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

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BJP beyond Electoral Dominance

Towards Hegemony

The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party has contributed to the emergence of a new ideological framework to India’s democracy and public life in general. This framework might be better understood if it is seen as the crafting of hegemony. The politics of crafting a new hegemony did not emerge all of a sudden. Beyond the immediate context, the rise of the party needs to be understood in the broader political context that has shaped up since 1989.

This article proposes to discuss the consequences of emergence of the new party system in India and the politics of shaping a “new India.” It is argued here that besides the electoral ascendance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (the steadiness of which is rather incontrovertible), political developments also indicate the gradual shaping of a new hegemony in India. Thus, the “second dominant party system” is more than a mere party system; it is a moment of the rise of a new set of dominant ideas and sensibilities that would provide ideological sustenance to the dominant party system. It is of course true that electoral politics is bound to replace existing governments and prop up new majorities in politics from time to time. But it is argued here that electoral uncertainties notwithstanding, the recent rise of the BJP has contributed to the emergence of a new ideological framework to India’s democracy and public life in general. This framework might be better understood if it is seen as the crafting of hegemony. Three years since the initial appearance, the newness of the hegemonic aspects emerging in the polity is clearer.

This politics of crafting a new hegemony did not emerge all of a sudden. While this article primarily looks at how this project has developed since the last leg of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), it is useful to keep in mind the broader context that has made emergence of a new hegemony possible. Beyond the immediate context, the rise of the BJP needs to be understood in the broader political context that has shaped up since 1989. If one were to move beyond electoral performance, the post-1989 period is marked by the absence of an ideological theme that could bind politics together. Against the backdrop of the defeat of the Congress party in the 1989 elections, one could also witness its inability to command any control over the narratives that constituted key reference points for political contestations. This has been variously described as decline of the Congress party (Yadav 1996), or the “third life” of the Congress marked by challenge of survival (Palshikar 2015b).

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Updated On : 16th May, 2019

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