Book review: Paul Wallace (Ed.), India’s 2019 Elections: The Hindutva Wave and Indian Nationalism

Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
294 Book Reviews
regime, or the specific practices of democracy in the region. Another avenue for the development of this
notion is sought outside the region itself—in the cities and the urban centres, where it is due to migration
and the ‘racialized gaze’.– However, whether this would be ‘vernacularized’ remains to be seen. While
the case of Sikkim is illustrative of the manner in which the official Northeastern identity is stretched.
Whether the adjoining North Bengal hills, with its demand for autonomy via Sixth Schedule (accepted
in-principle by the Government of India and West Bengal in 2005), would be accommodated, is an open
question. Thus, even without its vernacularization, and despite the obvious problems in the (post)colonial
imaginations of the ‘Northeast’, this new form of incipient identity is seen to be attractive to similar
ethnopolitical imaginations coming from regions bordering the Northeast.
In summary, Baruah’s ethnographic, historical and analytical insight makes the text lucid and
substantive. For researchers studying the Northeast and for policymakers this will certainly be a valuable
resource. However, even for those who remain uninitiated to the complexity that is the Northeast, the
book does provide a comprehensive exploration of the major issues therein.
Samir Sharma
St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
Paul Wallace (Ed.), India’s 2019 Elections: The Hindutva Wave and Indian Nationalism (New Delhi: SAGE
Publications, 2020), 428 pp. `1,395 (Hardback). ISBN: 978-93-5388-244-0.
DOI: 10.1177/23210230211043026
The book is an elaborate effort at deciphering India’s Lok Sabha elections 2019. It attempts both—an
overview of the themes shaping the elections and the analytical study of the results for most of the states
in the country. It brings together prominent scholars from the field of Indian Political Processes and its
Institutions, Party Politics and State Politics in India. They combine quantitative and qualitative research
techniques, utilizing a rich reservoir of empirical data to sharpen their analyses. However, some chapters
could have delved deeper into the sociopolitical and economic factors that shaped the verdict.
This book, the sixth in a series that has been examining India’s parliamentary elections since 1998,
seeks to analyse how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured a massive victory in the 17th Lok Sabha
Election 2019, despite strong public outrage against its government for causing socioeconomic distress.
The late Paul Wallace and the late Ramashray Roy co-edited the first four volumes on Indian elections
from 1998 to 2009. Wallace edited the volume on the election of 2014. The book is divided into two
parts—‘Thematic Studies’ and ‘Analytical State Studies’, with contributions by 29 distinguished scholars
and policy experts. The first part covers six topics—instrumentality of foreign policy issues, BJP’s
growing clout, gender concerns, vitality of public institutions and civil society, and ‘fake news’—of
course, many more themes shaped the electoral discourse. The second part analyses election results for
India’s 14 states and its Northeast region. Here, the chapters are grouped under regional clusters, in a
pattern previously seen in the volume on the 2014 election—Northern, Kashmir and Western, Eastern
and Southern, and North-east. Back then, the arrangement reflected ‘the change to India’s political
geography brought by BJP after the elections’ (India’s 2014 Elections, p. 25); its continuity affirms that
the changes have held steady in 2019.
A common refrain of observers during the election was that the Balakot airstrike was used as an
immediate rallying point by BJP to sharpen fervour for its Hindutva narrative in the name of nationalist
pride. In his introduction, Paul Wallace agrees and observes that this surge of muscular Hindu nationalism,

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