From: Capt.(Dr.) S G Naravane
If you're reading this piece, you know what was in the news all of last week. Kanhaiya Kumar was released on bail for six months and in the week Finance Minister Arun Jaitley delivered what might be the most important budget of the Modi government, it was Kanhaiya who was the subject of headlines.
His speech—embarrassingly loaded with stale Leftist clichés and ideas but delivered in a likeable eastern-UP-Bihar accent—was played up by some news channels as the perfect and popular ideological argument against the Modi government. The enthusiasm of Kanhaiya's supporters and fans was even louder on social media. If you saw Kanhaiya supporters on TV, you would have thought they would smile to sleep. But if you saw their tweets, you'd think they'd dance the night out.
Amidst this Kanhaiya-as-messiah campaign and social media push, there came a point where one couldn't help but wonder if there was a fantastical motive to all of it.
This will be denied, but I'm certain that on the night Kanhaiya made his speech, some of his cheerleaders were hoping for a Tahrir Square-like moment in India. Just to recall, Tahrir Square is shorthand for a popular movement in Egypt in 2011 where massive protests were staged at Cairo's Tahrir Square, ultimately leading to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Something similar in Delhi would not only fulfill their (Kanhaiya's gang's) romantic fantasy of a revolution but would also topple a 'hopelessly intolerant' government. There is terrible beauty in the imagined utopia of a revolution, and never was it closer to their reality than on Thursday night.
But, almost simultaneously, there was a pleasure in the realisation that such a revolution is not possible in India. The immediate thought that followed was "why?".
While a comprehensive, complete answer to that question is best left to someone more experienced and accomplished, here are some of the points which come to my mind:
First, India is a functioning democracy. There are problems, sure, but by and large it has done well on the democratic front. This allows the citizens a regular opportunity for collective catharsis. Long before social or political tensions reach unmanageable levels, they are purged or at least diluted via elections. Of course, these elections might be bitterly contested, but it's a democratic contest within the guidelines of the Constitution. Thus, the required threshold level of tensions is never reached.
Second, and this observation is restricted to India—here, any significant political change is realised through a process of evolution rather than revolution. Political changes happen as a consequence of a long drawn-out struggle, rather than by spontaneous bursts of popular emotions.
Third, one suspects stable democracies are institutionally wary of so-called revolutions. They operate on a bipartisan consensus on the core nature and workings of the State. Revolutions, or movements which claim to be so, mostly fall outside this capacious consensus.
Fourth, such democracies are also wary of revolutions for the sake of revolutions. Democracy is a contest between alternatives. Any movement which does not offer a substitute will immediately be seen as destructive. The imagined utopia of revolution doesn't include alternatives. The removal of the targeted leader or power is seen as the end in itself. Just recall the tone and words of the usual suspects from last week. Were they interested in anything but the immediate fall of the Modi government?
The fact is that today Narendra Modi leads a BJP government in India and the only way to change that is to defeat the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Till then, breathe comrade. Your kind of 'revolutions' don't happen in India.
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