Jas Shah FYBCom Div-F Roll No. - 839 Subject – Foundation Course Divisive Nature of Indian Politics India is a diverse country. We have been taught for a long time that ‘unity in diversity’ is the biggest strength of India. However, this ideology has been used by most of the political parties for their electoral benefits. The word India or Hindustan was never used by the politicians to represent a country as a nation with strong cultural and spiritual unity. Political parties were always busy dividing India and Indians based on language, culture, geography, and the most important – caste. This is the first time in the history of India that majority of the voters have voted with oneness in mind – India. All the attempts of the political parties, except BJP, to divide Indians have been destroyed by the voters. We have several examples of divisive nature in all the left-leaning parties led by the Indian National Congress. The divisive ideology started from the British who quickly learned that it is absolutely necessary to break India based on different parameters and unity among Indians is the biggest threat to the British. The best way they found to divide India is through education. British forced Indians to learn English in order to keep them competitive on the global level. On the other hand, it was easy for them to introduce their ideologies and divisive nature through English to every Indian. The first major attempt is the introduction of fake Aryan-Dravidian theory to Indians. Tamil Nadu is a live example of this division which is still suffering in dilemma over this ideology. There are many other parameters used by the British such as culture, language, etc. to divide Indians which acted as the ghee to the ‘divide and rule’ fire. Diversity in ideologies is always welcome. In fact, India and Hinduism are known for their wide variety of ideological differences since Vedic times. However, the difference is that this diversity was never used to break India or Indians on any basis. The diversity was joyful. Now, there are thousands of political parties with their own divisive ideology. It is also important to understand that this divisive nature of political parties has no base. It is the ideology that has been tested through trial-and-error method with one agenda – power. This is the first time in the history of India that Narendra Modi led India has unified people. Hindus are happy, Muslims are happy, Hindi speaking people are happy, Kannada speaking people are happy, Jats in Haryana are happy, Lingayats in Karnataka are happy, the list goes on. This is also the first time in the history that a political party has asked for votes for development and India and not for the party or for their caste, religion, dynasty, culture, geography. This is the biggest change Modi govt has brought about. We can also observe the suffering in silence of the leftists. Their only weapon of division has been destroyed forever. They have never fought elections with development or oneness as the agenda and the good news is ‘They will never be able to do that in future’. In recent years, many politicians and political pundits have lamented what they perceive to be growing political divisiveness in the United States. Public-opinion polls have confirmed the reality of this growing divisiveness (Badger and Chokshi 2017; Hook 2017; Pew Research Center 2017). Nearly everyone who remarks on this phenomenon views it as regrettable, and many offer recommendations for alleviating it, especially by embracing a greater willingness to compromise in Congress and among the public. Not many commentators, however, have evinced an understanding of how the heightened divisiveness came about or of the necessary condition(s) for reducing it. To understand recent trends in political divisiveness, it might help to recall the situation at an earlier time when such divisiveness was not so great—say, during the 1950s or perhaps even as recently as the 1990s. In those days, the two major political parties as a rule kept their squabbling between the forty-yard lines. They and their supporters among the public agreed on the fundamental political issues (e.g., anticommunism in foreign affairs, a sizable welfare state at home). Of course, even within the accepted bounds of political dispute, disagreements and conflicts might become heated from time to time in certain areas, yet, given the broad agreement on the nature of the regime, politicians and their supporters could fashion compromises that kept nearly all changes within the established bounds. Indeed, politicians could brag about and take credit for their capacity to forge compromises, and few held this flexibility against them or accused them of being sellouts. In more recent times, however, as the government has grown and extended its involvement into more—and more important—areas of life (e.g., comprehensive health-care insurance coverage and broad-gauge financial-rescue operations such as those undertaken in 2008 and 2009), the perceived stakes have become greater in the minds of political actors. With more at stake, people’s willingness to compromise has declined: compromise may be too costly for them to tolerate. So as government grows, extending its scope and power into more corners of economic and social affairs, it pushes more and more people beyond their thresholds of acceptance. Now, whenever the government grows, it does not simply take an action and push it onto an unwilling public or a large unwilling part of the public, telling those who oppose it to “like it or lump it.” Such an overbearing imposition is well-nigh guaranteed to increase and sharpen the existing resistance to the action and thus to make the implementation of the government’s new policy more difficult. To ease the imposition of an action on unwilling parties, the government and its supporters always clothe it in attractive ideological garb, claiming that it affords great benefits for the general public, necessary