The parliamentary election in 2014 appeared to be a turning point in the history of Indian politics. It made Narendra Modi the locus of Indian politics. As a result of the huge success of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 election, Modi became the Prime Minister of India. He emerged as the central figure in the governance of the country, in the BJP as a political party, in the democratic electoral politics of the country, and in the public discourse about India from east to west and north to south.
Under his charismatic leadership after 2014, the BJP won elections and formed governments in most states and replaced the Congress in many of them. The Modi-led BJP had the slogan of Congress Mukt Bharat and worked to displace the party from and marginalize it in various states of India.
After the 2014 election, the BJP presented a critique of Nehruvian centrist politics and prepared the background in which it proposed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as a counter to Nehru’s image. It reinvented and added right wing Congress leaders of the freedom movement such as Madan Mohan Malaviya to the expanded Hindutva galaxy of icons in which they created a circle of icons including Swami Vivekananda, Savarkar, Syama Prasad Mukherjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Malviya, and Patel. It also tried to appropriate Ambedkar and diluted his criticism of Hindu caste systems through various discursive strategies.
As such, the 2014 election proposed a regime that mixes aspirations of development with Hindutva. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was not prominent in mainstream media discourse and was working silently at the grassroots, acquired visibility and also tried to build a positive image. The Sangh Parivar also appeared as agency that may influence civil society discourses and the governance structure of the country. The rise of Hindutva politics after 2014 also led to frenzy in a section of society that resulted in a few incidents of mob lynching that were controlled by the state.
The Modi-led BJP formed broader social alliances among various Hindu caste-based voters in various elections after 2014 with a polarization effect and made Muslim polarization politics almost redundant and ineffective.
At social level, a sense of Hindutva could be seen among some Hindu communities, which provided them a Hindutva angle to understand common social and political happenings. The BJP through its political strategies tried effectively to appropriate communities such as tribals, Dalits, urban poor, and the slum dwellers with the help of the RSS and its allied organisations. Its efforts worked well to politically mobilize non-dominant Dalit and subaltern communities as dominant subaltern social groups had been already politically mobilised in favour of one or the other non-BJP parties.
The Modi-led government also paid attention cautiously to the dissemination of benefits of pro-poor policies among non-dominant subaltern groups, which benefitted the BJP politically in various elections. However, it also faced constant criticism from a section of scheduled castes (SCs) about the possible dilution in the SC Act, which the BJP proved wrong. It also faced the anger of few forward communities, which the RSS and other allies of BJP tried to neutralize by their persuasive measures.
The BJP’s politics of expansion, which emerged in the context of the post 2014 political scenario, helped the party progress in the north-eastern states and the non-Hindi speaking states of southern India. The BJP was successful in various elections in north-eastern states such as Assam and Manipur and found partners in other states of the region.
It also found a way to evolve the political language for the expansion of the BJP in the very difficult terrain of Tripura and West Bengal. The revoking of Article 370, which had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was one well thought out, ideologically perceived, and cautiously taken decision that has been appreciated by the Hindu majority. The decision of the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi case also helped the BJP strengthen its base among Hindu communities. There was also not much public protest visible on the political scene except some reactions that came from Asaduddin Owaisi, the president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, and few others.
Modi is considering power as not merely state power but also social power, which may be acquired through social work and action. As such, he started pursuing social politics after the 2019 election and is aiming to link social work with political action and to indulge in politics of mobilization through social welfare. Hopefully, Modi in the post 2014 political scenario, will turn Indian politics in this direction.
Badri Narayan is an Allahabad-based political analyst and director at Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute.