The personalities our previous portraits explored were all from the Middle East. We are now entering a less familiar territory with the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Modi. In contrast to the personalities analysed previously the latter cannot be categorized as a dictator. However, Christophe Jaffrelot, a great specialist of India, explains how Narendra Modi, in the name of Hindu nationalist ideology, tends to establish an "ethnic democracy", in which members of ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities would be labeled as second-class citizens.
Michel Duclos, Special Advisor, editor of this series.
Prime Minister of India since 2014, Narendra Modi is first and foremost the herald of Hindu nationalist ideology, Hindutva, which crystallized in the 1920s. Since 1925, this ideology is incarnated by a martial movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS - National Volunteer Organization), which fought against the territorial definition of the Indian nation borne by Gandhi (whose assassin, in 1948, was a member of the RSS). For the RSS ideologues, the Hindus, as sons of the soil, embody the Indian national identity to which minorities, including Muslims (14.5% of the population today) and Christians (2%) should pay allegiance.
Narendra Modi is a pure product of the RSS, which he joined as a child in his native Gujarat. First a local cadre of the organization, he was then appointed to its political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP - Indian People's Party), which led him to become head of Gujarat in 2001. A year later, one of the most deadly episodes of violence against Muslims since the Partition in 1947 took place in Gujarat, under the initiative of the Hindu nationalist movement. Yet Modi’s populism differentiated him very early on from his RSS peers: while the RSS cultivated dedication to the organization and a keen sense of collegial action, Modi sought to mobilize the Gujarati people by promoting a true cult of personality. Not only Modi tried to relate to "his people", in particular on the social media, but during the 2007 Gujarat election campaign, his supporters were encouraged to wear a rubber mask of his own face to better identify with him. Thousands of "Modis" thus marched through the streets by foot, bicycle or motorcycle.