protections from foreign or domestic threats, and so forth. Some potential resisters are likely to be persuaded by such ideological cover stories—if they weren’t, the government’s propaganda would be pointless. So ideology, it turns out, plays an essential role in the conduct of any government’s operations, especially when it is expanding the scope of such operations. More than thirty years ago I formulated a conception of ideology (a highly contested concept among scholars) that I have found helpful in analyzing the nature of government and its growth. In my conception, ideology is “a somewhat coherent, rather comprehensive belief system about social relations.” Such a system must have “four distinct aspects: cognitive, affective, programmatic, and solidary” (Higgs 1987, 37; for an extended discussion of ideology viewed in this way, see chapter 3 of the same source, “On Ideology as an Analytical Concept in the Study of Political Economy,” 35–56). The key connection between ideology and political action arises from the fourth aspect, solidarity among an ideology’s adherents. This solidarity establishes an identity because affiliation with an ideology defines the kind of person one is and wishes to be, and maintenance of this identity requires that a person act as a faithful comrade of others who identify likewise. An ideology thus defines and solidifies personal identity, but it simultaneously defines the enemy—as someone has said, it tells the ideological adherent whom to fear and whom to hate. As government grows, pushing into more and more areas of social and economic life and evoking an ideological rationale to justify its action and attract supporters, it simultaneously causes its supporters to identify those who oppose the action as “the other” and even as “the enemy.” When people come to view each other in this stark fashion, social and political divisiveness is almost certain to increase. During the past several decades, as a harsh and unforgiving view of political opponents has grown, the fear and loathing of those who “are not with us” may well have been the main avenue along which the willingness to compromise has declined. If such has been the case, it follows that a necessary condition for the alleviation of such divisiveness is the retardation or cessation—perhaps even the reversal—of the government’s growth. Even if meeting such a condition should be proposed or carried out, however, the problem is that a sort of Tullockian transitional-gains trap (Tullock 1975) may impede such a turnaround. Many individuals and groups have become deeply and variously embroiled in the government’s current scope and power, and they are likely to resist fiercely any attempt to reverse the process they helped to push forward in recent decades. They will fight any changes that would require them to surrender benefits, policies, and programs in which they are deeply invested not only materially but also ideologically. Such resistance constitutes one of the important aspects of the ratchet effect in the growth of government, whereby each major lurch toward greater government becomes at least in part irreversible. DIVIDE AND RULE IN INDIAN PARTY POLITICS The Rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party From the highly fragmented Parliament produced by India’s 12th general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led a heterogeneous coalition of smaller political parties to form a minority government. Gradually but persistently moving out from the wings of Indian politics, the BJP has proven itself capable of sustained competition with the once dominant Congress Party (INC). The outcome of the 1998 general elections in which the BJP became the only party to claim more seats than the INC twice in succession confirms its existence as a major political party in the Indian system. Its rise is significant not only because it definitively signals the end of the Congress system but also because of the Hindu nationalist character of the party itself. While secularism is an ideological hallmark of the Indian state, Hindu nationalism is not a new force in Indian politics: the political assertion of the belief that India is a fundamentally Hindu nation, the central tenet of Hindu nationalism, has its origins in the 19th century. But never before has a party espousing such an ideology matched the BJP’s current level of popular support. How and why has the BJP moved from the political fringe into the center? And why are its politics of Hindu nationalism—overtly or insidiously expressed or so salient now? Posing still more questions: does the success of the BJP in recent elections signify a fundamental change of the Indian party system? how does the ascendance of the BJP square with other trends in the system, and to what extent are apparently distinct phenomena related? I shall argue that the sources of the BJP's rise are found at the system level: in the dynamics of the party system and the electorate. Its rise, however, also affects that system. The emergence of the BJP as a major political party signals the end of INC dominance, the growth of a fragmented multiparty system, and a reorienting of issue-dimensions in politics. This article's analysis of the BJP and the Indian party system is divided into three sections. The first section studies the Indian party system and national politics prior to the rise of the BJP in order to establish a baseline from which subsequent developments can be analyzed', the second focuses on party system dynamics and identifies factors that have facilitated BJP ascendance; the third assesses the impact of the BJP on electoral politics at the national level and examines the BJP-led coalition government's recent assertion of India's nuclear capability. Surveying the Political Landscape: Indian Politics before the BJP More than 80% of India's population is Hindu, so one might reasonably wonder why earlier Hindu nationalist parties failed to command the level of