Twisted ‘secularism’ in India

According to Wikipedia, Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. .. .. was first used by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851. In political terms, secularism is a movement towards the separation of religion and government. This can refer to reducing ties between a government and a state religion, replacing laws based on scripture with civil laws, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion.

So, essentially the term espouses the separation of the state from a religion and its equi – distance from all religions. It implies no discrimination on the basis of religion. 

Yet in India, its completely the opposite. A sort of selective secularim is followed with political parties falling over each other to promote “affirmative action” based on religion only. This ofcourse is over and above the “affirmative action” based on caste considerations, which is the topic of another blog post.

Shahid Siddique, journalist, formerly with SP, has this excellent insight on the abuse of ‘secularism’ in India by political parties.

To cut the chase short, in India the strategy of most political parties is based on the principle that the electoral power of an insecure minority is much more than that of a divided majority. So, they might as well pander to this minority voting group. Constantly, remind them of the “looming threat” in the form of a “rabid & fundamentalist right wing party” at the gates who will wreak havoc if they come to power. Maintain them as a captive votebank, fuel the fire of uncertainty and fear amongst them. In short, keeping voting them into power just so as to keep “them” out. One is reminded of the George Bushs’ famous ‘ Either you are with us or with the terrorists’ motto practised by these political parties.

Anyway, the majority voting group is divided so as to exercise any meaning influence of an elections. This has worked so very wonderfully for them over the past so many years. Election time usually brings with it the ‘scare mongering’ of these parties who appeal to this target audience of theirs to vote for them so as to keep the opposition out of power. Electoral issues, like the economy, infrastructure, jobs, inflation etc is so masterfully swept under the carpet.

But unfortunately for these political parties, the narrative which was so carefully deployed by them has been hijacked by India’s principal political party, BJP,  led by its PM candidate Mr Modi, who has brought the economy, jobs, price rise to the fore. With India’s changing demographics, a median age of less than 30, implies that this demographic finds the these issues more appealing than the rapidly outdated caste and religion card. The demographic dividend, benefits of favourable demographics in the form of high savings and investment which could propel the GDP growth, could soon turn into a disaster if this army of youth joining the workforce is not utilised productively.   

The law of diminishing marginal utility seems to be finally catching up with these political parties in India and their outdated strategy of scare mongering to garner votes of a united minority voting group at the expense of a divided majority. However, changing demographics has upset these calculations with jobs, economy and price rise being of paramount importance. 


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