The Bharatiya Janata Party’s massive victory in the 2019 general election was its second consecutive win in the Lok Sabha, with an absolute majority. This is a remarkable achievement for a party that was pushed to the margins of Indian politics in 1984, when it won just two seats in that year’s general election. In the following years, the Ram Janmabhoomi movement enabled the BJP to gradually acquire political dominance over a span of three decades. It won 282 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha and 303 seats in 2019.
The BJP’s exponential growth testifies to the growing appeal of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, propagated by its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, ever since it was formed in September 1925. Yet, for much of India’s post-Independence history, Hindutva did not yield as rich a harvest of votes for the BJP or its earlier incarnate, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The BJP’s current dominance suggests that the Indian collective consciousness has dramatically altered to embrace Hindutva—an exclusivist and homogenising ideology.
Following the electoral verdict, Ajaz Ashraf, an independent journalist, spoke to Ashis Nandy, a political psychologist and an honorary fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, to analyse why the Indian psyche has embraced Hindutva. “I think people are nervous about violence,” Nandy said. “Their anxieties have people think that a centralised state will restore order.”