support now possessed by the BJP. Perhaps the most basic obstacle to the formation of a mass Hindu nationalist movement and party lies in the religion's lack of formal organization. Unlike the major monotheistic religions, Hinduism does not have a hierarchical religious leadership or clergy and lacks a central text from which common religious principles and history can be derived. Possessed with neither a clear religious authority nor agreed upon fundamentals, the practice of Hinduism is private and individualistic. In its basic configuration, therefore, Hinduism is not endowed with a structure conducive to mass mobilization, religious or political. The presence of cleavages that cut across religion and the resultant exertion of cross-pressures creates considerable political diversity among the Hindu faithful. This heterogeneity helps explain why a Hindu nationalist movement did not emerge more immediately in the wake of Independence. Crosscutting cleavages create multiple poles of identity that inhibit incipient cohesion and preclude formation of overarching unity in society. When these cleavages are politically salient, they create cross-pressures that promote in decision and uncertainty, for it becomes unclear where one's loyalties lie. The crosscutting-cleavages hypothesis obtains within the Hindu community in India, which is divided inter alia by region, language, and caste. Multiple cross-pressures created by these cleavages promote a certain amount of moderation; cumulatively, they attenuate what otherwise might become intense social divisions. While crosscutting cleavages and cross-pressures are neither necessary nor sufficient to mitigate ethnic strife, their existence helps confuse identity and shakes up identity-related issues. Thus, "Hindu" dominance of India's population does not lead to the conclusion that mass-based Hindu nationalism is either natural or inevitable, or that a party with such roots should be expected to emerge. Seen in a theoretical light, the difficulty of forming a Hindu nationalist movement or party constitutes a problem of collective action. At their core, collective action problems are problems of aggregation. In the case of the BJP, the problem of collective action is one of mobilizing individuals who belong to a large religious group to support a party that proposes to advance the interests of both the group and the individuals in it. The sheer size of the Hindu population and the presence of crosscutting cleavages undercut the existence of a collective. As they create identities that are many layered, cross-pressures generated by these cleavages shuffle and reorder individual allegiances and interests. Cultivating a politically unified Hindu constituency is at odds with the logic of cross-pressures. A collective action problem, however, does not negate aggregation. The persistent presence of a "Hindu fringe" in Indian politics demonstrates that even within such a problem, limited aggregation is possible. At the same time, the problem is precisely that aggregation is limited. Theories Of collective action frequently assert that mobilizers or leaders are necessary to overcome competing demands for popular support. The absence of religious authority among Hindus renders difficult the task of ordering preferences such that they facilitate collective action. The impediments to collective action, embodied by crosscutting cleavages, crosspressures, and the absence of a religious elite, underscore the conclusion that the strength of numbers alone is insufficient to catalyze political mobilization. Rational choice theories of collective action are conceptually useful in accounting for the behavior of large groups; they cannot, however, explain the third and arguably most significant obstacle to the ascendance of a Hindu nationalist party. the INC behemoth. For three decades after independence, India's democratic political existence was something of a paradox: competitive multiparty elections successively produced one-party rule at the national level. In theory, of course, legitimate alternatives to the INC might have arisen. In practice, significant opposition was shut out. Under Jawarharlal Nehru, the INC successfully managed its internal division and contained its external opposition "because it was internally democratic and and particularly sensitive to pressures and counter-pressures at the grassroots level."2 Operating thus, the INC effectively precluded any real challenge to its predominance. Just as the Congress system helped shape the Indian party system, so too did INC ideology determine the nature of state ideology? Economic development and secularism, hallmarks of Nehruvian nationalism, were championed by Nehru's INC as integral to the definition of India. Following independence, the INC hoped that cultivating state ideology around economic development would transcend ethnicity by providing an ideal around which all citizens could mobilize. Secularism enshrined and protected religious plurality and was intended to reassure religious minorities that they would be secure in the newly independent state. Any political party that challenged secularism automatically became an antagonist not only of the INC but of the touchstones of the Indian state. Through its grip on state ideology and its ability to absorb and accommodate varied interests, the INC maintained itself as the rightful captain and staunch guardian of the Indian ship of state. The Rise of the BJP: An Analysis Thwarted by the logic of collective action and by a predominant party determmed to avoid sectarian division, BJP ascendance was far from inevitable. It is the product of shrewd political maneuvering by the BJP elite within a politicoeconomic environment that was ripe for change. As principal political mobilizers, the role played by political parties and politicians is critical in the containment or activation of ethnic cleavages. Elites in the BJP capitalized on the waning ability of national issues