Modi’s India: The Rise of Ethnic Democracy is authored by Christophe Jaffrelot and published by Princeton University Press. It is reviewed for JCA by editorial board member Kenneth Bo Nielsen.
The book is said to be “magisterial,” analysing a period that begins with “the ruins of the Babri Masjid that was demolished by Hindu nationalist activists in 1992 – and traces the spectacularly triumphant trajectory of Hindu nationalism in its aftermath, culminating in the laying of the foundation stone for the new monumental Ram temple in Ayodhya in 2020.” It is a fitting addition to the author’s previous compelling work The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics.
This account revolves around the political career of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “the key figure in the reinvention of Hindu nationalism in the new millennium.” But, as Nielsen observes, while Modi “is an extraordinarily powerful prime minister,” is is no lone wolf:
Modi is a product of, and actively backed by, the wider Hindu nationalist movement, centred on its “mother organisation,” the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In almost textbook Gramscian fashion, the RSS and its many affiliates have undertaken a long march through the institutions over almost a century, consolidating its ideology as a new common sense in civil society, while also now taking effective control of the institutions of state.
The rise of the right is a global phenomenon, with India one of its most significant nodes. Good analysis deserves to be read. The reviewer describes Modi’s India as “a gripping page-turner: eminently researched, … lucidly written, analytically sophisticated, and with the added (and rare) quality of being mostly accessible also to a non-specialist readership.”