Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Populism and Hindu Nationalism, Ashutosh Varshney Contributes to and Edits an Issue of SCID

July 9, 2021

CCSA Director, Ashutosh Varshney, edited the June 2021 special edition of Studies in Comparative International Development (SCID) on Populism and Nationalism.  The issue has articles on Turkey, Thailand, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Eastern and Western Europe and the United States. Varshney also contributed an article, "Populism and Hindu Nationalism in India," based on the first ever populism survey in India. The abstract is included below and you can read the full article here.

This article presents findings from the first-ever survey of populist attitudes in India. Historically, the Indian usage of the concept of populism was mostly confined to the fiscal handouts of governments for the lower-income groups, something that is viewed as part of left-wing populism elsewhere in the world. The idea of right-wing populism, which equates popular will with the interests of the ethnic/racial/religious majority, is something relatively novel at the highest echelons of the Indian polity. Its emergence coincides with the rise of Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to national power since 2014. However, our survey finds, first, that at the level of mass attitudes, populism and Hindu nationalism are quite distinct phenomena. Those who can be called populists are not Hindu nationalists and vice versa. This finding, second, also leads to our argument that while right-wing populism has emerged in India as a leadership discourse, it is still to take roots at the level of popular attitudes.