to sustain pan-ethnic consensus. Through their program of Hindu nationalism, the party aspired to overcome intra-religious cleavages and build a broadly defined Hindu vote bank by filling a perceived leadership vacuum among the Hindu population. Upon its founding in 1980, the BJP endeavored to become a credible national alternative to the INC. To broaden its electoral base, the party at tempted to distance itself somewhat from its predecessor, the Jan Sangh. The latter, founded in 1951, also had national aspirations. A linguistic preoccupation with the promotion of Hindi and a Brahmanic bias limited the Jan Sangh's support to the northern Hindi-speaking states and largely to upper caste intellectuals. Determined to avoid the constraints on expansion faced by the Jan Sangh, the BJP levied a three-pronged challenge to the INC that also challenged the touchstones of postindependence India. First, the BJP contended that the economic development undertaken by the INC threatened Indian culture. Second, the BJP accused the INC of subverting Indian democracy through both an anti-democratic leadership and political corruption. Third, it argued that the INC had debased the ideology of state secularism as part of its strategy to appease minorities and win votes, and called for a substantive redefinition of this principle. The BJP espoused an economic ideology of Gandhian socialism to challenge the INC’s development strategy, a Western-oriented Nehruvian socialism. Gandhian socialism’s emphasis on indigenous development is particularly compatible with the BJP goal of presenting itself as defender of a threatened Hindu culture. Furthermore, championing a Gandhian ideal may have been an attempt to acquire, by association, the legitimacy that Gandhian philosophy generally possesses for many Indians. Although the BJP was one of the first parties to endorse neoclassical economics, it appropriated swadeshi to define its economic policy and rhetoric as the more negative effects associated with India’s program of economic liberalization made themselves felt in the 1990s. This move, ideologically consistent with its overall political orientation, was strategically calculated to garner the support and loyalty of Indian industry.4 Economic nationalism of the sort embodied by swadeshi is further consistent with Hindu nationalism: both provide an indigenously based identity and security in an environment of liberalizing change. The decline of the INC created an opening for the BJP to enter the political arena as a legitimate contender for power at the center. Cracks in the Congress system began to emerge in the late 1960s as internal factions became increasingly unruly and external opposition less easily contained. The centralization and personalization of power that began during the reign of Indira Gandhi and continued under the leadership of her son, Rajiv Gandhi, fatally undercut the INC’s internal disciplinary system of reconciliation and consensus. As Mr. Gandhi and his party were implicated in a number of corruptions scandals in the 1980s, cracks in the Congress system widened. No longer an invincible force in Indian politics, the INC also lost its power to define internally the state’s ideological principles. Seizing popular disillusion with the INC and an opportunity to reshape national politics and state ideology, the BJP incorporated a call for “value- based politics” into its party platform. The BJP thus set itself up in contrast to the INC; the corruption of the latter indicated a lack of an ethical and moral grounding. Moreover, rampant corruption demonstrated that the procedural justice and rule-bound ethics of secular, rational-legal government failed to promote good governance. The concept of valued-based politics, though hitched to an anticorruption platform, was endowed with powerful if insidious religious undertones. The BJP manipulated the corruption issue not only to legitimize the twinning of religion and politics in its own program but also to present religious values as a panacea for the political ills of the Indian state. Like its economic policy, the relationship between the BJP and secularism demonstrates schizophrenic tendencies. In part, this is because the party itself lacks consensus on its position vis-a-vis secularism. Moderates within the party such as current Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee downplay Hindu nationalism to avoid complete alienation of minorities. This faction deploys the concept of “positive secularism” to define its position on the appropriate relationship between religion and state.5 While it acknowledges the importance of religious tolerance, it rejects special protection for minority religions and calls for a uniform civil code that would apply equally to all members of religious communities. In its substance, positive secularism eschews enshrining cultural plurality through special protection of minorities. The BJP argues that differential treatment of Indians on the basis of religion, entrenched by the Hindu Code Act and Muslim Personal Law, compromises the equality of all groups and citizens. The Shah Bano case, involving the right of divorced Muslim women to seek alimony, provides the best evidence (and ammunition) for such arguments. Despite a 1985 Supreme Court ruling that gave Shah Bano and all Muslim women this right, the government of Rajiv Gandhi, under pressure from Muslim fundamentalists, in 1986 effectively overturned the Supreme Court decision through the Muslim Women Act. Secular principles in the Constitution have forced change in Hindu practices: Hindu women have had alimony rights since 1956. The political maneuvering that occurred in after-math of the Shah Bano ruling, however, suggests that when these principles pose a threat to Islamic religious custom, the INC is unwilling to rigorously enforce secular law. Promulgation of a uniform civil code for all Indians, the BJP argues, is the only way to restore integrity to the principle