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The Roots of Hindu Nationalism’s Triumph in India

What the BJP Learned From the Congress Party

A supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) waves the party flag during a rally in New Delhi, India, in May 2019  REUTERS / Adnan Abidi

When Indians voted in parliamentary elections earlier this year, they did more than just elect a government. They also participated in the birth of India as a Hindu nation with a state to match.

India was established in 1947 as a pluralist nation, home to people of many religions, sects, and ethnicities. The country’s constitution provides no special claim over the state or its territory to any one of them—including the Hindus, who make up roughly 80 percent of the population. Moreover, Hindus themselves are hardly a monolith: they differ in the languages they speak, the beliefs they hold, the deities they worship, and the rituals and customs that shape their lives. As a result, Hindus have historically not thought of themselves as a single community or nation.

But to judge from the results of the election, the pluralist idea of India is receding into the past. At the polls, 44

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