Griffith Asia Institute Research Seminar: Another right-wing populist party in power? India’s Bharatiya Janata Party

Griffith Asia Institute Research Seminar: Another right-wing populist party in power? India’s Bharatiya Janata Party
Griffith Asia Institute Research Seminar: Another right-wing populist party in power? India’s Bharatiya Janata Party

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Dr Duncan McDonnell and Associate Professor Luis Cabrera


Presented by: Duncan McDonnell, Senior Lecturer, School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University; and Luis Cabrera, Associate Professor, Centre for Governance and Public Policy and Griffith Asia Institute

India’s Bharatiya Janata Party has been the source of much international discussion since it won a decisive victory in the 2014 national elections, claiming its first-ever outright majority in the lower house and putting Narendra Modi in the prime minister’s office. In particular, observers have suggested that the BJP’s nationalist ideology and links to the extra-parliamentary RSS reflect a party that is not strongly committed to the principles of liberal democracy. These doubts have intensified amid BJP crackdowns on cow slaughter by non-Hindus and its denunciations of ‘anti-national’ elements in Indian society.

In this seminar, McDonnell and Cabrera present the first results of their research project investigating the BJP’s conception and practice of democracy. Drawing on an analysis of party manifestos, government policies, and 26 interviews with BJP officials and elected representatives, they examine the BJP’s core values and its views of democracy and Indian society. They conclude that the BJP’s conceptions of ‘the people’, ‘the elites’, ‘others’ and democracy broadly fit with the ‘right-wing populist’ model seen in Western democracies in recent decades. This has implications firstly for comparative scholarship but, more importantly, for our understanding of democratic changes in India and beyond.

Duncan McDonnell is Senior Lecturer in the School of Government and International Relations and a member of the Griffith Asia Institute and the Centre for Governance and Public Policy. He was previously a Marie Curie Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. His most recent book publications are Saving the People: How Populists Hijack Religion (OUP, 2016), with Olivier Roy and Nadia Marzouki, and Populists in Power (Routledge, 2015) with Daniele Albertazzi.

Luis Cabrera is Associate Professor in the Centre for Governance and Public Policy and Griffith Asia Institute. He has published widely on issues of democracy and citizenship. Recent work has focused on the political thought of B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), India’s constitutional architect and anti-caste campaigner. His most recent monograph is The Practice of Global Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2010), and in 2015 he co-edited with Tom Sorell the volume Microfinance, Rights and Global Justice (Cambridge University Press).

To RSVP, please contact Christine Kowalski on (07) 3735 4705 or events-gai@griffith.edu.au by 12.00pm Monday 24 October 2016.  


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RSVP on or before Monday 24 October 2016 , by email events-gai@griffith.edu.au, or by phone x54705

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