In current occasions, there may be rising concern in regards to the retreat of liberal democracy worldwide, with India, the world’s largest democracy, being no exception. It’s displaying seen indicators of democratic ‘backsliding’ and ‘regression,’ which, if left unchecked, might result in the emergence of an autocratic regime.
This phenomenon displays Alexis de Tocqueville’s age-old apprehension that democracy may deteriorate into anarchy, in the end ensuing within the authorities accumulating extreme powers and centralizing management, rendering the inhabitants subservient and conforming—an idea referred to as ‘democratic despotism.’ Christophe Jaffrelot delves into these Tocquevillian issues about democracy in modern India below the management of Narendra Modi. He seeks to reply a pivotal query: Why is India, a rustic lengthy seen as an outlier within the post-colonial world for efficiently sustaining its democracy, shedding its democratic grip? A considerable a part of the reply will be discovered within the ebook’s subtitle.
Jaffrelot constructs his narrative, which begins by analyzing the evolution of Indian democracy via three distinct phases. It begins with ‘conservative democracy,’ regardless of having a progressive structure. Through the Nehru and Indira Gandhi eras, India couldn’t understand its potential for deeper democratic consolidation. The Congress occasion, entangled in clientelist politics, hindered Nehru from implementing essential land reforms and reaching his imaginative and prescient of building a ‘socialistic sample of society.’ Jaffrelot notes that Nehru paid little consideration to the notion of optimistic discrimination, reflecting components of ‘conservative democracy.’ Equally, Indira Gandhi struggled to make important progress in land reforms and took an authoritarian and socially conservative path through the declaration of emergency. The subsequent part, described because the ‘democratization of democracy,’ coincides with Jaffrelot’s idea of a ‘silent revolution,’ marked by the ascension of lower-caste illustration in north Indian politics and the declining involvement of upper-caste and middle-class voters within the democratic course of. In response to this ‘silent revolution,’ Jaffrelot observes a counter-revolution aimed toward instituting ‘ethnic democracy.’
The primary a part of the ebook introduces the argument that there was a shift within the understanding of India, pushed by Hindu nationalist aspirations for energy, particularly within the context of Hindutva and populist politics. Narendra Modi was chosen by the Bharatiya Janata Social gathering (BJP) to be the Prime Minister in 2014, with a mandate to implement the ‘Gujarat Mannequin’ of politics on a nationwide scale. This mannequin aimed not solely to counter the ‘silent revolution’ but in addition to embed Hindu nationalist populism by producing worry of Islamist backlash, portraying Muslims as ‘the opposite,’ and rekindling a Hindu sense of vulnerability and inferiority. Modi, who had beforehand served because the Chief Minister of Gujarat, efficiently employed techniques based mostly on hope, worry, and anger to develop into the chief of all electoral campaigns in India after 2014. Nonetheless, Jaffrelot argues that the Modi authorities, whereas wealthy in pro-poor rhetoric, had coverage outcomes that primarily benefited the prosperous, exacerbating financial inequality.
The second a part of the ebook presents a complete framework that argues India is transitioning from being the world’s largest constitutional democracy to changing into the world’s largest de facto ethnic democracy. Jaffrelot identifies varied devices utilized by Modi’s authorities to facilitate this transition, akin to selling a ‘Hinduized’ public house via legal guidelines on cow safety and conversions, emphasizing ‘Bharat’ over trendy India, permitting RSS affect in state establishments, revising historical past to accommodate Hindutva politics, difficult left-liberal ideologies, restraining civil society organizations, reshaping schooling to align with Hindutva’s historic and scientific narrative, and undermining the apply of secularism. Focusing on each Muslim and Christian minorities and fomenting violence in opposition to them is highlighted as a definite technique employed to rework India into an ethnic democracy. Jaffrelot contends that vigilantes, each within the digital and bodily realms, propagated violence in opposition to minorities in collaboration with state authorities, particularly the police, resulting in the foundations of a ‘de facto Hindu rashtra.’
The ultimate part of the ebook delves into the assorted sides of authoritarianism below Narendra Modi’s management. It explores the connections between populism, homogenization, polarization, and authoritarianism. Nationalist-populist leaders usually are inclined to develop into authoritarian, and Jaffrelot argues that Modi’s ‘ethnic democracy’ undertaking requires the seize of all branches of the federal government, together with the media, and the deinstitutionalization of democratic establishments. This undertaking underscores the importance of elections by way of ‘electoral authoritarianism’ and perpetuates the identification of others because the enemy. Within the concluding chapter, Jaffrelot highlights that Indian Muslims not solely face social marginalization but in addition institutional exclusion and judicial marginalization.
In abstract, Jaffrelot’s ebook gives a crucial evaluation of India below Narendra Modi’s management, asserting that it’s evolving into an ethnic majoritarian democracy and leaning towards intolerant democracy. Subsequent political occasions have solely served to additional substantiate India’s democratic backsliding. Whereas the ebook is complete, it stays participating and accessible, providing a descriptive but thought-provoking evaluation of India’s evolving democratic panorama.