Matching the Flags

Just as Indian Flag is interesting (at least to an Indian) so are the Indian political party flags. Most of the northern parties have a common theme – saffron, white and green. Only the difference is “emblematic,” – typical to the party, like broom, leaf, hand, spinning wheel. The south has struck a difference – choosing darker hues – and shunning the two of the three national colors – saffron and green.

Probably saffron and green matters more in the north of India, where the two colors are representative. Saffron is claimed by the Hindus and Green by the Muslims. One can gauge the balancing act of the parties of the north by the choice of colours.

The ‘BJP’ has added one more complexity in the mix. To identify their party flag with the National Flag. But no party has as much legacy claims on the National Flag as the Congress. This 75th year of India’s independence, and also the day, could have been the Congress’s. Even out of power, they could have made this year, or at least, this day, as a day to assert some visibility.

It is amazing that they let this opportunity go to waste. On the eve of India’s Diamond Jubilee, we find Rahul Gandhi making inane comments which show that he has no sense of his own legacy. Congress had been in the forefront of the Independence struggle and even after Independence, their contribution has been immense. In 75 years, Congress can lay claim to at least 60. This is not a bad achievement.

The BJP has skillfully launched a narrative trap. If you are the supporter of the National Flag, which every Indian should be, then you are the supporter of the BJP. And (this will be interesting) if you are not the supporter of the BJP, then you are not the supporter of the National flag.

Indians should be worried, not about the BJP, and not about their narratives, but who will counter their game. It’s pretty obvious the Rahul Gandhi is a tyro. But this centrist pull by the BJP will have a fallout.

For nature may abhor a vacuum, but politics abhors no space. This centripetal will give rise to centrifugal. Flags also portray history and sentiments. See the flags of political parties of the south – the remnants of the centrifugal.

So, how long will ‘Saffron, white and green,’ represent the National and also the political. Because if one party identifies in toto with the national colours, the survival of the remaining political party will depend on moving the other way – not breaking of India, but in the choosing of the colors of their political flags. Here, colour is a proxy for space, a differentiation, an essential ingredient of politics.

BJP may not survive this narrowness in political space for long. Political parties aside, even the people of India will feel the constraint. It is not without reason that India has diversity, for people love to have their own personal space, including their politics. For when people feel they are being hemmed in – even Rahul Gandhi will do.

When a political leader puts a face on the flag, the flag then belongs to the face. Let us not do the same to our National Flag.