General Elections in India are coming to the end of their long cycle. These elections have possibly seen one of the most accusative and repartee filled speeches from each politician of every party that I have heard in the past few decades.
Yet one word “Nationalism” or “Nationalist” seems to be a part of these elections as never before. All anti-BJP parties, journalists and political commentators are throwing this word as an accusation at the BJP and to all its followers as if being nationalist is a crime and something that should be scorned, derided and chastised at all costs.
Nationalism is a modern movement. Throughout history people have been attached to their native soil, to the traditions of their parents, and to established territorial authorities. It was not until the end of the 18th century that nationalism began to be a generally recognized sentiment moulding public and private. Nationalism is often mistakenly regarded as a factor in political behaviour.
A Nationalistic person is one who strongly identifies with their own nation and vigorously supports the nation’s, and therefore their own, interests.
Nationalist movements around the world have helped in creating an identity and uphold national interest. The first wave of nationalist movements happened in the middle of the nineteenth century leading to revolutions in Europe, which led to the unification of Germany and Italy. Towards the end of the nineteenth century a second wave swept Eastern and Northern Europe, as well as Japan, India, Armenia, and Egypt. India’s independence movement was also a nationalist movement like the anti-colonial movements in most parts of the World.
Nationalism and nationalist movements have been on the rise all over the world.
From the election of Donald Trump who unabashedly says that he is a nationalist to President Duterte in Philippines. From President Erdogan in Turkey to President Jokowi in Indonesia. From Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. More nationalist leaders will be elected in more countries around the world. Chinese and Russian leaders use a form of nationalism to rally their people in their communist countries.
The important factor to study and understand is why these nationalistic movements are happening around the world through democratically elected processes. These movements are not fascist or dictatorial movements that have happened because of the power of a gun.
Is this change happening because all other forms of governance have not delivered what they promised to the common people who have largely remained where they were in most countries around the world? Identification with the land of their birth is one certainty no politician can take away from the common man and therefore, there is every reason for citizens to have a nationalistic mindset.
The Economist magazine in its issue dated 4th May 2019 has an article titled “Nationalist fervour is likely to secure a second term for Narendra Modi.” The author of the article has no interest in the performance of the Modi Government, or all the social development schemes launched by him. They have no reason to applaud Ayushman Bharat, the largest health scheme in the world that will cover 500 million people. They have no interest in the strides India has made in the world or India’s successes in international diplomacy.
Like The Economist several other “liberal journalists” and “political commentators” have been trying to convince themselves that nationalism and nothing else will result in a BJP victory. Their convenient interpretation of nationalism is protectionism, isolationism, xenophobia and an anti-elite discourse. To these journalists all that matters is what is in it for them and their pampered tribe. An unprecedented outreach programme to the masses in India does not matter to these journalists and political commentators since such programmes do not directly benefit them.
The age-old negative definitions and connotations of nationalism must change. The positives of being a nationalist need to be accepted and the role of nationalism in making a country stronger must be recognised.
Nationalism has everything to do with the nation and must not have anything to do with any religion or economic grouping in the nation. It has nothing to do with who is in a majority or who is in a minority. It surprises me that nationalism in India is being linked to one religion by such journalists and political commentators.
These journalists and political commentators conclude very simply that nationalist fervour being “whipped up” during these elections will help Narendra Modi win a second term. Since this nationalistic movement will help Mr Modi and the BJP to come back to power with a resounding victory, it must be categorised as bad and unacceptable. Is their agenda being driven because of the needs of some political parties or are they genuinely functioning as responsible members of the powerful fourth estate?
The silent majority of Indians are consolidating their thoughts (and possibly their votes) against those that are trying to destabilise the country. This thinking could be against terrorists from across the border who have hurt India time and time again and for the first time Indians see a strong leader who will hit back hard. It could be against those who speak about breaking up India using the “tukde – tukde” (small pieces) slogan. Or it could be against those who are willing to pardon sedition and are further stating that they will remove the law against sedition.
What is clear is that the citizens of India are saying they have had enough of the double speak they have been hearing from politicians for the past seven decades. They have heard enough comments like “we strongly condemn such a dastardly act” or “we respect the resilience of the citizens.”
My question to all these journalists and political commentators is what is wrong in being a nationalist?
I am a nationalist and am proud to say so.