Is India Moving Towards Hindutva Politics Or Politics Of Development?


Recently in India, there has been a triumphalist positioning of a cultural and economic right-wing nationalist discourse in the political process. The development discourse in the country over the last decade has been shaped by the rise of neoliberalism and the end of the trickle-down effect of the socialist economy, coupled with the decline of the Congress. Since 2014, the party’s general elections campaign slogan has been the  ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Viswas,’ with Shri Narendra Modi as the central figure. It’s noteworthy that the party’s developmental discourse before the 2014 elections focused on the Gujarat Model against the policy paralysis of the then Dr. Manmohan Singh-led UPA government. After the 2019 elections, the political rhetoric has seen the consolidation of the narrative of Hindutva. The BJP’s manifestation of market citizenship involves an intermingling of cultural nationalism and neoliberalism. The ruling party’s vision of ‘Bharat’ revolves around two focal points: nationalism (Rashtravaad) and development (Vikas). ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ can be perceived as an attempt to reincarnate the idea of a ‘golden Indian past’ and a move towards decolonization. The aim is to present India as a Hinduized nationalist idiom and a ‘vishwa guru.’ Both the Hindutva card and development are crucial determining factors in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha Elections. This paper examines how Hindutva has shaped the development discourse in the country post-India’s independence. Additionally, it delves into the Hindutva angle of policies such as caste census, freebies, and minority politics in Modi’s ‘New India.’ Notably, major opposition parties have also leveraged the Hindutva vote bank in the recent state assembly elections and the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections in 2024. In the ongoing elections, party campaigns are characterised by a mix of competitive populism and communalism. The paper aims to present an analysis to understand whether India is moving towards the politics of development or the politics of Hindutva.

Keywords: Nationalist, Communal, Hindutva, Neoliberalism, Development, Minority 



Are Indian elections/political systems issue-based or identity driven? 

Elections in India, both at the state and national levels, are influenced by various factors, including caste, class, religion, and other identity-based considerations. To ascertain whether India is shifting towards a politics of development or Hindutva, an examination of the political strategies employed by the ruling party and the largest opposition is crucial. Some political analysts argue that development has emerged as a central issue in Indian politics, evident in the electoral success of parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) due to their focus on development. The upcoming Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Telangana are often referred to as the semi-finals before the Lok Sabha polls, serving as a litmus test for Hindutva. In the north-central Indian states with a significant Hindi-speaking population, the BJP seeks to capitalise on increased support for its unabashed Hindutva ideology. Contrastingly, the Congress has concentrated its strategy on three key elements: an Anti-Modi narrative, political consolidation, and mobilisation of Muslim communities (referred to by the BJP as the minorities appeasement policy) and Dalits. It is noteworthy that the Congress, since post-independence, has been perceived as an umbrella party without identity-based politics. Examining the 2021-22 Budget reveals that the Central government, led by the BJP-led NDA, allocated over Rs 4 trillion towards major schemes. A closer look at the political and development discourse indicates that the incumbent party has prioritised infrastructural development, financing micro to medium entrepreneurs, and developing the technical infrastructure for improved and efficient scheme delivery. The BJP’s political slogan, “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas,” is rooted in the soft and hard components of development crucial for India’s future. The concepts of New India and Hindu Rashtra are viewed as two sides of the same coin. The Sangh Parivar’s ideology, Hindutva, is evolving into Hindu populist politics, taking a more inclusive and developmentalist stance. This shift has proven to be an effective political strategy under its conservative ideology. The rhetoric of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Biswas,Sabka Prayas’ ‘ has a socialist and liberal dimension to it, and is also an attempt to make it politically inclusive . 

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Author: Sourishree Ghosh