of secularism and achieve meaningful equality of groups and citizens. Hindutva— “the Hindu way of life’—captures the vision of India articulated by extreme Hindu nationalists and militants within the BJP. Expressing this doctrine, a member of the militant Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) states: “Muslims are converted Hindus, but they have forgotten their Hinduness. So, we will awake them to their Hindu-ness, and in time, they will realize their mistake.” The ideal of Hindutva is clearly one of assimilation that aspires to dissolve religious pluralism and constitute India as a religiously homogeneous Hindu nation. The tension between the positive secularism and Hindutva endures within the party. It is, however, highly unlikely that the BJP would endanger its credibility as a party worthy of governing the country by embarking on a proselytizing mission of the sort envisioned by Hindu extremists. Faced with the challenge of expanding its electoral base in the early 1980s, the BJP adopted a moderate position on secularism. In fact, one might argue that the party was far more accommodating of divergent religious expression than Mrs. Gandhi’s INC, which responded in heavy-handed fashion to claims for religious and cultural autonomy in the Punjab and Northeast India. During the Golden Temple crisis in the Punjab, the BJP officially supported Sikh demands for autonomy—a rather unexpected position for a party that rejected “appeasement of minorities.” The move to moderate its position on sectarian issues while maintaining the support of its extreme core proved unsuccessful. Few significant inroads were made as a result of moderation and the party’s new position only alienated the extremists. Mrs. Gandhi’s hardline stance on the Punjab won her the support of Hindu nationalists.” This success, however, did not motivate Mrs. Gandhi’s policy. More likely, her use of an iron fist and mobilization of Hindu nationalist sentiments were indicative of attempts to forcibly contain perceived disintegrative tendencies within the federation. The fact that she was not powerfully motivated to outbid the BJP helps explain why the outbidding that did occur did not spiral in intensity as it did, for example, in Sri Lanka between the United National Party and Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Losing the support of Hindu nationalists to the INC after its dismal performance in the 1984 elections, the BJP undertook a strategy of one upmanship, outbidding the INC on the religious dimension in order to recapture its traditional base of support. The party replaced the moderate Vajpayee with the more extreme Lal Krishan Advani. As long as it remains an ethnically based party, the BJP’s issue base is somewhat limited to Hindu nationalism and it continues to rely on the support of the Hindu nationalists.’ Alienating Hindu nationalist supporters and losing its animating principle to the INC could be catastrophic. Once lost, BJP credibility as a Hindu nationalist party would be difficult to regain. The BJP could not afford to lose “its” issue and “its” supporters to the INC; since the moderation strategy failed in 1984, the BJP endorsed a more extreme vision of India in subsequent years. With the resurgence of ethnic politics and conflict in the 1980s ethnicity became a highly salient issue, increasingly subject to political manipulation. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the BJP seized the controversial Ranjanam- bhoomi-Babri Masjid issue to activate the sectarian divide and consolidate support for its Hindu nationalist political program. Its seizure of the issue was also a calculated response to the intense division created within the Hindu community by the V. P. Singh-led National Front government. Implementation in 1991 of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations, for example, was an attempt to contain sectarian tensions by increasing the salience of caste relative to religion. The Commission report stipulated that, since 27% of India’s population belongs to twice-born yet socially backward castes, 27% of government jobs should be reserved for such castes, This is in addition to reservations already in place for scheduled castes (former untouchables) and scheduled tribes, thus increasing caste-based reservation to nearly 52%. The action of the National Front government endowed caste politics with a new intensity. Threatened by a significant narrowing of their opportunities, the reaction of upper caste members was powerful and, on occasion, violent. In this context, the BJP’s seizure of the Ayodhya issue was an attempt not only to gather electoral support by appealing to Hindu nationalism but also to overcome the new, reservations-based caste divide and define the ethnic agenda. The BJP succeeded in reactivating communal fault lines, but at a cost: inciting communal violence and religious extremism is inconsistent with the behavior expected of a mainstream political party. In the wake of Ayodhya, BJP political responsibility is questioned and its claim to be a viable alternative to the INC was cast in doubt. Since 1993 the party has adopted a more cautiously chosen, moderate position on religious issues. While the BJP is typically characterized as a Hindu nationalist party, it has exhibited considerable flux on the sectarian issue-dimension. The sectarian divide must be politically salient to mobilize a Hindu vote. Yet, by activating this cleavage, the BJP courts extremism and risks becoming a pariah in main-stream politics. Moderation, however, has risks of its own, such as internal outbidding from its extreme core, splintering, or desertion. The balance that the BJP must achieve to maintain and expand its support is, therefore, extraordinarily delicate. Evaluating Outcomes: A Party System and Electorate in Transition Electoral outcomes are more than the sum of individual preferences: the particular distribution of votes reflects a myriad of complex and