Winning consecutive elections in India is not easy. The attention given to the BJP’s third consecutive triumph in Gujarat’s state assembly elections is therefore understandable. The party’s 2012 victory prompted a flurry of analyses of how the BJP’s prospects in the 2014 parliamentary polls might have shifted, and of the viability of Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate. Modi’s three-peat also invites analysts to think about the electoral appeal of Hindutva, especially since his campaigns and tenure have been so infamously identified with an aggressive Hindu nationalism. For the past decade, most observers of Indian politics have believed the electoral appeal of Hindutva to be on the decline. Does the BJP’s Gujarat victory suggest this decline can be arrested, or even reversed? Or does it indicate that the BJP can only succeed by emphasising claims of “development” and “good governance”?
Any attempt to analyse the electoral salience of Hindutva requires thinking carefully through a number of thorny issues.
First, and most simply, it is important to remember that we cannot equate votes for the BJP with ideological support for Hindutva. Not all supporters of the BJP are supportive of Hindutva, and not all supporters of Hindutva let this preference determine their vote choice. Yet there has been a widespread and persistent tendency to equate these two phenomena, leading to “conventional wisdom” that Hindutva’s appeal can be measured by the BJP’s performance at the polls: rising during the 1980s, peaking during the early 1990s, and steadily declining since then. More systematic analyses of voter surveys trouble such linear narratives, and point us in the more productive direction of analysing the degree to which these two phenomena are related in specific places and periods.
For example, statistical analyses of data from Lokniti’s National Election Study have helped uncover considerable variation in the importance of Hindutva even within the BJP’s support base in a given election. Such analyses show that support for key Hindu nationalist positions (such as building a Ram temple at Ayodhya or banning religious conversions) do indeed consistently distinguish upper castes who support the BJP from those who don’t.
Further, the overall prevalence of pro-Hindutva sentiments among upper-caste voters has been quite stable since the mid-1990s. Therefore, broad pronouncements on the “decline of Hindutva’s appeal” appear somewhat overblown: among the elite caste communities for whom Hindutva is important enough to affect voting decisions, no such decline is apparent.
At the same time, this data suggests some strong limits to the degree to which Hindutva’s appeal affects the BJP’s performance. Even among upper castes, pro-Hindutva views are not the only, nor even the strongest, determinant of BJP support. Indeed, support for economic liberalisation has remained a stronger predictor of upper caste support for the BJP than pro-Hindutva views during this period. So has income, with the BJP enjoying greater support among a “creamy layer” of wealthy upper caste voters than among poorer voters from these caste communities. Finally, Dalit and adivasi backers of the BJP are not appreciably more communal than voters from these communities who support other parties. This result holds true across multiple elections, and even within states where the party has been doing increasingly well among these constituencies (such as Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh). Even the BJP’s limited electoral successes outside its traditional “Brahmin-Bania” base cannot therefore be assumed to be either a cause or consequence of growth in Hindutva’s appeal.
Evidence garnered from surveys can thus help us develop more nuanced conclusions about how the relationship between Hindutva and support for the BJP varies across caste communities, states and even electoral periods. Yet such evidence comes with its own important constraints. Most importantly, surveys necessarily use narrow measures of concepts, in this case defining Hindutva only through voters’ support for specific agenda items.
This limitation draws our attention to a second major issue: “Hindutva” carries variable meanings in different electoral contexts. To ask whether Hindutva’s political appeal is greater in Gujarat than in Chhattisgarh, or has declined from 1992 to 2012, in some sense assumes the term carries an unchanging definition across time and space. Such rigidity may seem justified by, and complementary with, the goal of Hindutva’s early architects. These founders sought to standardise the practice of Hinduism, in an attempt to overcome the divisions produced by internal caste hierarchies and varied local practices that stood in the way of their majoritarian ambitions.
