ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Radical Politics in Conservative Times


In the contemporary political scenario in India, the politics of the “radical” elements finds its justification not necessarily in its transformative potential, but in the failure of the people to conjoin their voting power with moral power. The moral power of a voter lies in their ability, for example, to disapprove all kinds of violence that bring embarrassment to legality in particular and shame to humanity in general. Rightness is linked with moral power that can be demonstrated in disapproving such violence. Arguably, mob lynching achieves this double “distinction.” The violence occurring in one region and caused by an individual or institutions of the state adversely affects ­either directly or indirectly the individuals from other regions as well. Violence or suppression of freedom in one context, however, affects people from other regions as much as it puts people in those regions too in a moral panic. This is reflected in the feelings of anxiety and scepticism that people develop depending on whether freedom is guaranteed to them. They feel sceptical about what next steps the institution, for example, the present government and conservative elements, might take in terms of furthering or curbing the social space of freedom. The failure of governmental institutions to eliminate the condition of moral panic only goes to prove the limited power of voting. Voting power in itself does not guarantee the rightness of that power.

Voting power is not enough; in fact, such power tends to aid conservative elements. In the republican mode, the power of people ought to be limited or informed by the force of moral power. Therefore, moral power has to play a determinative role in creating the capacity among voters to disapprove violence. Moral power does bring the power of voting within the normative framework of rightness. Basic freedom and non-violence are two important reference points of this framework. The question that one has to raise is: How much of a determinative impact does moral power have on people’s judgment of voting? The answer to this question, unfortunately, cannot be given in the affirmative due to the spectre of violence that occurs with being spectators to the acts of violence that are perpetrated in their midst. If people fail to exercise their moral power, then someone has to be empowered to step in when ­people or the state move beyond their respective moral and constitutional limits and indulge in violence either directly or indirectly. It is important to acknowledge that the efforts made by radicals to search for an objective truth through, for example, fact-finding exercises are understandable.

Interestingly, the “radical” elements step into the situation, but they do so more to confront the government rather than to reach out to the people. Some of them do conduct dialogues with the people. The radicals feel compelled to constantly step in as certain sections of society continuously fail to use their moral power to disapprove the violence. Radicals keep raising these issues with the government and the latter is quick to ignore them. The whole process is effectively reduced to what could be seen as a “see-saw” game between the radical and the socially conservative sections. Also, the reactive mode of the radicals gets subordinated to the design of the conservative who then loses no time in condemning the radical as anti-this and anti-that.

What is important is to establish inter-subjective agreement over the importance of the rightness of moral power that has to be conscientiously used to disapprove the mob violence. What is, however, evident is the mutual estrangement between the radicals and the different variety of conservatives. By now it is well known that the process of creating mutual agreement on non-
violence against the weaker sections of the society, or need for public disapproval of lynching has been replaced by mutual estrangement. This disapproval of violence has to be immediate and almost on an everyday basis, and should not be deferred to the time of voting. If one postpones it for too long one leaves a lot of space for the conservatives to simply take it over. In such a space that is wide open for speculation, the narratives of truth are likely to be suppressed by the “thought police” who use an incessant degree of trolling in order to silence this truth. In order to produce inter-subjective agreement, it is necessary to give a normative ­account of the reality. Such a normative account can be built up from the consequences that a particular violent action has for a public good such as non-violence. No society in the world has ever made social progress with a political power that seeks to rule through the perpetuation of violence.

Updated On : 11th Sep, 2019


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