An open letter to liberal optimists: Wake up and smell the saffron

By Dushyant Shekhawat

To all the people who’ve been complaining about the lack of nail-biting action in this edition of the IPL, the Karnataka state assembly elections must have been like manna from heaven. From the campaign to the results, the entire affair has had more twists and turns than the trailer of Race 3 – and the dust has not yet settled.

No matter who ends up winning the CM’s seat and forming the state government, this election will go down in history as a very stressful one, at least for a certain type of citizen.

They go by many names in today’s India – librandu, chai-sutta brigade, sickular, libtard. They’re avid followers of the news, but can’t stand Arnab Goswami. They tweet about the plight of the country’s farmers while digging into a bucket of KFC, and watch films exclusively by Anurag Kashyap.

The strongest thread tying them all together is that they, much like JD(S) leader Danish Ali, will “do everything to keep the BJP out of power”. They’ve been relegated to the sidelines since 2014, and watched as “their country” was swept away by a Modi wave. Since then, they’ve haplessly observed state after state unambiguously trust the BJP with the mandate during regional elections.

Like Arsenal fans, they’ve held on to hope of the glory days returning. These are the liberal optimists.

Much like long-suffering Arsenal fans however, they’ve had to endure a long series of disappointments before Karnataka. Even this election, where for once it seemed like the odds were not heavily stacked in the BJP’s favour, must have come as a bit of a shocker as the party claimed the single largest share of seats in the assembly. Now, as the Congress and JD(S) scramble to put together a coalition government, the anti-BJP crowd can only watch with their hearts in their mouths and pray that this one goes their way.

Or rather, does not go the way of the BJP.

It’s cute, really, the way our armchair liberals hold on to hope even when the evidence of the masses buying what the BJP is selling is staring them right in the face.

Ever since Narendra Modi ascended to power in 2014, crucial state elections are accompanied by a very specific trend. Before every election, a sense of liberal optimism hangs heavy in the air. They think that the skyrocketing fuel prices, increasing moral policing, and intensifying communal atmosphere is enough to shake people’s faith in the BJP. Satisfied with confirmation from their echo chambers, the thinkpieces come tumbling forth from their keyboards, insisting that the time is finally up for what they call BJP’s divisive politics. And then, as surely as the fact that Mukesh Ambani’s watch is more expensive than yours, they’re proved wrong when the results are declared.

Their paranoia is understandable. The BJP was supposed to be a state with a strong footprint in North India’s Hindi belt, but then they expanded their influence even into the North-East in a series of unforeseen wins. In UP, the lengthy reign of Mayawati’s BSP and Mulayam and Akhilesh Yadav’s SP came tumbling down before the irresistible force that was the NaMo wave. In Goa, where the Congress had a majority, the BJP scuppered their plans by allying with independents and staking a claim to form the government. They hoped against hope that the Gujarat verdict would deal the BJP a mighty blow, especially with Twitter in flames over the death of Justice Loya and the Patel leaders throwing their weight behind the Congress. All this trouble only to have their hopes dashed on counting day.

Oh, liberal optimists! Ensconced in our ivory towers, disconnected from the pulse of the nation, woke to global affairs but blind to our privilege, we tout reports from liberal publications as gospel. A good liberal optimist uses them to furnish theories on how the BJP has failed the people. Their concept of a syncretic, united India – a worldview supported by English-medium, ICSE/CBSE upbringing – is wholly at odds with present-day ground realities.

It’s cute, really, the way our armchair liberals hold on to hope even when the evidence of the masses buying what the BJP is selling is staring them right in the face. Much like Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of Titanic, liberal optimists are clinging onto a piece of driftwood hoping it will save them from the freezing ocean.

All that remains for liberal optimists now, is to see whom the Karnataka governor invites to form the government. Will they cling on to the driftwood until the next state election, or admit that you can’t hold back the ocean and slip under?

This article has been previously published on Arré.

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