Yet, in many respects, Hindu nationalism as a contemporary political phenomenon departs from the visions of these early ideologues. Hindutva’s interaction with democratic politics has produced many ironies, but perhaps none greater than the fragmentation of a doctrine of standardisation. These differences are apparent across states: the issue of religious conversions is far more central to the Sangh’s Hindutva agenda in Orissa than in Uttar Pradesh, while the issue of Ayodhya is far less so. Similar distinctions are also evident between Hindu nationalist organisations within the same state. For example, activists with the Sangh’s “service wings” (such as Seva Bharati and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram) are often uncomfortable with the polarising rhetoric and mobilisations, including violence, emphasised by the VHP and Bajrang Dal. Such disagreements are more tactical than philosophical. Many seva activists worry that episodes of large-scale violence highlight the most polarising face of Hindutva, and inhibit their own attempts to ingratiate themselves among Dalit and adivasis communities wary of Hindutva’s upper caste image. Finally, service activists themselves highlight different aspects of Hindutva, depending on to whom they speak. In fundraising efforts among upper castes, they emphasise Hindutva’s mandate to offer welfare as a political counter to similar efforts by Christian missionaries. Yet, when trying to recruit lower caste or tribal voters, these activists present themselves as politically neutral welfare providers. They have also shown an increasing flexibility in their willingness to subsume local rituals into the structure of Hindu practices they advocate.
The purpose of pointing out such distinctions is to remind us that a voter’s perception of “what Hindutva is” can vary depending on which state they live in, which caste community they come from, and which organisation has the dominant presence within their neighbourhood or village. Such variation cannot be captured through national surveys, and requires more localised surveys and ethnographic study. Yet even such studies will need to be careful in determining how to assess whether these local faces of Hindutva actually help or hinder the BJP’s electoral performance, and the channels through which they do so.
Finally, let me conclude where I began, by highlighting some implications of this discussion for the case of Gujarat. When thinking about Hindu nationalism, our national preoccupation with Gujarat is an understandable consequence of the BJP’s exceptional success in the state. However, it is precisely this exceptionality that should make us cautious about the degree to which lessons from Gujarat apply elsewhere. Second, even within Gujarat, we should avoid easy generalisations about Hindutva’s role in facilitating the BJP’s dominance. Currently, there are two such arguments: that Modi’s success has accrued from a “post-Hindutva” strategy based on “development”, or conversely, that this electoral dominance was produced and maintained through Hindutva’s most militant form of coercion and hate. Yet both arguments are usually proven by assumption, rather than rigorous evidence, and fail to explore more complex possibilities: the use of both coercion and claims of good governance with different segments of the Gujarati electorate, or even the blending of coercion, development rhetoric and unprecedented campaign pageantry into a distinctly Gujarati version of Hindutva. Whatever the context, we would do well to avoid the simplifications often used in discussions of the electoral salience of Hindutva, and pay a complex phenomenon the careful attention it deserves.
The writer, assistant professor of political science at Yale University, is completing a book on support for the BJP among Dalit and adivasi communities
can the arguments of the author can be applied to ideals and policies of other political parties of India. How can you explain popularity of communist parties in Kerala and West Bengal. both these states have about 50% population of minorities. Both the states have not given any prominent national leader from the minorities of both the states. how will you explain this? is Sonia/rajiv/development policies and programmes like manrega, rte etc more popular in Maharashtra and Rajasthan and not so popular in opposition ruled states? the approach of the author is not clear. the only thing clear from his article is that he does not like modi to be pm.
"Hindutva"to Pt.Deendayal Upadhyay,the builder of "Jan Sangh" was"integral humanism"!It advocated "inclusivism"and laid emphasis on"majority community" to consider that "every countryman is blood of our blood and flesh of our flesh!We shall not rest till we are able to give everyone of them sense of pride that they are children of Bharathmata"!In1980s Advani replaced that doctrine by his own concept of"Cultural Nationalism"!It "enjoins upon peoples of other faiths in India to respect the common unifying culture of our ancient land"! Another votary went to the extent to declare:unless people of other faiths openly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus,theywill not have'right of representation in any legislature'! In 1990s it peaked and ley BJP form a coalition Govt called NDA Govt. It ruled for six years from 1998 to 2004!It got defeated in 2004 and met with humiliating defeat in 2009!What does it indicate? "Hindutva"has passed its"sale by date"!It cannot be revived again!
Intellectual bamkrupcy is all that you see when you read this article. Equating Modi with Hindutva is all the author wants to establish. All else that has been said has already been said before. You never know there might be a case of plagiarsm as well. YALE are you watching?
