The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India

By Thomas Blom Hansen | Go to book overview

7
Hindu Nationalism, Democracy, and
Globalization

IN THE GENERAL elections in 1996, the BJP emerged for the first time as the largest political party in India. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was given two weeks to explore the BJP's possibilities of forming a government, but the party's systematic use of communal rhetoric had antagonized both Congress and left-of-center political forces to the extent that no coalition was possible. The BJP had won the election but not power, and was soon returned to a position of “mighty marginality.” Once again, the party could portray itself as the unjustly neglected voice of the true majority of Hindus. In the following months, however, the BJP leadership embarked more fully on a strategy aimed at creating alliances with a host of “regional interpreters” in a range of states where the BJP's own potential for further electoral consolidation was circumscribed by language, caste, and by the fact that the Hindu nationalist movement in the eastern and southern parts of India is strongly associated with the Hindi-speaking “cow belt.” The first result of this strategy appeared in March 1997, when the alliance between the premier Sikh party, Akali Dal, and the BJP in the state of Punjab won a resounding victory in the polls for the state legislative assembly. In the following months the BJP continued this strategy, and as general elections were held in early 1998, the BJP had made electoral alliances and adjustments with a range of smaller political formations in different states—formations with constituencies based on regional sentiments or caste communities to which the BJP had no access on its own. These maneuvers enabled the BJP to strengthen its popular mandate once again, but the political price of this pragmatism was considerable. In the difficult and protracted negotiations in March 1998 leading up to the formation of a multiparty government headed by the BJP, the party had to compromise on most of the issues that had been at the heart of its campaigns for more than a decade: the imposition of a uniform civil code, the scrapping of Kashmir's special constitutional status, the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and so on. Of the BJPs high-profile themes, the only ones remaining were the tougher line toward Pakistan, the decision to set up a National Security Council, and the decision “to re-evaluate the nuclear policy and exercise the nuclear option,” as was

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The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • The Saffron Wave *
  • Introduction - Hindu Nationalism and Democracy in India 3
  • 1 - Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in India 16
  • 2 - Imagining the Hindu Nation 60
  • 3 - Organizing the Hindu Nation 90
  • 4 - Democracy, Populism, and Governance in India in the 1980s 134
  • 5 - The Saffron Wave 154
  • 6 - Communal Identities at the Heart of the Nation 200
  • 7 - Hindu Nationalism, Democracy, and Globalization 218
  • Notes 239
  • Glossary 269
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 289
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