In any healthy and rumbustious democracy such as India, it is only natural that Government decisions are contested. Some of the disagreements are entirely ritual and lacking both conviction and substance; others are entirely ideological and stem from divergent beliefs over what is appropriate; and still others are a curious blend of alternative aesthetics, personal agendas — what is popularly called 'vested interests' — and plain spitefulness.
Over the past few months, the Narendra Modi Government has encountered some vocal opposition to its initiatives. The Goods and Services Act has been questioned by businessmen wary of being included in the tax net; the amendments to the Land Acquisition Act have been contested by those intent on permanently preserving the legacy of Sonia Gandhi and those, like Mamata Banerjee, who gained prominence by championing farmer populism; and the Prime Minister's overseas visits have been mocked by those who believe that India's foreign policy should be all about peace with Pakistan and accommodation of China. The public airing of differences are part of the democratic game and despite the exaggerated shrillness that accompanies rival positions, provide evidence of the innate fractiousness of Indian politics.
There are some disputes that are, however, a little more revealing than others. In the past few weeks, India has witnessed two slugfests that tell us something about alternative self-images of India, maybe even different 'ideas of India'.