Making The Best Use Of The Rightward Shift In India’s Overton Window

In the first few decades of Israel’s establishment as an independent state, left-leaning parties totally dominated the country’s political space, first under the country’s founder figure David Ben Gurion, and later under others of a similar ideological inclination heading the Israeli Labour Party. But this overwhelming Left-wing control over power suffered its first dislocation from authority at the hands of Likud- a party representing socially conservative, religious and economically liberal voices in the country. The first two decades of the 21st century have marked an even further rightward shift in the political dynamics of Israel, such that the in the last election, the only Jewish left wing front managed to win just 7 seats in the 120 seat Knesset.

Pretty much all the other major Jewish parties which won seats in that election can be placed somewhere on the right wing end of the political spectrum, and all these other parties put together control more than 80% of the seats in the Israeli Parliament. Practically, the overwhelming domination of the right in Israel has meant that Jewish settlements in the West Bank have been expanded at breathtaking pace, the country has passed a ‘Jewish nation-state law’ which fundamentally recognises that Israel exists as the homeland of the Jewish people, and that government monopolies in certain sectors which previously created massive inefficiencies have been dismantled.

The lesson from all of this is that a typical “Left, Right and Centre” type political spectrum where each side takes turns grabbing the reigns of power does not necessarily have to be the norm in an electoral democracy. A central idea which affects the distribution of power across various political alignments is that of the ‘Overton Window’, which refers to the range of political ideas which are considered socially acceptable for public discourse in a country. A rightward shifting Overton window necessarily means either the political decline of the left wing and centrist parties, or a concerted attempt by them to re-invent themselves as more acceptable ‘right-wing’ parties.

Whatever one’s view of BJP’s rule may be, what is undeniable is that the ‘Modi wave’, the subsequent consolidaiton of the party’s electoral fortunes and the creation of a BJP-aligned propaganda ecosystem has created the necessary conditions which have begun to cause a great shift to the Right in Indian politics. Whether it be Kejriwal’s schemes to fund pilgrimages of elderly Hindu residens of Delhi, or Mamata’s decision to double funding for Durga Puja Pandals, a lot more politicians are now at least willing to compete for ‘Hindu hearts and minds’ overtly.

This willingness on part of ostensibly ‘secular’ parties to also begin soft pandering to the Hindu vote bank can be interpreted as a direct result of the change in public discourse around politics. Common middle class people, many of whom earlier would’ve been embarrassed or apprehensive to strongly express their Hindu identity in public, are much more unhesitant now. ‘Proud Indian’ in Twitter bios has given way to ‘Proud Hindu’, ‘Rambhakt’, ‘Sanatani’, etc. The long-continued tradition of Bollywood and mainstream Indian media of maligning and mocking Hinduism has also become apparent to millions of people, and even the slightest such depiction in new movies or shows does not go unnoticed or unpunished in some way.

So, in a general sense, a certain proclivity towards Hindu Nationalism, an increased attachment towards Hindu Civilisation, and general distrust and contempt towards the Left and Progressives have become all too common. But a rightward shift in the Overton window does not necessarily mean a shift towards the most effective right wing policies. It may simply mean a shift to those policies which on the surface level pander to the rising sense of Hindu Nationalism, but don’t really do much to achieve the eventual goals of said ideology, or in some cases even outrightly end up being counter-productive– such as the two child policy, on which you can watch this Frontier Indica video.

What we need to understand is that the leaders in power are not necessarily the most dedicated ideologues in their respective parties, but those who have been able to leverage an image of being sincere ideologues into taking hold of positions of power. Those two are often not the same thing. But the thing is, whether dedicated ideologues or not, most politicians will react to public pressure from their constituents, whether real or just apparent.

Thus, we need to identify our core issues and the proper solutions to them, with in-depth research and continuous debate. The party must not be allowed to build the ideas and the narrative, the ideas and the narrative must build the party. Boosting Hindus demographically, particularly Caste Hindus, must just not remain relegated to election time rhetoric or to Twitter threads, but must become a core, non-negotiable part of the ideology of Hindu Nationalism.

Similarly, the drive to preserve the autonomy of Hindu institutions must also be seen as a non-negotiable principle, which comes before any sort of political allegiance. How to go about doing it, which laws to revoke, which laws to pass, this must become a central, core issue for all serious Hindu ideologues. It would be a much better use of time rather than creating a Twitter trend about what Kunal Kamra or Swara Bhasker said or did not say about Bollywood.

Another example of a core principle to be developed in line with the values of Hindu Civilisation is that of laissez faire capitalism– finding the right balance between the egalitarian ethos of modern social life, the freedom for each individual to pursue commerce and trade as per his capabilities, and the need to defend the cultural and traditional framework of Hindu society.

These are just some of many issues which need to be chalked out at an ideological level; with the principles that emerge from them to be then used to present a ‘sink or swim’ choice to all political parties. Otherwise the rightward shifting Overton window will fundamentally not change the direction in which this land has been moving for the last several centuries– that of civilisational death.

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