ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Two-Party Syndrome: Conservative versus Liberal?

There is a palpable sigh of relief in some quarters under the impression that India is finally moving towards a virtual two-party system organised around certain conservative and liberal co-ordinates. But does India need that sort of a regime? In thoughts as well as in actions, the reign of this particular liberal consensus for about half a century has exacerbated social fragmentation, religious intolerance, and economic underdevelopment. There is no sign of change for the better in this consensus. The conservative consensus differs little from its rival. It invokes Hindu epics, which, in fact, glorify civil wars that had divided the people. The epic age of Indian spiritualism is marked by great diversity of thoughts which cannot possibly be contained within any one culture. And the other beliefs that emerged subsequently deserve no less respect. The conservative agenda is thus incoherent. Communalism and casteism are the two main threats today. The basic problem has two dimensions: inter-religion, and intra-religion. This paper suggests a possibility of resolution, inspired by two universal truths, namely, human sanctity, and human rights; the former justifies the domain, while the latter enumerates the content. The first one is an ancient revelation in all religions; the second one is of recent origin. The basic ideals of India include secularism and equality in the civil society, full employment and growth in the economy, and democracy in polity. This paper tests the prevailing conservative and liberal consensus in the light of such standards. And, above all, it explores a possible path towards these ideals.

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