservatives rule, the society would tend to move towards the conservative extreme. When people feel they’ve had enough of conservatives, they would vote the liberals to power. And when liberals rule, the society would tend to move towards the liberal extreme. When people feel enough of liberalism, they would vote the conservatives to power. This cycle will go on. Of course, there could also be other reasons for people to vote out or vote in governments, like issues of corruption or quality of governance. So, people would strike the right conservative-liberal balance they are most comfortable with.
People want the Government to govern (within the contours of the law, and without the intervention of vigilantes/ extortionists), and the Opposition not to obstruct. If either side acts against the wishes of the people, it may pay a heavy price politically. If both the sides act against the wishes of the people, the nation may pay a heavy price.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.