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“Bhakti in Politics”

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February 9, 2014 by thejalebichronicles

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar - 1946“In India, ‘Bhakti’ or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship plays a part in politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other world. ‘Bhakti’ in religion maybe a road to salvation of the soul. But in politics, ‘Bhakti’ or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”
– 
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

Pay heed to these words that Babasaheb prophesies to his brethren as he postulates the three threats to Indian democracy – the grammar of anarchy, a pure political democracy and the dogmatic dilemma of bhakti in politics. What sort of fear did Babasaheb wish to invoke to caution us about the elements of trust and faith? What leads citizens of a system to establish one parallel wrathful cult? What made Babasaheb turn his attention towards the context of bhakti remains a mystery. I continued to fathom over his satanic verse and finally, it all made sense.

“In God we trust”, a motto embedded into every element which values in the United States since its inception. Who is this God? And they all said, “Lord Almighty, of course”. Silence prevailed. I however, agreed to disagree.

Through the oculus of the unseen, in the rotunda of the United States Capitol, lies Brimidi’s fresco of The Apotheosis of Washington, veneration of the father.

Washington

Apotheosis – where man turns God, divination.

Mystified subjects worshiped Washington; the usual bhakti, unusual bhakts. However, the utmost peculiar element within this majestic fresco is that Washington lays besides his subjects and not above, and yet Brimidi’s brilliance depicts him to be a divine being. Above the founding father lay the words e pluribus unum, which means out of the many, one’.

Supreme, yet one of the many.
Questions plenty, but just one answer to it all.

It was democracy.

India as a nation fails to construct every other form of governance except for democracy, where it continues to stabilize its political, social and economic equilibrium, aiming to recognize and permanently establish its three most basic principles – liberty, equality and fraternity. Fail to sustain, and the consequences may be severe to a height where our freedom remains at stake. The key to form a constructive system is to fathom over the difference between social and political democracy.

Funny to conclude that India scores 7.52 on the democracy index, which means India as a nation yet remains a flawed democracyLee Hypothesis suggests that an authoritarian power in Asian countries nurtures an economy much better than that of a democratic setup. I however, deny to agree.

The term ‘demos’ denotes people, while ‘kratos’ means rule or regime. Babasaheb denotes the phrase ‘eventual dictatorship’ or autocracy, where bhakti surely acts as a catalyst. What role does bhakti play which gives rise to a potential autocrat within democracy?

What makes demos evolve into autos?

When the air sensed the rise of a nation to be built upon laws and dogmas, Babasaheb broke his silence within the four corners of the Constituent Assembly on the 26th of November, 1949. He quotes John Stuart Mill’s words, it says

“People can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less unfit for liberty.”

26 years later, India witnessed Mill’s words – The Emergency. Indira Gandhi was, is and continues to remain India’s most insecure dictator. But what made her evolve from demos to autos which led world’s largest democracy transform into eventual dictatorship which lasted for a year and a half?

Indira

Indira was a power-addict, yet the finest among all.

“People can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man” 
She won the hearts of all when she enchanted out “garibi hatao” during her electoral campaigns of ‘71If someone was to be blamed, it were us. Social agendas were surely considered but futile promises for a better economy were not. Indira as a leader, failed to sustain the inflationary crisis which rulers worldwide faced at the time. Jayaprakash Narayan was undoubtedly professing the potentiality of ‘anarchism’ via his sampoorna kranti (Total Revolution) campaign.

Unique elements to observe.
One, the rise of anarchy which aims to subvert pseudo-democracy.
Second, Babasaheb prophesied that the concept of total revolution would utterly fail. Even a mere rise of the concept of constructive revolution would drift democracy from its sustaining equilibrium.

or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions
Corrupt practices by the party in charge came to surface when she’d been found guilty of attaining power via electoral malpractices. On the 12th of June, 1975, the High Court of Allahabad ordered her to be removed from her seat in Parliament and banned from running elections for six years.

She never wished for the Emergency, but she was forced to do so. And so led to the birth of Indira’s dictatorial India which went over for 18 months and beyond, India’s “blackest hours” in history. She rose and eventually had a drastic fall; rose again and finally the reaper embraced her.

Bhakti’s mystery continued to mystify me.  And an image shaped its way, it was nonetheless, Balasaheb Thackeray.

Balasaheb

Balasaheb perplexes them all who search out for the key of what it makes to be Bal ThackerayEmperor of the Hindu Hearts and founder of the Marathi chauvinistic organization Shiv Sena, Balasaheb could be considered nationalistic from the outside yet ethnocentric within. A fearless xenophobe and possibly one of the finest orators of all among the Marathi brotherhood, Thackeray continues to be a dictator with complexion.

But what made Balasaheb evolve from demos to autos?

Balasaheb’s charisma is what mesmerizes his eternal devotees. Sainiks pay their respect, loyalty and love in the form of devotional obedience. When Balasaheb coughs, his sainiks uproar. Bhakti gave rise to a parallel regime governed by Balasaheb and his children, the sainiks. Shakas is to Balasaheb what the church is to the Pope. Like it has been said, Thackeray was a dictator with complexion. The political concept which laid back into Balasaheb’s mind was that in order to “get things done”, democracy will fail. It’s here where the need for a benign dictator comes into light, it’s here where Balasaheb played his move as he enters into the game of counter-politics and parallel governance.

Pro-monarchist, anti-anarchist. Balasaheb built the Shiv Sena over the ideologies of Shivshani, which terms the monarchic rule of Shiavji Maharaj.

Bhakti has undoubtedly played a role in the rise of Balasaheb as an autocratic. Benign autocracy was never his game, although he assumed to be one. Fear invoked into every heart which did not meet the needs to be a part of the ethnocentrism. His notorious acts through his sainiks justifies Ambedkar’s postulate, Bhakti in religion maybe a road to salvation of the soul. But in politics, ‘Bhakti’ or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”

Bhakti may be benign, or may not. But the key to great governance lies to differentiate a line between fundamentalism and extremism, and it is indeed bhakti what acts as a catalyst to its evolution. For Christ was a savior, Muhammad a prophet and Gandhi a humble-God but in the end, they were all just men.

– Achilles Rasquinha

DISCLAIMER:- The views presented in this article represent the views of the writer alone and not the others in general.

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