interrelated forces— political, economic, and social—that, over time, act on the vote. Examining the outcomes of recent Indian elections does not further explain why the BIP’s politics of Hindu nationalism are so salient of late. It will, however, reveal who supports the BJP and provide a clearer, if distilled, picture of the party’s impact on the Indian party system. The rise of the BJP in the late 1980s and 1990s created a third major pole in the Indian party system. The last four elections (1989, 1991, 1996, 1998) represent what some scholars have called a “realigning electoral era.” None of these elections yielded a one-party majority government. Realigning elections and the electoral eras they constitute signals a shift in long term party loyalties. During such eras, electoral victory and defeat assume a new significance: they initiate a more enduring changing of the guard. The INC’s poor electoral performance reveals deep scars of autocratic politics, corruption, and factionalism. The INC fall from its position of overwhelming dominance at the national level, concomitant with the steady ascendance of the BJP and the proliferation of regional parties, reflects an underlying realignment in the values and orientations of the Indian electorate. The force of the ideas—particularly secularism—that shaped the Indian state for much of the 50 years since Independence waned as the vitality of the party that was their principal animator and guardian withered. In the ideological space created by this decline, redefinition of national values becomes eminently possible. Thus, the success of the BJP indicates that it is not only usurping the center, but that the center itself—constituted by the prevailing political values and orientations of the national electorate—is shifting. While realigning electoral eras need not invoke a change in the party system, realignment has transformed the predominant party system into one that is far more fragmented and polarized. Electoral realignment and fragmentation of the party system concretely express the breakdown of the Congress system and the emergence of a new system in which the BJP clearly is a major party. The new system is also notable for the profusion of regional parties seeking power and influence at the national level. The regionalization of national party politics may be attributed to both the linguistic reorganization of states and increased political consciousness among formerly apolitical, and primarily underprivileged, groups. Regionalization indicates that the electorate is concerned not only with broad national issues but also with those that are local and territorially specific.'! The legion of small parties is the product of the increased scope of regionalism as a source of political mobilization within the Indian federation. While the rise of the BJP and regionalization are distinct forms of fragmentation, these two seemingly distinct phenomena are fundamentally connected. The Hindu nationalism of the former and the regionalism of the latter represent new forms of political identification that challenge the nationalism forged in the independence movement and during the early years of independence. This larger trend further reveals that changes are occurring not merely at the systems level but within the electorate itself. In the 1991 Lok Sabha election, under the leadership of L. K. Advani, the BJP presented itself to the electorate as a flagrantly pro-Hindu party. It hoped that its Hindu nationalist platform would unify the Hindu community and expand BJP support in rural areas and among the lower castes, having been outbid by the INC during the 1980s on the issue of Hindu nationalism, during this election it deployed the sensitive issue of the Ranjanambhoomi- Babri mosque to regain the support of its religious constituency. Despite the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in the midst of the campaign, it succeeded in winning 119 seats in the Lok Sabha with 20.2% of the vote compared to the INC’s 227 seats and 36.2% of the vote.!? Primarily on the strength of 98 seats from the populous Hindi-speaking states of North India, the BJP be- came the second largest party in the lower house of Parliament and the second largest votegetter after the INC.!3 BJP success in the 1991 elections proves that popular support for a party espousing Hindu nationalism exists among the Indian electorate, although support in 1991 came primarily from the Hindi-speaking North, The results of the 1996 election produced no clear governing party: the BJP claimed the most seats in the Lok Sabha but remained over 100 seats short of a majority government. The BJP maintained its regional core of support in the “Hindi-belt,” but it failed to expand its electoral base in the South. Its support was also demographically concentrated, coming from upper caste, urban, male Hindus. Nonetheless, the party won 161 seats and, for the first time, the president of India invited the BJP to form a national government. The party failed to attract enough allies to increase its seat count to 273—a bare majority in Parliament. The BJP’s failure to win support across regions, castes, and, on another level, potential coalition allies indicates that the depth of crosscutting cleavages and strength of cross-pressures remains substantial enough to limit the size of a unified Hindu vote bank. The BJP’s 161 seats made it the largest party in the Lok Sabha. However, a simple seat count exaggerates the extent of the party’s popular support. It captured 29.6% of the seats in the Lok Sabha on the strength of 20.3% of the popular vote. Differently stated, it won 33 more seats than it would have obtained if the percentage of seats won equaled its percentage of the popular vote. Truly zerosum, the final electoral outcome also punished the INC: 28.1% of the popular vote earned it only 25.2% (137 seats) of the seats in the Lok Sabha, approximately 16 fewer seats than it would have received in a purely