William F Buckley with his unique style and quirks and his brand of conservatism—intellectual, optimistic and youthfully rebellious—did more. He helped rid the right of nuts and kooks and shed the image of conservatism as solely based on hate or belonging to the era of grumpy grandpas. He made the right mostly secular, cool and respectable.
In India, whence will such a force for the good come then?
Today, the left in India hides a crisis. Like the right in the United States starting in the 30s, it has been rendered historically irrelevant. Yet it must stay profoundly relevant, especially to maintain vibrancy of India’s democracy. If the leftist movement were a tricycle, the wheel of its economic policies has come apart with the collapse of communism worldwide, while the other two— advocacy of political and personal freedoms—are functioning, albeit in a creaky fashion. With one wheel missing, unable to come to terms with the loss, it is going in circles.
To confuse issues, the left and right are giant tents that cover vast expanses of political views. Anyone, from the unrepentant Stalinist and dreamer of liquidation of the capitalist classes to the defender of free speech, women’s and dalit rights and even the pro-capitalist Communist, is shoved under the left tent. The tent of the right is equally crowded with capitalists, protectors of freedom of religion and speech, religious fanatics and hate mongers. The secular rightist—champion of thoughtful, nuanced, muscular and unapologetic secularism, free markets, free trade, rule of law, limited but effective government and individual rights will feel uncomfortable in this tent.