On the wall, off the road - 2

I have often said that Lohiaism is the most dangerous socialism, because it combines the worst of leftwing economics with the worst of nationalist, rightwing xenophobia. For decades that was responsible for building a door hato ai duniya waalo Hindustan hamaara hai (buzz off, you foreigners, India is just ours) mindset. But Lohiaism also had some positives, a kind of eclectic liberalism, a great sense of humour and repartee (Lohiaites made some of our most fun opposition MPs), and another tradition that I would rather describe as ideological flexibility than as straight-forward hypocrisy. That is why George Fernandes could become a partner of the BJP and yet be a Lohiaite. In fact, the four most prominent Lohiaites in our politics now, Mulayam, Lalu, Nitish and Paswan, have all had a makeover. But even as they break all the rules and covenants inherited from Lohia, they often do things to remind us of what a destructive ideology we have left behind, as Mulayam did by threatening in his manifesto to throw out computers and the teaching of English. You ask Paswan and he will recite to you, most gleefully, the Lohiaite ditties, all anti-English, anti-Western. But there is no chance of any of that coming back and harming us because all these leaders have left Lohiaism way behind. They are changing, so is their politics, and so are their followers and their aspirations. To see how, come to National Highway 91 in Babrala, a little over half-way between Badaun and Bulandshahar in western Uttar Pradesh: a school called Lohia Convent. Now we all know, in most parts of our country, particularly the north, a "convent" is just a general way to describe an English-medium school. In Punjab, you can often find a St Kabir Convent, a Guru Gobind Singh Convent, or some place else, a Maharishi Dayanand Convent. But a Lohia Convent? You name an English-medium school after a man who dedicated his life to throwing English-medium schooling, an instrument of colonialism, out of this country? And you do it in the heart of Lohia-land?

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