Glocalisation is defined by the Britannica Encyclopedia as ‘the simultaneous occurrence of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies in contemporary social, political, and economic systems’. It is a concept used particularly well in business. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling India today has fine tuned it to its needs.
Since coming to office Modi has hugged his way through many countries. Though many have mocked his hugs it was part of a global strategy. He was giving a new style to Indian diplomacy - being braggadocio. This was combined with using the Indian diaspora across the world to indicate his worth in foreign countries to people in India.The cherry on this ‘soft power’ was the global recognition of Yoga. The other side of this coin was the surgical strikes carried out inside Pakistan and Burma. Such occasions gave Indians an opportunity to puff out their chests.
Within India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team spoke about Indian mythology as if it were history, created an environment where Hindu hardliners had a free hand and reframed laws to undo what he had called ‘1200 years of slavery’ in his maiden Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament) speech. Since then he has torn into the icons of the Indian freedom struggle and ridiculed the performance of the country in the last 60 years. Though there was not much substance in these, the sheer insouciance of what he said swayed people. This was the local part of the Glocalisation.
The global and the local are neatly merging for the creation of a Hindu Rashtra.
This glocalisation formula gives the BJP the aura of a national party. Unfortunately, the Congress (I) has not come up with a blueprint for its position as a national party. It is hampered by the fact that Rahul Gandhi is taking baby steps into the political sphere. This would have been commendable and inspiring if he were in business or if India were still a monarchy or he did not represent a dynasty.
Unfortunately, the country does not have the time for such experiments with truth.
Regional parties do not face this conundrum because they do not aspire to represent India on the global stage nor do they wish to spread their ideology across the entire geography of India.
Thus, it is important that the Congress (I) and even other parties learn from the BJP. These are the things that work for the BJP within the ambit of the Glocal philosophy.
1. Sops don’t work - Affirmative action is an economic and societal necessity. It is supposed to create an inclusive society because it gives everyone an equal chance to achieve their potential. However, sops don’t work because they are superficial and are used as a bargaining tool. Instead of sops the Congress and other parties should think of ways to bridge the socio-economic divide. This does not mean eating at the homes of the poor and marginalised. The biggest and best sop that the BJP has provided is a mirage which has united most of the country.
2. Being autocratic does not mean isolationistic - It is understood that the BJP is being run by the Modi-Shah combine. However, Modi is using his government machinery to reach out to the young, while Amit Shah meets with Poll Booth Workers frequently. Thus, even though the combine are unquestioned and insulated they are not insular. They are constantly influencing potential and dyed-in-the-wool cadres. More importantly their messaging - ‘we are nothing without you’- is important. It gives the common BJP worker a purpose which is as potent as bringing back ‘Ram Rajya’.
A string of defeats may have a debilitating impact on the Congress (1) worker. But if those in the High Command and their young political turks use this defeat to get back to the grassroots and start from scratch there is more than a chance of resurgence in forthcoming elections.
3. A message can have many themes - The BJPs slogan ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (Congress free India) is linked to regaining Indias pride which is umbilically connected to this lands mythology and pre-mughal history. The BJP has been able to communicate all this even through the bizarre statements from BJP politicians, including Narendra Modi about this lands technological prowess in ancient times.
What is the message that the Congress (I) wishes to communicate to Indians? It cannot be ‘oppose the BJP’. It has to be at the realm of ideas, ideas that can draw people away from the BJP. By asking people to ‘oppose the BJP’ the Congress is telling people that they were wrong to vote for the BJP further it is creating a ‘us’ against ‘them’ situation which is unwinnable in the current scenario. The BJP is selling a product. What product is the Congress going to produce that attracts people to it?
4. Being humble does not mean being demure - Modi sold the chaiwallah (tea seller) story to resounding success. But his 56 inch chest also helped. As a Prime Minister he then knelt in Parliament as a sign of respect to this temple of democracy. These outward signs of humility did not stop him from wearing a monogrammed suit worth a few hundred thousand dollars. It did not prevent him from hugging world leaders. Modi is a creature of the stage, like all good politicians he is a performer. For a nation fed on mythology, his theatrics bring back the performances of kings from ancient books.
Indians want leaders who strut their stuff abroad while keeping to their roots. It is what modern India is morphing into. This is the narrative that Modi has created within the Indian diaspora and with the people of India and is what Glocalisation is about. At this juncture the Congress cannot depend on one person to stand against the onslaught of the BJP. The only way for Congress to survive is to let its young leaders represent the country in India and abroad
A recent survey suggests that Indians believe that the BJP has enhanced India’s image abroad even though the same people think the government has not been able to tackle rising prices or crimes against women and children. There is enough grist in the mill for the Congress to create a counter narrative, will it do so by going the Glocal way?