BJP’s Ideological Hegemony: Combining Religious Conservatism and Nationalism

Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020
Subject MatterSpecial Section on Politics & Society Between ElectionsSpecial Section Articles
Special Section Article
BJP’s Ideological Hegemony:
Combining Religious Conservatism
and Nationalism
Sanjay Kumar1 and Pranav Gupta2
This article explores popular support for two key dimensions of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s recent
ideological dominance in Indian politics. We examine public opinion on assertive nationalism and reli-
gious conservatism. The article analyses data from an individual-level survey conducted among voters
across 12 states across the country in 2018. We find that public opinion is largely sympathetic towards
the ideological positions held by the right on these dimensions. Moreover, ideological resonance tran-
scends various socio-economic cleavages, and there is high support even among non-core segments of
the BJP’s social coalition. We also find suggestive evidence for the role of nationalism in expanding the
BJP’s support base.
Ideology, nationalism, Hindutva, political attitudes, conservatism, BJP
Since 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has registered multiple electoral victories and expanded its
political footprint across the country. The party not only won decisive majorities in the 2014 and 2019
Lok Sabha elections but also emerged victorious in many state assembly elections. The BJP’s national
vote share has almost doubled in this period—from 18.6 per cent in 2009 to 37.4 per cent in the 2019 Lok
Sabha elections. The party’s support base now includes a broad segment of the electorate. This led many
scholars to conclude that party politics in the country had entered a new phase—the fourth party system,
with the BJP as the dominant party.
However, as numerous scholars have noted, electoral performance is just one aspect of the BJP’s
political dominance (Palshikar, 2019; Vaishnav & Hinston, 2019). A salient feature of the BJP-led domi-
nant party system is that the party has managed to successfully exert its ideological dominance. The
party’s ideological hegemony is evident in the lack of opposition to two important decisions since getting
re-elected in 2019—abrogation of Article 370 and the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Perhaps
reluctantly or due to the pressures of electoral politics, most political parties publicly supported these
Studies in Indian Politics
8(2) 203–213, 2020
© 2020 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2321023020963482
1 Lokniti Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi, Delhi, India.
2 University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.
Corresponding author:
Sanjay Kumar, Lokniti Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi, Delhi 110054, India.

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