We regularly come in contact with terms like political left and right, some of us might have tried to search it in a dictionary or might have googled but even then, many of us would have ended up in confusion or with a very unclear idea of the whole scenario.
As we are Indians and we are almost always surrounded by urban pundits, it is highly possible that one of them might have told you that Congress is left and BJP is right. But in reality, the concept of left and right is vastly different from this. The concept is actually about the ideology that a particular political entity employs.
The whole concept traces its origin to the French National Assembly (aka France’s parliament) which was formed for the first time after the French Revolution. Those who were supporters of the Royals, sat on the right side of the parliament and those who were supporters of democracy sat on the left side of it.
With time, this concept developed and not only France but the left-right spectrum became visible in the whole world. In British parliament, the then-opposition was seated in the left side and hence left also came to be associated with opposition and right with the working government. From there, the concept of ‘troubling left’ came forward.
Today, the left is associated with ideas such as “freedom, equality, fraternity, rights, progress, reform and internationalism” while the right with notions of “authority, hierarchy, order, duty, tradition, reaction, capitalism and nationalism.”
Moreover, communists, socialists, democrats, etc. form the modern left and fascists, neoconservatives and imperialists, etc. constitute the right. But with time, a new power centre has developed apart from the right and left, which was called the centre.
The centre was actually a mid-way in the politics. It was made up of the pros of the right and the left and at the time it was free from the cons of the both the concepts. Here, the concepts like liberalism, regionalism and feminism shouldn’t be mixed with the right-left spectrum because both the left and the right at some point of time have been associated with these terms.
Coming back to the Indian scenario, it is somewhat hard to associate any party in India with hard left or the hard right ideologue (except for the CPI and CPI-M that are hard left parties). In our country, most of the parties are centralist and some others don’t even identify themselves with any wing (making them somewhat centralist). But, even after being centralist most of the parties are tilted somewhat towards the right or left. The grand old party belongs to the central left while the present ruling party is a central right party.
Why is it so difficult to observe the spectrum in India? The problem in our homeland is that, no party sticks properly to one policy but keeps on changing or mixing contrasting policies.
For example, as the BJP is central right, it shouldn’t have allowed any social welfare scheme to foster but such a thing didn’t happen and in the same way, the Congress didn’t starve the capitalist class under their regime. Hence, a rough balance is always maintained between the two sides.
In fact, it is probable that the reluctance of the the rightist in our country to employ leftist policies and vice versa has led us to develop through decades, the way we have.