Do not be a Bhakt

Preserve your autonomy

I apologize for the click-bait title

Alright readers. I’m not referring to the regular political or religious connotation of the word Bhakt. Rather, I’d love to know if you believe in any entity - be it an individual or organisation, with unquestioning loyalty?

More broadly,

  1. do you provide a wider latitude when judging the said entity for its actions than what you’d give to other entities, or
  2. are you blind to the obvious failings of the said entity?

If your answer to either of the question is yes, then you may be a bhakt. This could be as simple as being a fan of a movie star (Mohanlal Bhakt, or a Vijay Bhakt) to being a loyal follower of a political party (BJP Bhakt or CPI(M) Bhakt) or a political personality (Modi Bhakt or Mamata Bhakt).

My experiments of being a Bhakt

Once upon a time, I too was a bhakt of different personalities and ideologies. For a while I truly believed that IMDB ranked Mohanlal among the top 10 actors in the world. (Spoiler alert: He was not). I watched videos of, and read report of other film personalities showering praise on Mohanlal - Maniratnam who lost his directorial abilities by forgetting to say “cut” after a shot, Vijay who ate the best dosa at Mohanlal’s house whom he described as brother from another mother, and several others. Of course, continuing on this trajectory would’ve stopped me from looking at Mohanlal for what he is - an individual with a higher degree of flaws because of the misuse of his stature to get himself out of legal troubles, his continued silence (and silent support) to Dileep, the alleged conspirator of the brazen assault on a fellow actress, or spreading fake news on the effect of vibrations on corona virus.

Of course, being a bhakt of a movie star might be less dangerous than being a bhakt of a political party or an individual. I was a bhakt of former Chief Minister of Kerala V S Achuthanandan (during the height factionalism), and in general a bhakt of the Left Parties in Kerala. I viewed the Indian National Congress led UDF as the only corrupt entity in Kerala politics, conveniently ignoring the corrupt practices of the Left parties. In the national scene, I viewed Indian National Congress as a secular party and Bharatiya Janata Party as not. Now, I don’t view any party as truly secular 1.

Don’t ever be the bhakt of the government in power

Those in power will most likely use it to maximise their private benefit. No party is different from each other on this. That’s why many of you may feel betrayed by the Aam Admi Party government in New Delhi. Or the BJP government at the Centre. Or the Congress government in Rajasthan. Or the Left government in Kerala. If you are not disappointed in some ways with the government in your region, it means that you are not paying close attention. Don’t believe me? Go check out who’s the Information Commissioners appointed by your government - I’m certain that many of them are either members of the party which appointed them or ardent followers of the leaders. Will they uphold the constitution against the people who appointed them?

Parting thoughts

Being a bhakt robs us of our treasured qualities of curiosity and inquisitiveness that drives progress. When we become unquestioning followers of a cult, we are nothing but the foot-soldiers of regression. The pawns that we are, never truly become kings and queens at the end. The mirage of victory will soon fade and the reality of life under a cloud of repression will dawn up on us.

  1. You may disagree here on the question of the degree or intensity of corruption and communalism. Ultimately, we all end up doing mental calculations on who’s the least undesirable based on our own priorities. ↩︎

Arun Sudarsan
Arun Sudarsan
Economist and Policy Researcher

Arun is an Economist, passionate about Open Data and its potential to increase state transparency and accountability. Loves teaching. Previously worked at NITI Aayog. To subscribe to this blog’s mailing list, please enter your details here. Check your spam folder if you are missing updates. Thanks for subscribing!

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