The Rise of Right-Wing Populism in India


Donald Trump nesting dolls on red textile

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The country has witnessed a steep increase in right-wing populism specifically after the saffron party came to power in 2014 in centre and subsequent years in the state assemblies. This decade will be remembered for the rise of this ideology not only in India but also globally, be it the rise of Donald Trump in America, Boris Johnson in Britain, Sweden Democrats or the Chinese Nationalists.

Understanding Ideologies

Increased efforts to saffronise the nation will have devastating efforts
Understanding ideologies has always been a complex activity for people. Several researchers have come up with different ideas to define populism in present context. One of the most popular one, by Bonikowski and Gidron, which says “it juxtaposes a virtuous populace with a corruptelite and views the former as the sole legitimate source of political power”. 

They also claim some common qualities about these leaders, which are as follows:

They are the only 100% percent people, virtuous enough to rule the people
Their people’s views are the most underrepresented among the nation
They wish to exclude a large group of people from full citizenship rights
They are usually seen as anti-pluralists. The aforementioned characteristics can easily be spotted among various leaders of present times. 

Modi Versus Who?

Be, it the state assembly elections, 2014 or the recent 2019 Loksabha elections all were contested in the name of one man our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Whether, directly or indirectly the election campaign was based on one simple slogan of MODI vs. Who. 

The slogan became such a success that even TV hosts like Arnab Goswami were seen enchanting it on live television, providing memers some content. The motive was to portray a larger than life image of Mr.Modi proving that he is the only man perfect for this post.

The Saffron Party

Extent of right-wing populism in the country at once, dominating the politics
Hindutva has always been the guiding principle of the saffron party and it has acted unapologetically for its cause, be it the 1992 Wasjid demolition or the 2002 Godhara Massacre. Party leaders have been quite vocal about it and talked about how it has always remained neglected as an ideology. 

The party’s ideological backhand i.e. RSS has also backed these claims at various events. Awarding V.D Savarkar with Bharat Ratna was a demand in the same line. Illogically, including Sardar Vallabbhai Patel in their camp and raising voices that he was disrespected is another huge example to understand the point.

International media has been widely critical of him. Similarly, the recently passed law of CAA has invited severe criticism for the government not only from the national media and the citizens but also from several human rights organisations and international media. 

Secular India Fights Back

“As Modi Pushes Hindu Agenda, a Secular India Fights Back”, reads the headlines of New York Times regarding CAA. Although, the government has tried hard to defend itself but hasn’t been able at all fronts. The allegations are that the government is being biased and cannot tolerate pluralism in the Nation.

Between 2016 and 2019, National Human Rights Commission registered 2,008 cases where minorities/Dalits were harassed, including cases of lynchings. Of these, Uttar Pradesh alone accounted for 869 cases.

The increasing fake news, means of spreading propaganda, extremist thinking, mob lynching cases and the consideration of dissent as disrespect are not appreciable signs for the country. Muslim league was founded in 1906, Hindu Mahasabha in 1915 and RSS in 1925. 

The data proves that Indian politics was never devoid of conversationalist and right wing leaders but the sudden and incessant rise of such leaders is unpresidented. Acts to polarise and communalise the society have increased tremendously posing a serious threat to our society. 

Opportunistic politics has always been popular in Indian scenario but it does not prove to be as harmful as politics based on communal lines. All responsibility of improving the political system not only lies on the shoulders of the leaders but also on the citizens.



Written by  - Kushagra Bhardwaj

Edited by - Nidhi Verma

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