ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Making Sense of ‘New India’

Rich Details but Confusing Frameworks

Modi’s India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy by Christophe Jaffrelot, Princeton University Press 2021; First Indian Edition by Context, Westland Publications; pp 639, `899.

The Narendra Modi regime has attracted not only deep-seated suspicion and political opposition but also considerable scholarly attention because of a variety of reasons. After a gap of three decades, “personality cult” has returned to national-level politics through the persona of Modi and just as the voters who have lapped up to this cult eagerly, academicians too have been forced to take note of that factor and explain its current avatar. Hindutva too has consolidated its grip on the public psyche and has become a major ideological force almost unparalleled in India’s history as a free nation. Never famous for strengthening institutional parap­hernalia of democracy, India has witne­ssed an unprecedented decline of institutions and institutional norms during the current regime. A combined effect of these factors stares us in the form of dec­line of democracy. These developments continue to haunt analysts not merely because of the corrosion of the democratic norm but also because of the Janus-faced reality that challenges students of Indian politics. This reality poses a challenge not only in terms of naming or labe­lling it but also in terms of an analytical framework to be adopted for making sense of contemporary Indian politics. The book under review, Modi’s India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy by Christophe Jaffrelot, is an imp­ortant addition to the academic literature addressing these challenges.

Jaffrelot has been a scholarly institution in himself as far as analyses of Indian politics are concerned. The body of his academic work has shone the light of detailed empirical data and theoretical insight on many complex phenomena that characterise India’s politics such as the question of communalism or the plebeianisation of India’s political process. His latest volume on Modi’s India is an authentic and thick description of the regime. Simultaneously, the volume is an analytical exer­cise in explaining the contemporary political phenomena shaping Indian poli­tics today. For anyone wanting to acq­uaint themselves with the gory details of how India’s democracy is being thrashed and trashed, and how it is decimated on an almost regular basis, Jaffrelot’s painstaking work is a compulsory reading. At the same time, for anyone wanting to situate India’s current politics in an analytical perspective, Jaffrelot’s work is a classic for intellectual stimulation. Although, as we shall see below, the author tends to confuse the reader with the multiplicity of overlapping frameworks.

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Updated On : 19th Nov, 2022
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