The world is witnessing a global rise of nationalism and populism from Trump to Brexit, from Japan to Turkey, Brazil, Italy and the Philippines.
India was the first democracy to elect a populist government.
Populism and nationalism are distinct ways of constructing and claiming to represent “the people”, as underdog and as nation respectively.
They are not synonymous, but in India they are entwined concepts.
The global economic crisis has been one contributing factor to the rise of nationalism in countries where particular groups feel disadvantaged and fear or experience a loss of status, something they blame on globalisation, immigration or a dilution of national identity.
Nationalism today includes protectionism, isolationism, xenophobia and anti-elite discourse.
Populism seeks to represent ‘the people’ against an elite, with people frustrated with the political establishment.
Right-wing populism has different features in different countries but they do tend to share xenophobic, nationalistic traits, and a tendency toward authoritarianism and, aggressive leadership.
India’s populist government has given voice to a sense of grievance and distrust among the Hindu majority.
The achievements of independent India – secularism, liberalism and a free press - somehow came to be portrayed by BJP as part of a grand conspiracy in which a Hindu elite and the Muslim minority somehow dominate the Hindu majority.
This does not make the BJP dangerous, however - they are simply part of a global trend of nationalism and populism.