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Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) dominance in the last two national elections is often attributed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and growing Hindu nationalism. A new study, however, suggests that its national rise is the result of a structural transformation of the BJP’s voter base. In the study, Pradeep Chhibber and Rahul Verma show this by using data from a 2019 post-poll survey conducted by the Lokniti programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). They find that the BJP’s voter base has transformed from one based on Hindu nationalism, mostly resonating with upper-caste Hindus, to one that encompasses Hindu social coalition.

It was able to expand its base beyond its traditional urban upper-caste supporters because of a narrative based on non-appeasement and development rather than religion or Hindu nationalism. The new voters the BJP has added since 2014 are less religious than its traditional voters and are mostly from less well-off, lower caste and rural backgrounds. However, this new majoritarian narrative delinked from religion also cost the BJP some of its religious and traditional supporters. Around 11% of the survey respondents were traditional BJP supporters who did not vote for it in 2019.

The authors also suggest that a growing population which identifies itself as middle-class may have also worked in favour of the BJP. Though ideologically detached from ‘Hindutva’, the rising Hindu middle class has expanded the BJP’s support base. To be sure, the BJP’s charismatic leadership, organizational advantage, welfare politics and hyper-nationalism have contributed to the party’s electoral success but it was the structural shift in its base that cemented its victory. And this could be the reason the party’s dominance could continue for a long time, suggest the authors.

Also read: The Rise of the Second Dominant Party System in India: BJP’s New Social Coalition in 2019

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