30 May 2009

Society, Culture, Politics

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

29 May 2009

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

From John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings":

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

06 May 2009

Bhagavad Gita: Favourite Shlokas

My favourite shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita:


sukha duhkhe same kRutvA lAbhAlAbhou jayAjayou
tato yuddhAya yujyasva naivam pApam avApsyasi

Making (yourself) the same in happiness and sorrow, gain and loss, victory and defeat,
then engage in battle. Thus you will not incur sin.


yogasthah kuru karmANi sangam tyaktvA dhananjaya
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhootvA samatvam yoga uchyate

Being in Yoga, perform actions giving up attachment, Dhananjaya,
being the same in success and failure. Sameness is called Yoga.


buddhiyukto jahAteeha ubhe sukRute duShkRute
tasmAd yogAya yujyasva yogah karmasu kouSalam

The intelligent man gives up both good deeds and bad deeds here,
therefore engage in Yoga. Yoga is skill in work.

04 May 2009

Vajpayee, the Right-Wing Leader

In the last three posts I dissected a couple of articles by Atal Behari Vajpayee to get to know his exact views on politics and governance. Now I am struck by the mismatch between the media's portrayal of the man and the real Vajpayee.

The media portrayed Vajpayee mainly as a smiling, amiable man whose only skill was his ability to get along with everybody. But the real Vajpayee, as we have seen, is a different – and much more impressive – person. He comes across as an intelligent and well-read man, who was knowledgeable about the world we live in today, and who had a bold new vision for the country – that was both nationalist and pragmatic. His biggest achievement was to help India break away from the failed ideas of the past – not just in politics, but also in governance and the economy.

The Congress may have fathered India's economic reforms, and the Third Front may have continued them. But they did it reluctantly, more out of necessity than out of conviction. They are left-of-centre or leftist parties, that still haven't gotten over their socialist hangover. The BJP, on the other hand, is a genuine right-wing party that is ideologically commitment to reforms.

Thus it was the BJP that took the reforms to a new level and ensured they are here to stay. And the man most responsible for this is Atal Behari Vajpayee. This contribution of his has been misunderstood, and its magnitude underestimated, both by his critics and his admirers. Vajpayee was a right-wing leader not just because he was a Hindu nationalist, but also because he championed reforms and freedom. Thus he was a true right-wing leader, in the complete sense of the term.

03 May 2009

Reforms, Freedom, Globalisation

In the previous post we saw Vajpayee's right-wing agenda for governance. Though the agenda is quite detailed, full of plans and prescriptions, it is not just an arbitrary collection of proposals. There is a certain coherence, consistency and integrity in it. The agenda is based on a broader vision. If we look closely, this vision consists of some key ideas. These key ideas/concepts are:

1. Reforms
2. Freedom
3. Responsibility
4. Participation
5. Globalisation

To put it in the form of an equation,
Reforms and Freedom (from the government)
Responsibility and Participation (from the people)
Success in the era of Globalisation

Contrast this with Nehru's socialism, where:
Licence-permit-quota raj (from the government) + Mai-baap sarkar mentality (from the people) = Failure.

An interesting parallel: Yuval Levin had proposed a reform manifesto for John McCain in the 2008 US presidential elections.

02 May 2009

A Right-Wing Agenda for Governance

The previous post outlined a right-wing political ideology, in Atal Behari Vajpayee's words. To complete the picture we need a right-wing agenda for governance. Once again Vajpayee shows us the way. Here he is, in his "Musings from Kumarakom" in 2001:

Our first task is to strengthen the awareness that we are one people – sisters and brothers who are children of the great Mother India. Some of our citizens focus too much on one or the other aspect of our diversity, ignoring the common national bonds that unite us.

All citizens and communities have an equal duty to strengthen our national unity and integrity, and to contribute to the nation's progress. In recent times, there has been a tendency to focus more on one's rights, and less on one's duties. This must change.

The time has come to introduce radical developmental reforms, which should encompass, besides economic reforms, administrative and judicial reforms. The most important component of these reforms is to fix transparent accountability at all levels and increase people's involvement in monitoring the functioning of all agencies that impact on development.

This places a far bigger responsibility on our citizens than has been realised by them so far. The habit of looking to the Government for a solution to every problem must give way to a new democratic attitude of fully participating in the Government's efforts and of maximising the scope of non-governmental efforts. This calls for a better work culture, a superior civic culture, strong discipline and a radical shift in the attitude of the citizenry from rights to duties.

