Mujibur Rehman is an assistant professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Jamia Millia Islamia, in Delhi. A political scientist by training, his research focuses on identity and development politics. In 2018, he edited a collection of essays titled, Rise of Saffron Power: Reflections on Indian Politics, and is currently working on a book, Shikwa-e-Hind, The Political Future of Indian Muslims, which will be released in 2021.
As Indian politics places itself on the right of the ideological spectrum, some individuals who were members of right-wing organisations, have moved towards the Left—or at least, away from the Right. Yet, others, who hail from a notably right-wing milieu, never embraced it and have become the political right’s fiercest critics. Abhimanyu Chandra, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, seeks to explore these transitions in a series of interviews, titled Converse Lens, published by The Caravan. The initial set of interviews focused on individuals who turned critical of the Right despite previous associations. In the latter part of this series, Chandra interviews experts who comment on when, why, and how some people leave right-wing settings, even as so many others do not.
Chandra spoke to Rehman about his experience as an educator, the gap between how intellectuals view an issue versus an average Indian, and more. Rehman said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s failures may diminish his appeal if opposition parties manage to “transform specific discontent into a new political thinking.”
Abhimanyu Chandra: Globally, errors by prominent right-wing leaders, including Modi, do not seem to affect their support amongst their base. What can or does change the minds of their supporters?
Mujibur Rehman: If one goes back to the conventional literature regarding voting behaviour, primarily there are three kinds of voters. One is who are called “core voters,” who are loyal—people who belong to the BJP, whose families belong to the Congress, whose families support the Communist Party. They don’t change their minds. Then, in every election, there are always new, fresh voters who join. And then, there are always floating or independent voters.
In a country like India, the new voters who join are mas