The world’s largest democracy, united as never before

Christopher Caldwell in the Claremont Review of Books:

Narendra Modi, the 72-year-old Hindu activist from Gujarat, has been prime minister since 2014. His father was a railroad station tea seller. A rare member of India’s “backward” castes to reach his country’s top post, he is the antitype of the urbane Nehru, and the movement he leads is the antithesis of Congress as Nehru reshaped it. Under Modi’s leadership the BJP, founded in 1980 and focused on the aspirations of the 80% of Indians who are Hindu, has become the world’s largest political party. Political scientists say India has moved on to a “second party system” with the BJP at its center, much as the first party system was dominated by Congress.

India’s tiny sliver of Western-connected English-language opinion-makers tend to find Modi appalling. Their minoritarian take has hardened into Western conventional wisdom about India: Modi is understood as a subcontinental Viktor Orbán or Donald Trump. He is a demagogue, a populist, a reactionary. Some accuse Modi of religious fundamentalism, or of bigotry against India’s Muslims. He cares little for the rights of women and gays, say others. For certain opponents his sin is nationalism, for others it is cozying up to India’s billionaire tech moguls and venture capitalists.

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