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The sweeping rise of nationalism

  • Published at 12:01 am January 2nd, 2020
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Photo: AFP

This growing sense of nationalism echoes the sentiments that have seen radical changes in Europe’s political leadership

Boris Johnson’s resounding victory in the UK elections has allowed him to push through a deal not very unlike Theresa May’s for Britain’s exit from the European Union. It was largely expected, with an electorate sick and tired of the shenanigans of parliament and the number game, or rather the lack of it.

Nearly half of Johnson’s representatives, being fresh and clear-eyed, prevailed over those with doubts and baggage. The snap polls were a gamble, and the essential mistrust of the Labour Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn outdid all the painstaking proposals put forward by the party. 

But on the sidelines of the largest victory in decades, another point has been made by the electorate. No matter how confusing and misleading the Brexit campaign had been in 2016, there was no doubting the nationalistic feelings that prevailed. The fringe nations in Scotland and Ireland once again strengthened nationalistic aspirations as opposed to unionism. Scottish Nationalist Party Supreme Nicola Sturgeon could barely contain her glee at the all-but-complete sweep of Scottish seats that voters delivered her party.

Likewise, the message from Northern Ireland has been similar with Sinn Fein being successful in convincing voters to topple the leader of the DUP in the British Parliament. This growing sense of nationalism echoes the sentiments that have seen radical changes in Europe’s political leadership. That such leadership has so far failed to deliver the platforms on which they were elected has led to public outrage, visible in the mass protests that have engulfed Europe. 

Even the economically stable Germany, with lower growth compared to previous years, has seen the ADF emerging as a major factor and growing in strength and conviction. More and more, the citizenry prefer their governments to focus on internal issues such as jobs and livelihoods rather than mess around with unnecessary proxy conflicts in the world and commit more resources towards the developing world. 

And not many view Emmanuel Macron’s ambitions of a European army as a viable and acceptable possibility when people expect peace and stability.

The landslide victory of India’s BJP in the last Indian elections, even in the backdrop of an economic slowdown, was due to a rise in Indian nationalism with strong roots in Hinduism. The National Register, passed by the Lower House and the Upper House, is as per the statement of Minister Amit Shah aimed at creating the Hindu state that the BJP and its allied wings have campaigned for, for decades. 

With a brute majority in the Lok Sabha provided by the electorate, it would appear that the secular nature of the constitution hasn’t been taken into consideration. That this has led to violent protests erupting and several non-BJP controlled states stating firmly that they wouldn’t implement the NRC and CAA, has been praised by the US as an expression of democracy. But one senses that the controversy is far from over. 

Nationalism is fuelled in countries by different persuasions and beliefs. What works in Europe doesn’t necessarily apply to India. There are those in the UK who believe it is better off as a trading state as it used to be. What they overlook is that the long time bonhomie with the EU has not just created a dependence of sorts, but has actually steered the UK away from its traditional strengths. 

Globalization came with its risks of changing the essence of societies. The inability of holding on to that which was more valued has been at the core of discontent. Global people movement and the subsequent movement of cultures, religions, and traditions are now viewed as threats, especially in countries where the indigenous population is either declining or not growing apace with migrants or minorities. 

The nationalist sentiments are today a growing threat to the traditional bonds of unionism and certain to change the way the world will run. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.