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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Seeking Spiritual Anchor

Ideology is a casualty of today’s politics of expediency
• Tarun Vijay
http://epaper.timesofindia.com

There was a time when India’s polity was marked by decency and had a focus on ideology. Not any more. The biggest casualties of this election have been civility in public debate and ideological issues. The campaign is run on cacophony and strength is measured in decibels.

Modern ideological assertion is an import from the West. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The German Ideology referred to the word ideology: “Ideology consists of reflexes and echoes, it is bound to material processes, has no semblance of independence, no history, no development”. Marx died in 1883. In 1890, Engels expressed a different view to Joseph Bloch. Ideology was no longer confined to reflexes and echoes; it was linked to history and development and became a part of real life, exercising a decisive influence. For us, the word that would define a way of belief and practice is dharma.

Marxist ideology failed in less than 100 years of its exposition and what remains is a market economy with Stalin’s posters or a few incoherent, violent groups in India and Nepal. By contrast, the Hindutva school of thought in India, despite hurdles and the resistance of an influential Anglicised class, grew to affect and rewrite the political agenda.

Deendayal Upadhyaya, while presenting his theses on ‘integral humanism’, stressed the spiritual urge of society, where the individual is part of the whole and the whole is reflected in individual actions as dharma. This relegates materialism, which predominates in capitalism and communism, to a secondary position. The hope is to put the brakes on inhuman competitive instincts acting upon an insatiable ‘have more’ mantra, killing society’s nobler virtues. Upadhyaya said this mantra goes against the historical ethos of the Hindu civilisation, whose dominant trait is giving while earning,a virtuous gift. Self-aggrandisement being considered a dehumanised value, the mantra is: earn to give. Even the BJP has been accused of ideological dilution for the sake of electoral winnability.

Post-independence, it became difficult for all ideological assertions to be reflected in a system that basically rested on the Graeco-Roman world view and was a product of an alien historical process. Initially, Gandhian values of simplicity and humility in public life were respected. Those were the times we still had leaders of depth and vision like B R Ambedkar, J B Kripalani, Purushottam Das Tandon, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Sardar Patel, Sampoornanand, K M Munshi, Ram Manohar Lohia, Acharya Narendra Dev and Hiren Mukherji. And then we had Jawaharlal Nehru, who drew strong criticism as well as praise for his deep-rooted belief in socialism. They differed strongly but their concern for the nation was unquestionable.

With the advent of the politics of expediency, a Gandhian ashram of ideas was turned into a mandi trading in votes, relegating ideological diversity to irrelevance and irreverence. Since political parties were no more than a conglomeration of certain interest groups, even ideology was defined in terms of material activity such as construction of roads and supply of energy. Political power became a goal in itself, not a vehicle to achieve greater purposes and execute visionary plans.

Though post-1947, there were stray cases of corruption in high places, like the jeep scandal and the Mundhra case, these were small yet created a furore. The guilty were not honoured in political circles and people would rise in revolt and revulsion against them. Not any more. With the breaking of the Congress and the games played with institutions like the judiciary and bureaucracy, Indira Gandhi institutionalised political corruption. It became accepted, normal behaviour for a politician to treat the issue as a non-issue. Self-interest and winning elections became goals in themselves; even a semblance of virtuous public behaviour became a matter for jokes and mockery.

Hence those who people Parliament, with charges of murder, extortion and corruption against them, become page-one politicians and secular symbols that define ‘grassroots’ politics. Except the Left and the Hindu right, there is hardly any political group that can claim to run on the basis of some ideological assertion and functional democratic inner-party norms. If it is father-and-son in the National Conference, the PDP is run by the Muftis, the BSP by Mayawati, the Samajwadi Party by Mulayam Singh, the DMK by M Karunanidhi and Stalin, the AIADMK by Jayalalithaa, the Congress by Sonia Gandhi and the Biju Janata Dal by Naveen Patnaik. The danger of such a fragmented polity becomes starker in times of crisis.

We are a nation surrounded by a failed state like Talibanised Pakistan (Hillary Clinton’s statement about Pakistan abdicating to the Taliban is unprecedented and also an alarm bell for New Delhi), Bangladesh where jihad churns, Nepal where the Maoists are messing around with the system, Sri Lanka which is mishandling the Tamil issue and, above all, China which looks over our shoulders. Add these factors to internal terror wars. If, despite these problems, we have not only survived but a small section has marched ahead, the credit must solely go to the resilience of the Indian people.

Compare India with its neighbours to appreciate the intrinsic civilisational strength of this country which is under assault from a de-culturised polity that concocts stories to malign a people and their land. India needs more than coalitions without ideological contours, as well as a pan-Indian attitude.

4 comments:

Vijay said...

Please take up the issue of weavers, tailors, construction workers, farmers, farm workers, potters, carpenters, craftsmen, washermen, scavengers, plumbers, fishermen, footwear makers. Study each of their professions and how we can improve their lives. That will be more purposeful than any lectures on nation building or raja neeti.

Rakesh said...

Mr. Vijay, improve the life is very subjective matter. Some believe money and English education is all about improving life. But this is not right, development does not mean only economic development, development must include a person's spiritual development, without it development is meaningless. Now a days a call center guy has good salary, house equipped with modern gadgets, family but same time because of lack of spiritual & cultural knowledge commitment they are suffering with many diseases which was not common in young guy.

You can't just say that just we will talk and concentrate only on economic development and forget about our culture & tradition. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS MUST & IT MUST BE ALIGNED WITH OUR CULTURE & TRADITION.

Rakesh said...

Mr. Vijay, improve the life is very subjective matter. Some believe money and English education is all about improving life. But this is not right, development does not mean only economic development, development must include a person's spiritual development, without it development is meaningless. Now a days a call center guy has good salary, house equipped with modern gadgets, family but same time because of lack of spiritual & cultural knowledge commitment they are suffering with many diseases which was not common in young guy.

You can't just say that just we will talk and concentrate only on economic development and forget about our culture & tradition. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS MUST & IT MUST BE ALIGNED WITH OUR CULTURE & TRADITION.

Rakesh said...

Tarun Vijay is a writer-journalist his true duty is to right the truth he see. And I believe is he has done great job.

Tarun Vijay alone can't resolve the problem of weavers, tailors, construction workers, farmers, farm workers, potters, carpenters, craftsmen, washermen, scavengers, plumbers, fishermen, footwear makers etc.... he need our support. Why can't we support Tarun for noble cause?