Discussion Papers

No.900 “Sickular” and “Povertarian”: Politics and Economics of Hindu Supremacy, 1992–2022

by Hiroshi SATO

June 2023


This paper presents a picture of the Narendra Modi-led government as a “Trimurti” with three faces: “Hindu Supremacy,” “authoritarianism,” and a “competition state.”

Starting with the Ayodhya incident in 1992, Hindu Supremacy (Hindutva) discourse has transformed from Hindu victimization to Hindu majoritarianism, leveraging its assumption of power in the 2014 parliamentary elections and pushing forward its agenda of Hinduization across the ideology, society, and state.

Hindu Supremacy in power puts the “authority” of Prime Minister Modi as its greatest (or essential) political asset. Often referred to as a rishi (Hindu sage), his spiritual “authority” is based on the supremacy of the nation (Hindu rashtra) as an organic sovereign entity that transcends individual rights and constitutional principles. This essentialist understanding of “nation” lies at the heart of the fundamental tenets of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS). Modi’s ideological umbilical cord with the RSS is too manifest to miss.

His doctrine, which extolls communal duties over individual rights, is also in congruence with his economic governance. While neoliberal competition and self-responsibility are emphasized, his welfarist policies, including poverty alleviation, instead of ensuring fundamental rights, reflect strongly authoritarian and patriarchal characteristics in which patronage from above and a sense of benevolence are evoked.

Keywords: Hindu supremacy, Hindutva, authoritarianism, politics of rights, competition state, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Modi government

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