proportional representation system. The incongruous distribution of electoral rewards and punishments is perhaps the principal idiosyncrasy of the first-past-the-post electoral system, which favors parties with territorially concentrated support and is indifferent to or penalizes parties whose support is territorially diffuse. Magnifying and distorting three significant political realities— the decline of the INC, rise of the BJP, and increased regionalization of national politics—the electoral system itself helps shape the party system. In the 1998 election, the BJP further increased its support both in terms of seats (177) and votes (25.5%).!4 Largely because of its strategic choice of allies, the BJP succeeded in making significant regional gains in the south and east, increasing its share of the vote in these regions by 22 percentage points compared to four percentage points nationally, over the 1996 election. Demographically, the BJP also expanded its support base. While it continues to win over half the vote of upper castes, it is now also the largest vote getter among the lower castes, although its support remains low among the scheduled castes and tribes. Unsurprisingly, its support is lowest among Muslims: it obtained only 7% of Muslim votes in contrast to the 39% and 30% achieved by the INC and the United Front, respectively. In addition, the BJP is no longer a party of the urban, educated elite: it obtained the largest share of the Hindu vote in both rural (35%) and urban areas (41%), and among Hindus from all education groups.'® With its support no longer concentrated in a specific section of Hindu society, the BJP has come far in ‘overcoming constraints on expansion imposed by crosscutting cleavages and cross-pressures to religion as a source of political mobilization. These results suggest that a broader section of the electorate is responding to BJP appeals. This claim, however, must be qualified. First, the BJP’s regional expansion is largely the product of alliances with regional parties and it is doubtful that the BJP alone could muster significant support in these states. Second, cumulative support for other parties still exceeds that for the BJP, both among Hindus and Muslims. Nonetheless, inroads made into most of the major demographic groups indicate that the BJP is now more widely accepted as a legitimate alternative to the INC. That acceptance exists sug- gests realignment of the electorate toward a more fervently nationalistic, if divisive, political party. The mainstream, it seems, is changing its course. Although the BJP came closest in 1998, no party in the Indian system appears to be capable of forming a majority government on its own in the near future. The system is comprised of three major competitors—the BJP, the INC, and the United Front coalition—with considerable ideological distance between them. These parties are divided on both a right-left dimension and on a sectarian-secular dimension, Horowitz contends that ethnic parties in such “mixed systems” will displace multiethnic or non-ethnic parties as other issue dimensions are overwhelmed by the primordial power of the ethnic issuedimension. A Horowitzian analysis, therefore, anticipates that the sectarian politics of the BJP will either displace the INC and the United Front or force those parties to reorient themselves along ethnic or sectarian lines. This prediction, however, may not be fully borne out in the Indian case. The impact of a fragmented party system in which even the major parties are compelled to form coalitions with smaller parties will temper the extent to which the ethnic or sectarian dimension will overwhelm others. Furthermore, in the large coalitions and the multitude of small state-specific parties that help to comprise them, the 1998 Lok Sabha exhibits pronounced regionalization. The pressure exerted by this division will limit the intensity of sectarian polities. For the BJP, moderating forces within the present Parliament endanger its ability to satisfy its traditional supporters. Forced to bargain with other parties to forge unity in the coalition, the BJP must compromise some of its fundamental goals. As a result of the process of negotiation and accommodation, three of its own key controversial policies are absent from the coalition’s National Agenda: a change in Kashmir’s autonomy status, the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya, and promulgation of a uniform civil code. In the BJP’s present parliamentary position, the opportunities and constraints of cultivating a religious constituency are clearly displayed. On one hand, such a constituency provides the BJP with defined and, to some extent, automatic support. On the other hand, compromise to achieve agreement within a coalition might alienate the BJP’s own support base and invite internal outbidding by more extreme parties or factions within the BJP. This ever-present threat imposes constraints on bargaining and is a disincentive to compromise. If the task of advancing the interests of its own supporters while bargaining with its coalition partners is difficult, the subsequent imperative to prevent this heterogeneous coalition from splintering multiplies the BJP’s challenge many times over, Indeed, coalition theory does not predict a long life for a heterogeneous government: the greater the number of coalition partners and the more unequal in strength and resources, the shorter the coalition’s life expectancy. The mechanical implications for the 21-member coalition are reinforced by the regional character of many of the coalition partners: constituencies and goals of these parties barely overlap. As each partner strives to advance its own interests, coalition stability becomes ever more fragile. Into this vexed political situation, enter Pokhran—now synonymous with India’s May 1998 nuclear tests. Analyses of international catalysts suggest that these tests were a response to perceived security threats posed by Pakistan’s