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Who Voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party?


The electoral success of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing religious party, in India's 1991 national elections has often been attributed to the rise of Hindu religious sentiments. After the 1991 elections the BJP emerged as the second largest party in Parliament and captured almost a fifth of the votes cast. There is little in the way of substantive evidence, however, that Hindus have either become more religious or that they were willing to express their religiosity more politically only in the 1990s. This Note claims that the BJP was electorally successful on account of its ability to forge a coalition between religious groups and the middle classes. The BJP, an advocate of a mixed economy in the 1970s and Gandhian socialism in the early 1980s, emerged in the 1990s as an ardent critic of state intervention. It was this programmatic shift which enabled the BJP to garner the support of the middle classes, who were ‘mobilizable’ because of their growing disaffection with the political and economic policies pursued by the Congress party. The electoral success of the BJP hence lay not in mobilizing only the ‘religious’ but in its ability to put together a viable coalition between religious Hindus and those disaffected by excessive political intervention in the economy.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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