In my view today the ideology map of literate, politically aware democratic India scales from Left Extreme to Right Extreme with intervening categories of Left Extreme in thought but moderate in action, Left of Centre (liberal), Right of Centre (Liberal), Right Extreme in thought but moderate in action and Right Extreme. Let me give examples to illustrate my point.
A. Left Extreme: Eg: Maoists, elements of Muslim league.
B. Left Extreme in thought but moderate in action: Eg: CPI, CPM, some sections of English media, some sections in Congress like Mani Shankar Aiyar and Digvijay Singh and some NGOs and left leaning intelligentsia like Kavita Krishnan, Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy.
C. Left of Centre (Liberal): Eg: Majority of English media, Nitish Kumar, the majority of Congress leadership and the majority of conventional intellectuals who support congress (Amartya Sen, Romila Thapar, the Sahitya academy/ Nehruvian class).
D. Right of Centre (Liberal): Eg: some sections of Hindi media, Most top leadership in BJP, lots of young aspiring Indians who supported Modi and many intellectual commentators like Chetan Bhagat, Gurcharan Das, Tavleen Singh, Jagdish Bhagwati, Swapan Das Gupta.
E. Right Extreme in thought but moderate in action: Eg: Most in RSS, some in BJP like Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi Maharaj, many in Shivsena and VHP.
F. Right Extreme: Eg: Most in Shivsena and VHP, Owaisi Brothers, Hindu Sena, Ram Sene.
Now I have purposely left out SP, BSP, AAP, Lalu, Pawar because they are essentially political opportunists with largely fixed vote banks, limited appeal but without any fixed ideology and can sleep with anyone for power. They should be relegated to their small islands of influence where they get episodic moments of glory. Ideally, The Left and Right extreme should have no place in national political discourse or decision making simply because they can and they do resort to violence which should be the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ in democracy. The only way they can influence the mainstream is if they shift their ideology towards more moderate space.
There should be no space for and no leniency towards any kind of violence ( physical, verbal) in a democracy. And I must say that media coverage is the oxygen for these extremists and they like their 24hr of fame in newspapers and on TV through their intolerant and stupid remarks and actions. They can be totally defanged if our media decide to boycott them. Sadly, lately, they are (especially Right Extreme) occupying our mainstream media and vitiating the communal atmosphere
The most bitter ideological fight is and will always be fought between Right and Left extreme in thought but moderate in action. These two extremes occupy the majority of social media space and are in fact fodder for each other. One breeds the other. The most intriguing part is that they always try to influence and overpower the liberal narrative and try to implement their own agendas when their respective liberal colleagues are in the seat of political power and conversely their respective liberal political masters also woo these extremists during elections to win over the supposedly loyal vote banks of these extremists. So overall there is a symbiotic relationship between them. Generally, this should be acceptable in a diverse democracy like ours so long as these extremists are kept at fringes and not allowed to hijack the liberal agenda.
For almost 60 years since independence, the left leaning thought extremists have occupied the centre stage with blessings of their left liberal political masters and media giants. However the tables were turned in 2014 elections with a resounding victory for Modi and the right thought extremists who have remained marginalised since 1947, believe this is a mandate for their ideology and now want to assert their supremacy by countering aggressively the left thought extremists. The discourse and debate between right and left thought extremists makes good copy and spectacle on TV but sadly this debate is becoming more shrill and biased and less intellectual and accommodating.
Our mainstream media is also overreacting to this hyperbole from right thought extremists and projecting them as divisive and a threat to the idea of India. Although in my view the media is creating a phantom and the buffers inbuilt in the Indian civilisation auto checks any extremist movements going out of hand but still Modi should reign in these right thought extremists in his fold who have deliberately misinterpreted the thumping mandate Modi got was for extremism whereas the truth is that Modi got the mandate for taking the Right liberal line. Mr Modi must remember that BJP at the height of its Right Extreme thought ideology could muster only 180 Lok Sabha seats in 1996. It came to power with unprecedented 280 seats in 2014 only because Mr Modi shifted the narrative from right extreme ideology to right of centre aspirational development ‘less entitlement-more empowerment’ agenda and if he does not correct the right extreme elements hijacking the agenda as they are trying today, BJP will again be reduced to 180 seats in 2019 elections because that’s the political saturation point of right extreme thought ideology.
In my view the pendulum of political power in this country should swing between Left of centre and Right of centre and these two categories should fiercely guard their political space and not allow it to get polluted by their respective extreme colleagues. Even the mantle to keep intellectual exchange based on debate, discussion, dissent and tolerance for difference of opinion lies with these two poles of liberals. The future of this country and quality of democracy and diversity is most secure when our national consciousness and political discourse swings between two sides of liberal ideology as we see in most developed and civilised democracies around the world. I am sure as this country becomes more literate, politically aware and economically strong: political dividends gained by aligning with two sides of extreme thought ideology will start shrinking and the liberals on either side with ceasing to flirt frequently with the extremists.
Over time the divide between two poles of liberals will become amorphous and these two sides may cross occasionally and will be open to embracing a good IDEA from where ever it emanates rather than remaining stuck in an inflexible IDEOLOGY.