This is the fourth in the series of "Understanding Political Identity" where I make a humble attempt to simplify the complex world of political identity and what are the different facets that form the derivatives of the sum which is the central point of discussion: political identity. In the last part of the series, I will explain my own stance, why do I believe in it and attempt to make a case for capitalism and against the popular yet suffocating, stenchful and nauseating narrative of leftist ideology. The different parts of the series are as follows:
P-1: Understanding Political Identity: Definitions
P-2: Understanding Political Identity: Role of religion
P-3: Understanding Political Identity: Major political values
P-4: Understanding Political Identity: An Indian perspective
P-5: Understanding Political Identity: Case for Capitalism in India
Photo by Ritesh Arya from Pexels
There is a good and valid reason for calling India as a subcontinent. The diverseness of geography, history, culture, food, language, philosophy and way of life is immense beyond description and enough to boggle the minds of a native, what to talk of a foreigner. White desert, cold desert, sand desert, snow capped mountains, hills, plateaus, deltas, peninsula, tropical islands, plains, backwaters, deep forests, beach and everything that can be found across a continent is jam packed into one country. The precursor to a nation state is a grand narrative that binds the citizen into a single entity driven by a singular concrete belief. This belief is what forms the nation state. For example, the grand narrative of Israel is "return to the promised lands" or a separate Jewish state for the Jews led by the David Ben Gurion. The grand narrative for the United states of America is the "American dream" or American exceptionalism or land of opportunities as written in the exemplary document "Declaration of Independence" written by Thomas Jefferson and finally led by George Washington.
So what exactly is the Indian Grand Narrative? Did we ever ponder upon this question? Why was there a need to have a different country? Who are the Indians? What exactly drives this nation and why is it that this nation needs to be preserved? Who are the protagonists of our story?
Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya succinctly covers these important points about the importance of national identity and what exactly defines us which we have, unfortunately forgotten:
"It is essential that we think about our national identity. Without this identity there is no meaning of independence, nor can independence become the instrument of progress and happiness. As long as we are unaware of our national identity, we cannot recognize and develop all our potentialities. Under alien rule, this identity is suppressed. The basic cause of the problems facing Bharat is the neglect of its national identity. A majority of those who lead the nation today as well as those who take active interest in the affairs of the country are not sufficiently aware of this root cause. Consequently, opportunists with no principles reign in politics of our country. Parties and politicians have neither principles nor aims nor a standard code of conduct.
The confusion in the West arises primarily from its tendency to think of life in sections and then to attempt to put them together by patch work. We do admit that there is diversity and plurality in life, but we have always attempted to discover the unity behind them.
In our view society is self-born. Like an individual, society comes into existence in an organic way. People do not produce society. In reality, society is an entity with its own "SELF", its own life; it is a sovereign being like an individual; it is an organic entity. We have not accepted the view that society is some arbitrary association. It has its own life. Society too has its body, mind, intellect and soul.
Just as the soul produced these different organs in the body, so also in the nation many different organs are produced as instruments to achieve national goals. Like various departments in a factory, building, machinery, sales, production, maintenance etc., nations also produce different departments, which are called institutions. These institutions are created to fulfill the needs of a nation. Family, castes, guilds, (which are now known as trade unions) etc. are such institutions. Property, marriage are also institutions. Similarly, Gurukul and Rishikul were institutions. In the same way, the state is also an institution.
Our national life continued uninterruptedly even after the state went in the hands of foreigners. The Persian nation came to an end with their loss of independence. In our country, there were foreign rules now and then in various parts of the country. At the same time the Pathans seized the throne of Delhi, and then the Turks; the Mughals and the British too established their rules. Despite all this, our national life went on, because the state was not its center. If we had considered state as the center, we would have been finished as a nation long time ago.
According to the Bharatiya traditions, a nation is an organic living entity which has come into existence on its own and has not been made up or created by any group of persons. A nation brings forth a variety of institutions to fulfill its needs, as well as to give concrete shape to its inner fundamental nature. The State is one of these institutions which though being an important institution, is not supreme. It is true that the king (state) wielded a great deal of influence. And that he was the protector of Dharma in society, but the king could not decide what constitutes Dharma. He only saw to it that people led their lives according to Dharma. In a way he was equivalent to present day executive.
"Swadeshi" and "Decentralization" are the two words which can briefly summarize the economic policy suitable for the present circumstances. Centralization and monopolization have been the order of the day for all these years, knowingly or unknowingly. The planners have become prisoners of a belief that only large-scale centralized industry is economic and hence without worrying about its ill-effects, or knowingly but helplessly, they have continued in that direction. The same has been the fate of "Swadeshi". The concept of "Swadeshi" is ridiculed as old fashioned and reactionary. We proudly use foreign articles. We have grown over dependent upon foreign aid in everything from thinking, management, capital, methods of production, technology, etc. to even the standards and forms of consumption. This is not the road to progress and development. We shall forget our individuality and become virtual slaves once again. The positive content of "Swadeshi" should be used as the cornerstone of reconstruction of our economy."
[The above excerpt is taken from another article titled "Weaving India's Mahakatha(Grand Narrative) for the 21st century by Rajiv Malhotra. To read the article, click here.]
The key word is decentralization. Since time immemorial, our culture has never stressed over centralization. Our philosophy has never been prescriptive but reflective. We do not accept things but investigate and indulge in to why certain things exist the way they do. Our dharma that dictates our life is excellently covered by the philosophical father of capitalism, John Locke.
All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.
This philosophy is embedded in our constitution and something that Dr. Ambedkar pushed himself.
To summarize, India must achieve:
a) Social equity
b) Economic development
c) Decentralization of power
d) Syncretism and Pluralism as oppose to Secularism
Our political identities are an adopted expression of our belief in a set of principles that will bring a change for good in the society and achieve the desired objectives. This definition carries an assumption that every citizen is aware and proud about his national identity. I do not inherently believe anyone wishes ill for their country, provided he does believe in that nation state, but there are differences between several people on the way to achieve the shared objective which is absolutely fine in a democratic country. There can be several arguments that are for or against a particular path to achieve those objectives.
Did we achieve the above objectives?
We have definitely evolved as an Economic superpower with an economy which is pushing towards USD 3 trillions yet our GDP/capita is abysmally low at USD 2000. To put this into perspective, our GDP per capita is almost equal to that of Zimbabwe. We have made great strides in improving social equity but there is a lot of scope to improvement. The power centralization has only increased and increased with bureaucracy practically running the nation. Secularism has been made into a joke already. From the outside, the surface looks good but on closer inspection, we are in a rotten condition. Corruption scams, heavy government regulation, low quality welfare programs and cronyism has dampened the potential of India.
Would anyone believe that this nation has the potential to grow at a rate of 10-15% GDP? I believe so. The entrepreneurial ability of this nation is unparalleled. All we have to do is to let go of it. We can no more suppress this power and we should not. In this age, the only way to achieve our grand narrative is to be a strong economic power. Everything else will follow. We need a Ronald Reagen. We need a Margaret Thatcher. We need another P.V. Narsimharao.