What are you trying to tell me? Do u also write English?
Excellent rebuttal by Gemmi - clearly the author and publisher has ulterior motives in printing this opinion. Reading between the lines, the author's research has shown that BJP/Hindutva is an inclusive principle based on democracy - one person one vote, all equal under law. Vik/Viks in his comments has reacted understandably, though emotionally. The Akali Dal is a political entity and, like all entities, it leverages its power base to gain power -that may sound bad. HOWEVER, like the BJP and its Hindu support, it reflects its majority Sikh support which is egalitarian and truly secular. This is in stark contrast to Muslim, Christian and Jewish majority states with 'nationalistic' parties. Muslim 'intellectuals' would like us to accept nd support Sharia and Jizya Law in Muslim dominated states and separate personal and social laws in other states! In propounding this agenda, they villify parties like the BJP and support corrupt, power hungry parties like Congress, RJD and SP.
I am not sending my children to Yale. Academic language covering up rubbish.
Gujarati says Tame Unghta ne Uthaodi sako perantu Jagata ne Uthadvo muskel. Tariq Thachil is a dhongi do not want to learn truth about Namo and will some day become supporter of Jehadi brotherhood. IE is a Panjrapol for useless congi supporter so they will publish anything that please sonia and rahul.
As a simple Indian I would much like the two-party system. It makes less life less complicated. Till the demolition of Babri Masjid the opposition to Congress was based on personality cult. Raja V.P. was a down-to-earth politician and BOFOR did fall in his lap. Emotional Communal Clouds that raised after the demolition provided a temporary cover to BJP. They enjoyed its shed in the name of HINDUTVA for few years. Once the cloud dissipated and Atal Bihari went into oblivion RSS / BJP left with no coherent plank or a tall leader. Advani came up when the communal tide was high. With his limited intelligence he failed - one blunder after another. He was never able to build any constituency for himself or for those to whom he groomed. Consequently, he and rest of the BJP's Delhi team became leaders without followers, depend on regional bullies like Mody. Congress kept making mistakes and BJP kept on failing pathetically to encash. Hindutva failed. Didi, Maya, Mulayam, Amma and Patnaik won.
While I agree 99% of your healthy arguments, i cannot do so for your comment on Regional Bully for Modi. He never projected him as a regional bully, if it had hapened, it was just because of the internal disputes within BJP. He, earlier, never regarded himself as a national leader even. It all happened, because of the fudes within the BJP, as Sushma wanted to be the No .1, Advani still have some dream to fulfil, those who dont likeSushma and Advani have someone else as the core leader, in the troubled water, RSS play all its dirts to elect the BJP's President. It is the RSS who gave more a religious colour to BJP, otherwise it would have grown as a real threat to congress, not only a threat but it would have eradicated congress in the coming 2014 election. But with all the reservations you have mentioned, even the Hindus see the BJP as a religious party. If they can, the real BJP and thrawt away the RSS's grip, BJP can save the country from this corrupt congress for another 10 years. 10 years are enough for the coming generation to built an alternate party with a clean governance in the country. BJP should shed its Hindutva's image from the indian mass and they will definitely achieve a 80% MP seats in 2014 election. and if they are going to keep the Hindutva with them, the moderate hindu, as they call the sleeping tiges (unable to decide as to whom to vote) will go away from the list of BJP, and a great loss for that party and the country as a whole.
Live in denial and try to convince yourself that the hopeless lies and prejudiced half-truths you have written convinces yourself.
Before Babri communal politics was the domain of Muslims exclusively, through vote bank politics. The height of it was making Rajiv backtrack on shah banu's case.
Modi is for Vikas Purush which includes all religion including Hindu and Muslim! See the results of Election! Do not try to brand Modi as Hindutwa! Wrong Propoganda
Even for an analysis, you already have an a-priori decided opinion about the reasons for Modi's victoris: Arg 1: .. a "post-Hindutva" strategy based on "development"... Arg 2: .. through Hindutva's most militant form of coercion and hate... Arg 3: .. blending of coercion, development rhetoric (claims) and campaign pageantry .. You are not even prepared to put an option of development or good governance without the quotation marks or adjectives like claims of or rhetoric of. So you are already decided that the people are either coerced by Modi's militants and/or fooled by his claims of development and/or fooled by his election peasantry. If one cannot even think about all possible options, why pretend an analysis and publish in a paper. Write in your diary and read every morning for your personal enjoyment.
