Liberals in India have tried for the past five years to convince their fellow-Indians that Narendra Modi should not be re-elected in 2019 — and failed. Modi has come back to power with a bigger mandate than in 2014. What this means is that the other side is not receptive to the arguments of us liberals — for whatever the reasons may be. There is therefore no point in continuing to highlight what we liberals believe about Modi being bad for the country — the strategy has clearly not worked.
It is therefore time for liberals to take a step back and to disengage from political discussions for a year or two, and watch what actually happens in India under Modi 2.0. If things are bad as we fear, then Modi's supporters will realize the facts for themselves. They will be more likely to admit that things are wrong if they do not have to constantly defend Modi against attacks from liberals. And if things in India actually end up being as rosy as supporters of Mr. Modi believe, then it will be the best of all possible worlds for all Indians.
It is now 4 days since the election results were announced. Liberals who fought the war of ideas on social media with the supporters of Mr. Modi are shocked, angry, and depressed that he won with such a large mandate.
They say grief is a multi-stage process, and many of my friends are in different stages. I understand it is hard. I myself have been very involved for the last five years in pointing out the problems in this administration and in trying to convince people not to vote for Modi for a second term. I only achieved closure after I posted my last post titled “A Farewell to Arms” (Apologies to Ernest Hemingway.)
So, while I understand what all of you are going through, here is my appeal.
We tried to convince people that re-electing Modi would be a mistake. We pointed out the various problems, whether economic, social, intolerance-related, related to the scientific temper, or relating to foreign policy. We argued. We shared opinions.
But we failed in convincing people. Modi was re-elected with an even bigger mandate.
What does this tell you? I don't know, but it tells me that whatever I have been doing for the past 5 years has not worked. And so I have understood that repeating that pattern will not convince the other side, either.
Unfortunately, I see many of my friends getting into the same pattern again. That was fine for the last five years, but to continue it is destructive and futile. Yesterday some community leader made some inflammatory statements, and everyone has been posting the video of those statements today, talking about how things in India are getting worse. Others are still arguing as to whether this was a “stolen” election — whether EVMs were selectively tampered. (It does not matter. Even if you somehow discover that they were, the ECI is not going to rerun the election.)
All this is not going to help. These are the things that we tried explaining to them for 5 long years. The other side is not interested in listening. I found recently in a WhatsApp group that I belonged to that highly educated folks from the other side were not even reading my posts — including even instances when my posts had nothing to do with politics. Such is the rift between the liberals and supporters of Mr. Modi. They have closed their minds off and will not read anything you write — because it is you, a liberal, who is posting it. As symptomatic of that, I just responded to a Modi supporter who commented on FB regarding my “Farewell” post without even reading it and started telling me that I was wrong - even though he did not even know what I had written in it.
That is how things are today. You can post all your arguments on how things are bad under Modi. The other side is simply not listening. And, with Modi having won a resounding mandate, they have even less incentive to listen to you.
So what should we liberals do? I would say we should just take a deep breath, and stop posting on politics, Modi, Rahul, Muslims and Dalits getting beaten up (there are going to be a lot of such incidents now, because lumpen elements on the street will feel vindicated and think they have carte blanche now), and similar topics. Post absolutely nothing on any of these.
Wait for a year at least. Maybe two. Let us see how things pan out.
This has been a war of ideologies. There are those who believe that Modi will bring a golden age to India. There are those of us who believe that he is going to ruin India. Let us understand one thing: both sides genuinely believe that they are correct.
Let us see who is correct here. If we are correct, the other side will realize that things have gone terribly wrong without us telling them a single thing or reminding them by sharing news links. They can read newspapers and websites too.
If they are correct, then that is good news for us too. If the country is indeed going to be better because of Mr. Modi's wise leadership, all of us will be happy. We opposed him only because we are worried that bad things are going to happen. As of now, I believe that, based on what has happened during the last five years. But if the results are different in the next five years, I will have no problem with Mr. Modi. He has been making inclusive speeches since he won. Let us see if he delivers on those words. And let us hope his handling of the economy is better than it was in the last five years.
But clearly, arguing on Facebook is not helping any of us. If the objective is to learn, then we seem to have come to a pass where the other side is simply not interested in even looking at what we share, let alone absorb and learn.
Either they will learn the hard way that what we were saying was right all along, or we will learn the happy way that what they were saying was right all along.
So that's my appeal to you: stop arguing, stop posting news links talking about all the bad things that are happening. Cede the social media space to them. Stop wasting your time arguing. And even if they taunt you, don't respond. After you stop responding a few times, they will stop taunting you, because there is no fun if the other person does not react.
Maintain complete radio silence at least for a year. Or two. There may be times in the next year or two when terrible things happen. Maybe a village of Dalits gets burned (I am not saying it will, just giving an extreme example to make a point). Resist the temptation to say, “See? We told you so!” Let them introspect and come to the same conclusion on their own, without any prodding from us. As long as we are taunting them, they will defend Modi even if something indefensible has happened — just because we are attacking them.
Let us see the worst (or best) that Modi can do.
As Guru Dutt says in the immortal song in “Pyaasa,”
Tumhaari hai tum hi sambhaalo ye duniya (“The world is yours; you take care of it.”)
So, my fellow-liberals, take care of yourselves and your families, use the time that you were spending on Facebook and WhatsApp all these years on reading, music, travel, whatever. Cherish your loved ones. I would even advise not watching news on TV. I have stopped doing that. I get the newspaper anyway — I do not need to know what is happening minute by minute. If Rahul Gandhi is going to resign, it is fine if I find out next morning — it's not like I will go to his home to convince him otherwise if I find out at 3.43 pm.
With that, I will keep my end of the bargain and post nothing more about Indian politics, at least for a year. I will wait and watch what happens and what Mr. Modi does.
I would like to thank all those who have been part of this journey of the last 5 years with me. Your feedback, encouragement, and engagement have meant the world to me.
But now it is time for me to rejuvenate myself. A writer needs to read a lot. Without that, he cannot write informed commentary. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day, and so if you write a lot, you do not get that time to read. I hope to use this hiatus to catch up on my reading.
I have also made many great friends through my writing – people who I admire and in whose presence (real and virtual) I delight to be. These friendships will continue, and I would aver that, in the end, that's what really matters.
With that, Adios, and good luck in all your endeavours!
Peace to all.