India's Missing Right

What the BJP's Victory Says about Indian Politics

A boy wearing a mask of Narendra Modi, April 28, 2014. Amit Dave / Courtesy Reuters

For the first time in independent India’s history, a general election has brought a conservative party with a clear-cut parliamentary majority to office. Although scores of analysts have weighed in about what that party -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- will do next, three other questions have gone unanswered. First, why has India never had a sizeable conservative party of any consequence? Second, why has it taken the country over six decades to elect a conservative regime? Third, what are the prospects for conservatism in India in the future?

To answer the first two questions, one must look back to the structures of the pre-independence Indian nationalist movement and its principal party, the Indian National Congress. Thanks to the INC’s dominance, there was little room for outside conservative groups to play a role in the nascent nationalist movement. That remained true even after independence. Things got worse

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