Modi's India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy.

AuthorHirsch, Michael L.

Christophe Jaffrelot. Modi's India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2021. 639. Hardcover, $35.00.

In Modi's India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy Christophe Jaffrelot explores Narendra Modi's rise to power as Prime Minister and what has unfolded since his election. The book is organized in three parts.

In Part I, Jaffrelot familiarizes the reader with Hindu nationalism, its history and articulations and of the organizations advancing its cause, e.g., the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Modi's populism exploits the Hindu fear of vulnerability and "the reactivation of the Hindu majoritarian inferiority complex" (p. 74). Once in control of Gujarat Modi weaponized this fear by turning it into anger against the Muslim minority, "(e)thnic nationalism...draws from a wellspring of resentment" (p. 79). In Gujarat Modi consolidated power, fostering loyalty across caste lines by a mixture of the exploitation of fear of the other, promises of economic advancement and expanding alliance with the RSS and its affiliate groups.

In his run for Prime Minister, Modi appealed to disposed Hindus including those negatively affected by "positive discrimination" (p. 108), i.e., policies designed to provide access to those locked out of social advancement by India's caste structure and those threatened by the modernization process (e.g., men made uneasy by women's progress). He promised to lift the economic prospects of the nation using the same techniques that had led to economic transformation in Gujarat. His populism exploits long standing Hindu nationalist organizations and he creates an expansive support network to penetrate the country with personal and virtual communications. His organization numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Following his election as Prime Minister, Modi worked to personalize his relationship with Indians writ large (minus Muslims and other minorities). He employed politics of "dignity" (p. 113) to touch the lives of hundreds of millions (e.g., providing toilets so that human waste expulsion could be done in private) while his policies led to the deepening of poverty in rural areas. He speaks to Indians as his friends. His dignity campaigns, appeals to Hindu nationalist virtues, and adept presentation of self, work to obscure the rising wealth gap that rampant "crony" (p. 143) and "collusive" capitalism (p...

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