Hey Liberal Optimists, Wake Up and Smell the Saffron


Hey Liberal Optimists, Wake Up and Smell the Saffron

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Yesterday’s thumping election victory for the BJP was notable for the overwhelming mandate that the BJP won for a second time. As the Opposition parties reflect on where they went wrong, this election will be remembered as historic, at least for a certain type of citizen.

They go by many names in today’s India – librandu, chai-sutta brigade, sickular, libtard. They’re avid followers of the news, but can’t stand Arnab Goswami. They tweet about the plight of the country’s farmers while digging into a bucket of KFC, and watch films exclusively by Anurag Kashyap.

The strongest thread tying them all together is that they do not want to see BJP in power. They’ve been relegated to the sidelines since 2014, and watched as “their country” was swept away by a Modi wave. Since then, they’ve haplessly observed state after state unambiguously trust the BJP with the mandate during regional elections.

Like Arsenal fans, they’ve held on to hope of the glory days returning. These are the liberal optimists.

Much like long-suffering Arsenal fans however, they’ve had to endure a long series of disappointments, until Karnataka last year. Even then, where for once it seemed like the odds were not heavily stacked in the BJP’s favour, the party claimed the single largest share of seats in the assembly. The Congress’ and JD(S)’s scramble to put together a coalition government must have had the anti-BJP crowd watching and praying with their hearts in their mouths, until HD Kumaraswamy finally put them at ease.

It’s cute, really, the way our armchair liberals hold on to hope even when the evidence of the masses buying what the BJP is selling is staring them right in the face.

Ever since Narendra Modi ascended to power in 2014, crucial state elections are accompanied by a very specific trend. Before every election, a sense of liberal optimism hangs heavy in the air. They think that the skyrocketing fuel prices, historic levels of unemployment, increasing moral policing, and intensifying communal atmosphere is enough to shake people’s faith in the BJP. Satisfied with confirmation from their echo chambers, the thinkpieces come tumbling forth from their keyboards, insisting that the time is finally up for what they call BJP’s divisive politics. And then, as surely as the fact that Mukesh Ambani’s watch is more expensive than yours, they’re proved wrong when the results are declared.

Their paranoia is understandable. The BJP was supposed to be a state with a strong footprint in North India’s Hindi belt, but then they expanded their influence even into the North-East in a series of unforeseen wins. In UP, the lengthy reign of Mayawati’s BSP and Mulayam and Akhilesh Yadav’s SP came tumbling down before the irresistible force that was the NaMo wave. In Goa, where the Congress had a majority, the BJP scuppered their plans by allying with independents and staking a claim to form the government. They hoped against hope that the Gujarat verdict would deal the BJP a mighty blow, especially with Twitter in flames over the death of Justice Loya and the Patel leaders throwing their weight behind the Congress. In November, the triple defeat suffered by the BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh allowed the to believe their own hype. All this trouble only to have their hopes dashed on counting day. 

Oh, liberal optimists! Ensconced in our ivory towers, disconnected from the pulse of the nation, woke to global affairs but blind to our privilege, we tout reports from liberal publications as gospel. A good liberal optimist uses them to furnish theories on how the BJP has failed the people. Their concept of a syncretic, united India – a worldview supported by English-medium, ICSE/CBSE upbringing – is wholly at odds with present-day ground realities.

It’s cute, really, the way our armchair liberals hold on to hope even when the evidence of the masses buying what the BJP is selling is staring them right in the face. Much like Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of Titanic, liberal optimists are clinging onto a piece of driftwood hoping it will save them from the freezing ocean.

All that remains for liberal optimists now, is to see whether they can cling on to the driftwood until 2024, or admit that you can’t hold back the ocean and slip under?