There is no guilt in being Hindu. In hard times they are terrorised (Punjab, Kashmir). In peace they are sidelined again in punjab, UP. Definitely condemn and oppose attack on minorities as I am proud secular. But don't denymy dues. Or I won't mind being labelled Hindutava believer. BJP should stop siding with likes if Akali Dal etc. better to be in opposition than in govt and harming the interest of its core support. Jai hind
There is no guilt in being Hindu. In hard times they are terrorised (Punjab, Kashmir). In peace they are sidelined again in punjab, UP. Definitely condemn and oppose attack on minorities as I am proud secular. But don't denymy dues. Or I won't mind being labelled Hindutava believer. BJP should stop siding with likes if Akali Dal etc. better to be in opposition than in govt and harming the interest of its core support.
This is the position of most of the middle class (low, middle and high class) Indians Hindus. The violent attacks on public in the name of religion by fanatical Muslims and the absence of serious condemnation from the Muslim community in general, (who otherwise come to street on Fridays with perceived injustice to Muslims at slightest pretext) are driving people to this position. If Muslims in India and their self appointed guardians in Pakistan really don't want the BJP to come to power they should stop sponsoring terrorism. I understand why pak elements may want BJP in power, but the Muslim on streets in India, why? Because the have no way to address the issue within their community? The are not scared of fundamentalist. They are scared of their own religion, which does tolerate dissidence. They should learn from Bangladesh, who are defying the fanatics and bucking the trend of Muslims worldwide.
In the case of Gujarat it is not so-called upper caste that supports Modi. In fact the Kshatriyas of Gujarat always with Congress. Patel the other so-called upper caste is also divided between Cong. & BJP and few with Shri Keshubhai Patel. It is whole-hearted support of so-called lower caste OBCs,SCs & STs that make victory of Mr. Modi possible.I didn't mention Brahmin as they are always confused as usual.It was not Hindutva that has any appeal for Gujarati voters but mantra of development and no freebees on the basis of caste.
Hindutva has no distinct boundaries and is actually a tradition followed for generations which have exchanged and engulfed ideas and rituals of all those who have come along. Its the Christians and Muslims that never came in this fold and wanted their single handed hold by means of religion on all others. Every religion has its drawbacks but never did Hindus get aggressive to spread their religion and are not supported by other countries to do so. The only threat to it is from the pseudo secular and the brain dead critics which criticize it just because Hindus are the most harmless and powerless of them all.
Mr. Modi fought recent Gujrat elections on Development agenda. At that time too, people like you were crying about caste voting patterns and Hindutva. They got answer for their cheap vote bank politics in Gujrat election results. This shows that the country is maturing in its judgments & attitude and the politics of development is the only way forward that will be accepted from now on. But I do not understand why a specific media section is still interested in dragging the rising maturity of the voters back to the old days of caste & religion. No body in BJP said they are fighting on Hindutva card. Mr. Modi never talks of freebies based on caste & religion. So its difficult to understand from where this topic comes in picture. I request the author to give this thinking a thought. He has a responsibility & opportunity as a talented writer towards his nation. DO NOT Drag India again to caste based politics. Thanks!! http://indiawithme-prateek.blogspot.com
"do indeed consistently distinguish upper castes who support the BJP from those who don't"; "Further, the overall prevalence of pro-Hindutva sentiments among upper-caste voters". What fouls a reasonable political analysis is the author's assumption that the terms 'upper caste' or 'lower caste' are a priori propositions. No ,they are not. They exist in the minds of the Christian missionaries and their henchmen in India for feel good purposes. Depending on in which camp i am in ,I can feel myself to be the Sultan of Baghdad or wallow in self pity but that is neither true or false. But it is a different case when an outsider trying to identify some other as having an upper or lower position in a scale of hierarchy.He is then making an unwarranted value judgement based on his own assumptions or mistaken prior knowledge gathered from religious propaganda which is not a shining quality in an academic.