Recalling how India became a colony of a foreign trading company in the past, they prophesy that India will again be "sold out" to foreigners if economic reforms are allowed to be continued. This is a ludicrous prophesy. India is an incomparably stronger nation today than when the British colonised us.

The true purpose of economic reforms is to further strengthen our economy, while removing its self-evident weaknesses, so that poverty and unemployment can be removed at a faster pace. We need to broaden and further accelerate the economic reforms, so that our economy becomes sufficiently productive to meet the growing demands of our growing population.

We are living in a world of globalisation, created by the information and communication revolution, global trade and greater inter-dependence among nations. Neither Indian industry nor agriculture can ignore the new competitive global environment in which they are called upon to operate. Our agriculture should be freed from many infrastructural, investment and other constraints that have prevented it from growing to its full potential.

We need to reduce the size of the Government, so that more resources can be channelled for people's welfare and development. We must also reform our labour laws and make them more conducive to faster economic growth and greater employment generation. Some of these are difficult measures, but we cannot shirk away from any of these imperatives.

It is our collective responsibility to devise a national strategy that effectively counters the challenges and seizes the opportunities of globalisation.

Guided by the light of the eternal and universal values of our civilisation, inspired by a modernising vision of national development, and powered by the youthful energy of one billion children of Bharat Mata, we can certainly make the 21st century India's century.

01 May 2009

The BJP's History and Right-Wing Ideology

On the 50th anniversary of India's independence, Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote an essay in "Frontline". In his inimitable way, Vajpayee traces the history of the BJP and in the process, also outlines a genuine right-wing ideology:

India might have had to sacrifice territory at the altar of the Muslim League's communal politics, but like Sardar Patel, many of us were convinced that we would be able to mould what remained of this ancient, timeless land into a modern nation-state, firmly anchored in the republican values of democracy, equality and fraternity.

Soon after, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh was formed, largely with the purpose of floating a nationalist political party that would offer an alternative platform different from that of the Congress.

Meanwhile, the party grew, with more and more people joining it. We began carrying our nationalist message of "One country, one people, one culture" to the farthest corners of India.

The Chinese aggression came as a rude shock to the people and for the first time the Congress began to lose its nationalist appeal. Instead, more and more people turned towards the Bharatiya Jan Sangh's nationalist agenda.

Indira Gandhi's Emergency in 1975 brought the wheels of democracy to a grinding halt. Suddenly, our polity was endangered as never before and dictatorship appeared to be a very real possibility. Since ours was by then a large organisation, our party cadre jumped into the battle against autocracy.

Prior to the merger and the formation of the Janata Party, we had made the relationship between the RSS and some of us very clear to the other leaders. They had emphatically stated that they had no objection to this as the RSS, and here I quote them, "is a cultural organisation devoted to good work". The same RSS, however, was unacceptable to these same people who raised the "dual membership" issue – they went back on their word.

The BJS was reborn as the Bharatiya Janata Party on Good Friday in April 1980.

While the Congress tried to abuse its brute majority in Parliament to impose itself in a most arrogant manner, we regrouped our forces and drew sustenance from our uncompromising commitment to ideology, morality and ethics. Our hard work, relentless campaign against Congress corruption and dedication to the nation paid dividends in the next general election.

Our uncompromising nationalism, our commitment to probity in public life, our war against politics of opportunism, our opposition to pandering to casteism and minorityism gave us the strength to prove these Cassandras wrong.

The Ayodhya movement has no doubt contributed to this success. We joined the movement because Sri Ram epitomises the cultural heritage of all Indians, he symbolises our cultural nationalism. Through this movement, we were able to unleash the suppressed aspirations of millions of Indians and canalise their nationalist fervour towards nation-building.

What has also contributed to our success is our slogan "Justice for all, appeasement of none". The BJP believes in creating a society through able governance where every individual, irrespective of caste, religion or sex, will have a place under the sun; where optimism, opportunity and oneness will provide the impetus for the creation of a strong and prosperous nation.

The spirit of nationalism that spurred our freedom fighters to sacrifice everything for their motherland was sought to be suppressed by the Nehruvian consensus in the decades immediately after Independence. But nationalism cannot be killed by transplanted ideologies or pseudo-ideologies.

I am confident that India will enter the next millennium with its head held high, a strong and prosperous nation, proud of its past and confident of its future as a leading member of the comity of nations. The mantra that will see us yet achieve this goal is the same mantra that ended foreign rule – uncompromising nationalism, nationalism that verges on devotionalism as epitomised by Vande Mataram, nationalism that puts the nation above everything else.