Modinama : Issues That Did Not Matter

In May 2019, the party of the Hindu Right, Bharatiya Janata Party, under Narendra Modi, won a spectacular electoral victory.

The victory seemed to defy common sense – why did conversations of life and livelihood not dominate the election? Why did the thuggery of the Hindutva vigilantes seem inconsequential to vast numbers of ordinary, decent people? Why is an aggressive, masculine fundamentalism so normalized in our society today?

In other words, why didn’t the issues that matter, seem to matter? The question goes deeper than electoral arithmetic. It asks if Modi and the BJP have not only changed the electoral map, but also begun to corrode social norms.

This book, based on Modi’s first five years as prime minister, is a warning for the next five.


Subhash Gatade is a left activist and author. He is the author of Charvak ke Vaaris (Hindi, 2018), Ambedkar ani Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Marathi, 2016), Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India (2011) and The Saffron Condition (2011). His writings for children include Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010).


LeftWord Books, New Delhi, 2019

Language: English

128 pages, 5.5″ x 8.5″

Price INR 195.00 Book Club Price INR 137.00



3 thoughts on “Modinama : Issues That Did Not Matter”

  1. “vast numbers of ordinary, decent people”.
    When I look at the rise of nationalism and xenophobia across many democratic countries (including the West) I see that it is vast numbers of “ordinary decent people” who are sending a message to those of us on the Left/ Liberal sections that they have concerns that are not being listened to or even being met. Some of these concerns have to do with distrust and fear of outsiders, a feeling of disconnection from their community and nation and the precarious economic existence- despite the extraordinary opportunities seemingly available to many. Most of these concerns were submerged in the after math of WW2 and the overwhelming consensus (outside the Soviet bloc) for universal human rights and pluralism. For many decades rising economic conditions also helped keep people distracted from what would have been ‘normal’ nativist and tribal sentiments. Now these emotions are coming back with a vengence, especially given social media and the platforms available to “ordinary” angry voices. Trump, Marie Le Penn, Farage, Erdogan, Modi and the rest are merely actors who are able to tap into this resurgence. If they didn’t exist there would have been others. One of the lessons we have to draw from this is that culture change doesn’t happen just through ongoing liberal propaganda or strong legislation demanding behavior change, it takes generations of education and modelling by role models to create genuine culture change. That and a reining in of digital technology. This should be easy, right?


  2. I am in broad agreement with what you are saying.The idea ‘[t]o create genuine culture change..’ is really appealing. I have written elsewhere as well that the victory of the Hindutva right wing in India is not only because they have proved to be ‘better organisers’ – as they have built plethora of affiliated organisations to cater to different sections of society, right from starting schools and hospitals to building different institutions – but also because they have found a deep resonance in the culture here which is based on exclusion, hierarchy or ‘hating the other’.

    Your comment reminded me of two books one by the leftist deputy in Germany in mid thirties Arthur Rosenberg – author of ‘Fascism as a Mass Movement – and the other one ‘Hitler’s Willing Executioners’. Both look – in their own ways – at how there was broad acceptance of Fascist ideology in German society and if Hitler would not have come, he would have been discovered.


    1. Indeed, Subhash. Working with communities and groups over the past two decades, I have been struck by how easily nationalism and tribalism have risen to the surface. This could not have happened if they didn’t already exist just below the surface. This should ideally inform those of us who advocate for alternatives to the current disposition. Digging in and demanding even more extreme movement towards the Left might just be a self-defeating strategy. Having said that how do we stem the climate crisis without very radical measures?


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