BJP after a week-long wait announced five time MP from Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath as the new CM for Uttar Pradesh. Predictably, the mainstream media and liberals from both sides of the aisle had a spectacular and very public meltdown over naming a so called hardliner as the CM candidate. The cognitive dissonance of their argument is apparent, yet a root cause analysis might reveal a more sinister thought pattern and hence must be examined closely.
The most common argument put forth by these people is that Modi and BJP cleverly did not announce the name of the CM candidate during the campaign phase and many people who voted for BJP, would not have done so had they been told about Yogi’s candidature for the top job. This does not pass the basic test of logic.
If the party (or its leader like Modi) is seeking vote without naming a CM candidate, and if people are voting for that party, the most obvious conclusion of the mandate is people are willing to vote on the basis of the party’s agenda and/or its national leadership, and they implicitly accept the leader chosen by the party. In that case, for people to still feel cheated, either the candidate 1) had to be out of the electoral purview, i.e. an unelectable leader with a record of election losses, or one who holds nominated position in the party (RS MP for example) or 2) he should have been purposely and overtly kept away from the campaign (Varun Gandhi, for example). Yogi Adityanath fits neither of the above. He is a 5 time MP from Lok Sabha, in 2014, he received close to 5.4 lac votes, he defeated his nearest opponent by over 3 lac votes. He was among the most sought after and most visible campaigners for the party, especially in the Western and Eastern parts of the state. He held over 150 rallies in the state during the campaign. If as a voter in UP, your voting decision was subject to Yogi Adityanath not being in the race for the top post, you had all the information you needed to make that decision beforehand.
Having addressed the voter disappointment issue, let’s now turn to the two other major charges made by the opposition. One- Yogi Adityanath represents the fringe extreme of the identity politics. Here too, the opposition has two disadvantages – 1) they were nowhere this vocal when the previous SP government appointed Azam Khan, a fringe leader from the Muslim community as a cabinet minister. The mainstream media members who went into a meltdown over Yogi’s name have normalized ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’ brigade without turning a hair. This is a morally inconsistent position that would make a neutral observer think that the media’s objection is not to fringe as much as to the fringe from one side of the ideological argument. 2) They have levelled the charges of fringe identity politics against nearly all active leaders from BJP at some point of time or the other. If they truly believe the Gorakhpur MP is the worst that the identity politics has to offer, they must be regretting their past allegations of religious bigotry against other, more mainstream BJP leaders as now this charge has the ring of repetitiveness to it.
Second- as senior journalist Barkha Dutt said yesterday- majority is now turning to majoritarianism. As clever as this sounds, upon closer inspection of this statement you realize what the former NDTV anchor says is – we are ok with anyone winning majority as long as the decisions are made as per our choice. This makes no sense at all. In a perfect democracy, majoritarianism is nothing but a decision that has approval of maximum number of people participating. Majoritarianism places an importance on building consensus, and thus actually strengthens foundation of democracy. In past majority and majoritarianism were separated as there were no electoral costs of ignoring majority opinion (Congress rule). BJP’s success has been in imposing electoral cost on opposition for subverting majority opinion. The answer to this lies in the opposition initiating robust dialogue in order to build consensus. The expectation that no matter who is in power, the important decision should satisfy the standards set by a few, smacks of anti-democratic arrogance. This expectation is the beginning of a slippery slope that ends into coteries and informal power structures to influence decision making (Lutyens). The day we understand the morality of majority opinion influencing decision making, the discourse will become fact based rather than rhetoric based.
Does it mean I am endorsing the ‘might is right’ doctrine? Quite the contrary. Might is often used to substitute majority by ambitious individuals who understand their stand will not be endorsed by a majority of the population. Majoritarianism is opposite of the ‘might is right’, as it requires a lot of ordinary people to come together to make their voice heard.
An important stipulation before signing off- majoritarianism does not require that you agree with the majority opinion. It does not take away your right to dissent. Barkha’s right to protest against Yogi Adityananth for UP CM is inalienable. It is when she wishes to impose the morality of her choice on all of us that the trouble starts. In this case, to question the morality of Yogi’s selection is to question the morality of the democratic process itself.