ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India's Shift to the Right

The victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi begs the question whether this remains just an "event" or represents the "advent" of something new in India's body politic. It is clear that the mandate for a right-wing persona who has built his career through the construction of the "other as an enemy" points to a regressive movement.

The 2014 general elections seem to mark a watershed moment in the history of post-Independence electoral politics in India. As many commentators have observed, not since 1984 has any single party been voted into power on the basis of a simple majority, and a substantial one at that. Whereas the mandate in 1984 was expected, and was the result of exceptional circumstances, the overwhelming nature of the present mandate has taken many, including even those in the winning Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), by surprise.

In the aftermath of this result, many have pointed out, quite rightly, that the number of seats the BJP has won does not reflect the actual percentage vote share of the BJP vis-à-vis other parties, given the “first past the post” design of our electoral system. However, notwithstanding these figures, it is clear that the absolute number of BJP votes has risen across the country, even in areas where they have traditionally not had a major presence. We may therefore ask: is the country witnessing a shift to the right, and if so, what is the nature and extent of this shift? The response to the first question, confined to the present juncture, might quite plausibly be affirmative; but the response to the second, since it invokes the horizon of the future, is necessarily problematic, and calls for greater analysis.

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