thensuspected and China’s declared nuclear capability, as well as to cooperation between those two countries in military matters.!? While such analysis is certainly relevant, the domestic dimension has not been fully explored: what domestic political purposes did the tests perform and how do these squares with the BJP’s program and ideology? Within government, the nuclear tests brought unity to the fractious coalition by at least temporarily subduing the pursuit of individual aspirations for power. Furthermore, the nuclear explosions have enabled the BJP to avoid substantive debate within its government of economic, political, and social reform issues that are far more divisive and potentially dangerous to the survival of the coalition. Certainly, the decision to conduct nuclear tests cannot be reduced to a strategy of diversion and avoidance. Indeed, achieving and fortifying India’s nuclear capability has been an enduring feature of the BJP program and the larger Hindu nationalist agenda since the mid-1960s. These domestic realities, however, help account for the timing of the decision by a government still early in its term. The nuclear tests have also succeeded in stoking the fires of Indian nationalism— not an unintended consequence coming from a governing party that traditionally relies on emotive appeals of “passionate intensity” to win and maintain support. While the BJP has been forced to moderate overt appeals to Hindu nationalism, the nuclear test’s function, in a sense, to preserve its core of Hindu nationalist support. The blasts, and the political posturing that occurred in their wake, undeniably contain a sectarian and chauvinistic element. This ultimate assertion of military prowess appeals to strident Hindu nationalists. Yet, the nuclear tests carried far broader appeal: a public opinion poll found that 87% of Indians support the testing and 86% believe that India should now weaponize the bomb? The nationalism embodied by this support—92% of respondents claimed to feel prouder to be Indian—is religiously moderate compared to Hindu nationalism. It is, however, considerably more extreme and, indeed, belligerent than Gandhian or Nehruvian nationalism. The mass upsurge in nationalism that occurred in the wake of the explosions is not linked with a religious vision of India as a Hindu nation. but a more secular vision that celebrates the ideals of national prestige, strength, and promise. The defiant assertion of independence made through this act in fact continues an old nationalist tradition. Paradoxically, pacifism abandoned is atomic swadeshi. Conclusions At its outset, this article aspired both to explain the rise of the BJP and to assess its impact on the Indian party system and Indian politics to date. The ascendance of the BJP was, in large measure, made possible by factors located outside the party itself. The social and economic disruption produced by economic modernization, particularly in the seven years since India’s liberalization, helped lend resonance to the BJP’s appeals for Gandhian socialism and a certain amount of economic nationalism. More importantly, the breakdown of the Congress system provided an opportunity for the BJP to emerge as a plausible alternative to the INC, although the BJP is not directly responsible for that decline. Voters were more immediately swayed by the manifestations of centralization and authoritarianism within the INC and INC-led governments, combined with corruption and the apparent bankruptcy of ethics in politics. While the sources of Congress decline were largely endogenous, the BJP certainly hastened the process. Taking advantage of voter disgust with corruption and waning support for secularism, the BJP hitched these issues to its program of value-based politics and cast itself as a redemptive force in Indian politics. The ascent of the BJP is, therefore, explained by exogenous factors that created the political vacuum in which an alternative to the INC could emerge, and by the political acumen of the BJP’s leadership for seizing this opportunity to mobilize discontent among the electorate. I have argued that the BJP’s impact on the party system helped transform the system of one-party predominance into one that was more fragmented and polarized. The significance of this change, however, extends beyond the change in the type of system. The rise of the BJP reflects an underlying transformation in the disposition of the electorate. With the loss of INC legit- imacy and credibility, more voters became amenable to the BJP agenda. No longer the stuff that political pariahs are made of, its ideology of Hindu nationalism and call for value-based politics succeeded in obtaining a level of support that rivals that of the INC. The ascent of the BJP signaled a change in issue dimensions as the sectarian dimension that was always present became more politically salient. It is uncertain what net effect this shift will have on the polity in the grand and complex scheme of Indian politics. Primordialist analyses predict that, once such a shift begins, the progressive ethnicization of politics and potentially conflict becomes more likely. To an extent, this hypothesis is borne out in the Indian reality. However, it is doubtful that even a BJP government will lead India toward the extreme end of the ethnic conflict continuum. John Wood observes that “as ideologically principled parties get closer to power, they are forced to abandon much of their ideological baggage and revert to moderate and pragmatic policies.”2! Although the Indian electorate is no longer as moderate as it once was, it is unlikely that the sectarian issue-dimension will grow to overpower all others. Unless the BJP chooses to promote an extreme variety of Hindu nationalism that currently is not feasible given the delicacy of its coalition, the multiplicity of issue-dimensions and cross-pressures will help mitigate the extent and intensity of sectarian conflict in the Indian polity.