ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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The Prospects of Optimising the Margin


The discussion of political margin particularly in electoral democracy can be seen to be paradoxical. From the point of view of theoretical reason that is routinely made in defence of parliamentary democracy, making a case for the margin will appear incongruous. The principle of rotation which is at the core of parliamentary democracy through its dynamism is expected to constantly circulate leaders in the institutionalised power. As a result of such dynamism, those at the margins, in the formal sense, can rise up to the centre of power and those on the top can be pushed down the ladder. The electoral aspect of democracy is supposed to achieve this transition. To put it differently, the margins in the life of a democracy are never stable or frozen; they have the elasticity to move to the centre. And yet, Indian democracy has achieved this distinction of having its own margins; margins that exist in asymmetrical relation to the centre that has become stronger and wants to be stable in power at least for some years to come.

The centre in politics revolves around the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which seems to have been setting the terms of political discourse in India. This is evident in the fact that in the contemporary scenario, the opposition is reduced to becoming a reactive force. Within this scenario, the smaller parties or the parties at the margins seem to be working in two modes. These modes apparently seem different, but are essentially one and the same. The smaller political parties that are a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have already given up the agenda of moving to the centre to take an independent position on some of the critical issues that the margins are facing, in particular and the country is staring at, in general. Those parties that claim to be the representatives of the margins seem to be taking a careful position, keeping in view their particular interests that can best be safeguarded by remaining in provincial politics. Let us turn the table around and ask: Are these parties really at the margins? These parties, in terms of sheer electoral politics, may be at the margins, but in terms of substantive politics they should be at the centre. The advantage of being at the centre has to be understood in regard to the hermeneutic backing of legendary thinkers such as Jotirao Phule and B R Ambedkar that these parties have and second, these parties are in a better position to orient the political force of the masses of the marginalised in accordance to the intellectual backing of these thinkers. Put differently, the rich section of the society would have no transformative ­interest in the ideas of Phule and Ambedkar. Thus, the normative content of their political mobilisation is rich but awaits cross-fertilisation. These are quite compelling conditions for moving from the margin to the political centre even in electoral terms. And yet, these parties fail to optimise the margin which at its normative core is the most creative in thought and transformative in politics. It is true that the hegemonic forces use all kinds of manipulative and coercive means to thwart attempts aimed at producing counter-hegemony. But it is equally true that these parties find purpose in remaining relevant at the provincial level.

Optimising is a radical process involving efforts to move at the vertical level with national mobilisation or pan-Indian mobilisation of the mass of the marginalised. But this mobilisation of the marginal tends to take the horizontal route inasmuch as these leaders focus on mobilising different marginalised social groups. These efforts of such leaders move from margin to margin. This parochial move is evident in the ever-growing proliferation of intra-groups and inter-groups within the Dalit and Other Backward Classes (OBC) politics in the country. It seems that the impossibility of remaining confined to the margins is externally induced and internally perpetuated. It is induced from above by the parties in order to play hegemonic politics effectively. The hegemonic need of the ruling parties both in the present context and as it was in the past, makes the presence of marginal parties logically feed into the hegemonic project. Similarly, the leaders of these parties can make available both the marginalised and themselves to such inclusion through sticking to their particular identity. Such parties can always find reason in their efforts to perpetuate particular social identities that however are rhetorically universal but only in their nomenclature and not in essence. This can explain the lack in hegemonic capacities to encapsulate in its logic the smaller groups. Hegemony essentially needs the capacity to either rhetorically or partially accommodate the members of such parties. Moreover, the logic of political hegemony mediated through electoral democracy tends to gobble up into its pacifying logic every emerging voice from the margins. It is ironical that these parties of the margins have adequate wherewithal in terms of thought and numbers of the marginalised, but are not in a position to move to the centre.

Updated On : 11th Sep, 2019


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