Conservative farmers movements and right-wing populism in contemporary India

15 March 2018
Paper

What are the fundamental tensions and contradictions between the Modi authoritarian populist regime and its rural social base?

This paper argues that Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) - a conservative farmers’ movement - although managing to maintain an overall agenda of ‘majoritarian cultural nationalism,’ has seen fault lines appear between them and the right-wing Modi government. This can be seen partly in the increasing strength of BKS’s demands such as higher minimum support price for farm produce, ban of genetically modified seeds, lower interest rates on loans, better health and education facilities and so on.

These rising demands stand in direct opposition to the policies of the Modi government, a regime that BKS is generally ideologically aligned with. Right-wing populist governments in various parts of the world have important social base in the countryside, such as Trump and rural America. India has a similar situation, with Modi and the Indian countryside, in the form of powerful conservative farmers’ movements like BKS. But this study will show that there are fundamental tensions and contradictions between the Modi authoritarian populist regime and its rural social base. What these are, and how these get played out has been the key inquiry of this study.

This paper was presented at the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) 2018 Conference: "Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World"