Vinay Sitapati’s Jugalbandi is an absorbing account of the growth and development of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before 2004. The story is about the Party when it was on the fringes, nowhere near capturing a plurality of the votes, and had no realistic chance of becoming the ruling party on its own. He examines the establishment, rise and expansion of the BJP through the lens of the relationship between two leaders, Lal Krishna Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the events that happened during their period at the helm of the Party.
The book is for both a general audience as well as the scholarly community. It makes three key points while implicitly engaging with academic arguments and debates around the growth and development of Hindu nationalism and the BJP. The central idea that holds the book together is that universal adult franchise encouraged Hindu consolidation and mobilization. In other words, modern representative democracy and elections not only created space but fuelled Hindu nationalism. This idea goes against established positions that equate Hindu nationalism with religious nationalism and argues that it is a product of 19th century social reform movements and colonial rule. Alongside, the study also dismisses studies that portray the BJP as anti-democratic and fascist as misplaced since Hindu nationalism before Narendra Modi was ‘comfortable with…elections’ and had no ‘distrust of parliamentary democracy’ like the fascists (pp. 304-5). The book notes that the Party vehicle enhanced Hindu nationalism’s potential for policy influence compared to its remaining a social movement.
Second, Hindu nationalism aims to consolidate Hindus, and to this end, it constructs a past in which Hindus are victims of Muslims. This goal, according to Sitapati, makes the BJP a radical Right-Wing Party rather than a conservative or traditional party. The Party has worked double shifts to include various sections of Hindu society under its umbrella and condoned the use of violence against Muslims by Hindu groups and sympathizers. At the same time, though the BJP respects constitutional procedures and principles, Sitapati concludes that its record with respect to liberal values is not necessarily appealing.
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