Modi Consolidates Power: Leveraging Welfare Politics

Modi Consolidates Power: Leveraging Welfare Politics

Journal of Democracy, 14 October 2019

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, secured a decisive mandate in India’s recently concluded seventeenth general election. With this victory, the BJP has firmly established itself as the dominant national political party, ushering in a new phase in Indian politics. How did the BJP achieve this, and what does the 2019 election teach us about the dynamics of India’s new dominant party? Analysts have identified money power, organizational strength, and right-wing populist politics as pillars of the BJP’s electoral success. An important but sometimes overlooked aspect of this populist politics is the BJP’s approach to welfare policy. Here, the BJP mixes left-wing populism in favor of the poor with right-wing cultural majoritarianism. Welfare programs—strategically deployed—are important instruments through which Modi has secured moral legitimacy and voter trust. In order to understand India’s new party system and the character of the hegemony that it tends to maintain, it is thus important to study the dynamics of welfare politics.