Shantanu Bhagwat has a post at his Reclaiming India blog at The Times of India website in which he states that Indians must not stand as neutral observers in the upcoming general elections because the UPA is “an existential threat to India” and therefore it must go. At the start of the post Shantanu recalls a recent conversation he had with Rajesh Jain. Rajesh made his point through a quote attributed to Dante. “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality”. Shantanu explains why he will not be neutral and is firmly committed to supporting Narendra Modi. Me too. Indeed, Shantanu quotes yours truly in his post. As you may know, I am not one to shy away from taking sides in the good fight.
Dante Aligheri (c. 1265 – 1321), a medieval Italian (coincidence? I think not) poet wrote Inferno c. 1317 in which he expressed the basic idea contained in the quote attributed to him. That quote is at best a paraphrase of what Dante wrote. It was one of John F Kennedy’s favorite quotes, as the JFK Presidential Library notes:
This supposed quotation is not actually in Dante’s work, but is based upon a similar one. In the Inferno, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass by a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These individuals, when alive, remained neutral at a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they did not choose one side or another. They are therefore worse than the greatest sinners in Hell because they are repugnant to both God and Satan alike, and have been left to mourn their fate as insignificant beings neither hailed nor cursed in life or death, endlessly travailing below Heaven but outside of Hell.
In short, take sides because you have an interest in the outcome. Another Italian (coincidence? Again, I think not), Nicolo Machiavelli (1469–1527) made a similar point in his most celebrated work The Prince:
A Prince is likewise esteemed who is a stanch friend and a thorough foe, that is to say, who without reserve openly declares for one against another, this being always a more advantageous course than to stand neutral. For supposing two of your powerful neighbours come to blows, it must either be that you have, or have not, reason to fear the one who comes off victorious. In either case it will always be well for you to declare yourself, and join in frankly with one side or other. For should you fail to do so you are certain, in the former of the cases put, to become the prey of the victor to the satisfaction and delight of the vanquished, and no reason or circumstance that you may plead will avail to shield or shelter you; for the victor dislikes doubtful friends, and such as will not help him at a pinch; and the vanquished will have nothing to say to you, since you would not share his fortunes sword in hand.
. . . And it will always happen that he who is not your friend will invite you to neutrality, while he who is your friend will call on you to declare yourself openly in arms. Irresolute Princes, to escape immediate danger, commonly follow the neutral path, in most instances to their destruction. But when you pronounce valiantly in favour of one side or other, if he to whom you give your adherence conquers, although he be powerful and you are at his mercy, still he is under obligations to you, and has become your friend; and none are so lost to shame as to destroy with manifest ingratitude, one who has helped them. Besides which, victories are never so complete that the victor can afford to disregard all considerations whatsoever, more especially considerations of justice. On the other hand, if he with whom you take part should lose, you will always be favourably regarded by him; while he can he will aid you, and you become his companion in a cause which may recover.[Source.]
In other words, you must take sides because otherwise you will end up as the object of derision from both sides of the conflict.
I have been a Modi supporter for nearly a decade and each passing year has only strengthened my approval of him. I believe that India needs a regime change and he is most capable of making that happen. I realize that the old order will not gracefully pass away but instead will mount a mighty battle against Modi. For India to have a future, we have to take sides and support Modi to the best of our abilities. We must because otherwise there is little hope for India.