Populist leaders have recently been on the rise and have been everywhere in certain events of political history. Populist leaders seek political hegemony with an anti elitist mentality that legitimize their identity to the will of the people. In the United States’ last presidential election, two of three candidates, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, were considered left wing and right wing populists. Unlike westernized countries like the United States and countries of Europe, countries of Asia like India do not have strong democratic institutions that can prevent a growing population. Although India is one of the stronger democratic countries in Southeast Asia, there have been many indications of democratic backsliding since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to office in May of 2014. In the 2000’s, Modi made himself to be perceived by the citizens of Gujarat and all of India that he is the only leader who can fix India’s issues. Although Modi is credited for designing a political realignment geared towards right wing politics, he is still under controversy for his Hindu nationalistic beliefs and the Gujarat riots that occurred in 2002 that promoted an exclusive social agenda. There are many factors that attribute to India’s democratic decline like the violent tension between religious interest groups of the Hindus and Muslims and Modi’s demonetization policy.
First, the anti pluralist position of India means that the only interest group that Modi seeks to nationalize are the Hindus since India’s nationalism is derived from religious origin. Since Nehru, there had seemed to be no distinction between the conception of secular nationalism and religious nationalism in India because nothing in that regard was constitutionalized. This causes a conflict of interest for Muslims living in India because now Hindus can embody and authorize themselves to oppress anyone of other religious following. One instance, not including the many accounts that already occurred, was when fifteen year old Hafiz Junaid was murdered on a train. This does not give them the moral justice to inflict lynchings and tortures on the Muslim citizens of India. Modi is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is a right wing party that enables Hindu people to attack the Muslims living in India. Modi is accused of promoting anti-Muslim policies, saying that Hindu families should have at least four children to out number the stagnant Muslim population. Ever since the creation of Hindutva, which is the hegemony of Hindus, a warlike mindset was engrained in the minds of the Hindus. Thus Muslims are victimized and oppressed. Müller says that populism fails to articulate the experience and vocabulary of those at the receiving end of such persistent violence. Since populism is a moralistic imagination of politics, desired traits of how a leader is supposed to run the state is perceived by the populist who is against the governmental constructs already. With Modi having anti-Muslim policies, similar to that of Trump’s, it deems him as a human categorizer. He categorizes Muslims as sub0-humans, people who are not living for the holy land of Hinduism.
Next, the demonetization policy that Modi started was supposed to eliminate “black money,” fake currency and terror financing, but also led to at least one hundred deaths by suicide. This occurred because the rural poor population of India have very minimal access to the banks and need liquid money to buy seeds and fertilizers. He eliminated the 500 and 1000 currency rupee notes from the denominations of rupees and would issue brand new 500 and 2000 rupee notes. This will automatically slow down the country’s GDP and goes against the constitutional right to property. There were also many costly components that went into the demonetization policy like printing new currency notes and recalibrating ATM machines. Also, most of the demonetized currency returned to India’s monetary system, which means that the dirty money was either used for clean means already or there was no dirty money to begin with. Modi is not helping with India’s population issue which is their biggest problem because there is not enough input of production. There is no infrastructure in most areas and no roads because over population of humans and animals. Modi should instill a limit on the amount of children one can have because welfare distribution should not be that high. This would slow down GDP more and put India in a financial crisis. Although India has a chance of a regime change into a dictatorship, it is not likely. “Sectors like real estate, manufacturing and finance have been under stress over the past year. Even agrarian discontent — which has been witnessed across various states, including Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, with farmers protesting and demanding loan waivers during the summer months — has been attributed to demonetization” (demonetization has eliminated black money- Murali Krishnan).
Muller, Jan-Werner. 2016. What is Populism? Philadelphia: UPenn Press