Why Religious Tolerance Won in Indonesia but Lost in India

It Turns Out Pluralistic Nationalism Isn’t Enough

Adnan Abidi / REUTERS

Asia’s two largest and most diverse democracies held national elections in recent weeks, and religious tolerance was on the ballot in both. Voters, however, delivered diametrically opposed verdicts.  In Indonesia, the government of incumbent President Joko Widodo (widely known as Jokowi) won by broadcasting a message of pluralism. Jokowi preached an inclusive nationalism that transcended Islam, Indonesia’s dominant religion, and won reelection by a decisive margin.  In India, victory also went to the incumbent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but on very different terms. Modi, who heads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won in large measure by invoking …