A new party system or a new political system?

A new party system or a new political system?

By Christophe Jaffrelot and Gilles Verniers
Contemporary South Asia, 19 June 2020

Defying many odds, the BJP has held on to the political space it conquered five years ago and succeeded in expanding its territorial imprint. It did so through a campaign that was substantially different from the 2014 General Election campaign, which was marked by the rejection of the Congress and an enthusiastic embrace of the BJP’s promise of development for all. Five years later, much has changed in India with regard to the political system, which has become more centralized and less liberal. Since the 2019 election, the second Modi-led government has pushed the transition from a de facto Hindu majoritarian state towards a de jure Hindu majoritarian state through the adoption of controversial policies affecting some of the basic normative tenets of India’s old constitutional order, so much so that the BJP’s rise to power has transformed not only the party system, but also the political system itself. This is reflected in India dropping several ranks in most indices of democracy. At the same time, Indian national and state politics have followed divergent paths: the BJP dominates the national stage unchallenged by any rival, but is finding it increasingly difficult to sustain its sway in state elections – leaving the question of the Hindu nationalist hegemony open.