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Regionalism, not secularism, is the new pivot of Indian politics, writes Barkha Dutt
The party that will be hurt the most by the ascent of regional forces and their localised identities will be the Congress. Most likely the political fault line in 2019 will be Hindutva vs Caste disruptions

  At a recent panel discussion to launch a book of essays by senior lawyer and Congress spokesperson, Abhishek Singhvi, I pushed the speakers to define what “secularism” is. Singhvi’s introductory chapter identifies secularism as the first principle of Indian democracy. As a philosophical notion of diversity and a constitutional guarantee of equality, of course I entirely agree. It is what makes India unique and wonderful.

But I was more interested in exploring whether it still holds as a marker of political differentiation. Hasn’t secularism become corroded and compromised as an electoral slogan?

Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress retorted — rather candidly — “This secularism debate is all politics.” He wasn’t dissing the idea of religious pluralism which he said was innate to India; his remark was on the electoral squabble over the word.

But perhaps nothing illustrates the fact that the old political silos no longer apply than the meeting between his party’s boss Mamata Banerjee and the Shiva Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray. Unlike his father, Uddhav is someone I have often described as “the reluctant fundamentalist”. But notwithstanding his seeming discomfort with the traditional militant parochialism of his party, it would be hard for anyone to call the Sena a secular force. Yet, an unfazed West Bengal chief minister said she “respects Shiv Sena; no one is more communal than the BJP”. Since then, Uddhav has become an unlikely rallying force for the anti-Modi federal front, even though he hasn’t yet left the alliance with the BJP in Maharashtra.



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