Saffron ‘Modernity’ in India
Narendra Modi and his Experiment with Gujarat
A political biography of Gujarat and its chief minister for almost thirteen years, the man elected as Prime Minister of India in 2014.
In 2012 Narendra Modi became the first Hindu nationalist politician to be elected three times to the helm of one of the states of the Indian Union, his stewardship as chief minister of Gujarat being the longest incumbency in the state’s history. Modi and his BJP supporters explain his achievement by the double digit economic growth enjoyed in Gujarat under his stewardship, yet his detractors point out that Modi has been more business friendly than market friendly and that the state underwent twelve years of growth without development, resulting in great social polarisation. Polarisation is key to Modi’s strategy. In 2002, an anti-Muslim pogrom of unparalleled ferocity occurred in Gujarat, leading to the biggest number of Muslim deaths since Partition. The Hindu majority immediately rallied around Modi in the areas which had been most affected by the violence.
No serious riot has occurred since then, but Modi has cultivated his communal image. A marketing genius, he combines in his communication repertoire Hindutva politics and economic modernisation, something the middle class of Gujarat clearly appreciates. But that may turn out to be true for the rest of India too, in which case his regional experiment may be the launchpad that propels ‘NAMO’ towards the zenith of national politics.
Christophe Jaffrelot is Research Director at CNRS, Sciences Po and Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King's India Institute. His books include: Hindu Nationalism: A Reader (edited); The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience; and Religion Caste and Politics in India.