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Technocratic Populism in India – How the BJP maintain their vast winning coalition
Thesis title in Czech: Technokratický populismus v Indii - Jak si BJP udržuje minulou vítěznou koalici
Thesis title in English: Technocratic Populism in India – How the BJP maintain their vast winning coalition
Key words: Indie, technokratický populismus, BJP, ideologie.
English key words: India, Technocratic populism, BJP, ideology
Academic year of topic announcement: 2020/2021
Type of assignment: diploma thesis
Thesis language: angličtina
Department: Department of Political Science (23-KP)
Supervisor: Dr. habil. PhDr. Petra Guasti, M.A., Ph.D.
Author: hidden - assigned by the advisor
Date of registration: 30.09.2020
Date of assignment: 04.05.2021
Date and time of defence: 31.01.2022 08:00
Venue of defence: Pekařská 16, JPEK312, 312, Malá učebna, 3.patro
Date of electronic submission:04.01.2022
Date of proceeded defence: 31.01.2022
Reviewers: doc. PhDr. Miloš Brunclík, Ph.D.
 
 
 
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Dle standardů IEPS-FSV UK,
According to the standards for master´s thesis at IEPS-FSV UK.
References
Bornschier, S. (2017), Populist Mobilization Across Time and Space: An Introduction. Swiss Political Science Review, 23, 301-312.
Breeding, M. (2011). The Micro-Politics of Vote Banks in Karnataka. Economic and Political Weekly, 46(14), 71-77.
Bustikova, L. & Guasti, P. (2018). The State as a Firm: Understanding the Autocratic Roots of Technocratic Populism. East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, 33(2), 302-330.
Caramani, D. (2017). Will vs. Reason: The Populist and Technocratic Forms of Political Representation and Their Critique to Party Government. American Political Science Review, 111(1), 54-67.
Castaldo, A. & Verzichelli, L. (2020) Technocratic Populism in Italy after Berlusconi: The Trendsetter and his Disciples. Politics and Governance, 8(4), 485-495.
Chandra, R. & Walton, M. (2020) Big potential, big risks? Indian capitalism, economic reform and populism in the BJP era, India Review, 19(2), 176-205.
Engineer, I. (1995). Politics of Muslim Vote Bank. Economic and Political Weekly, 30(4), 197-200.
Friedman, J. (2019). Populists as Technocrats, Critical Review, 31:3-4, 315-376.
Jansen, R. (2011). Populist Mobilization: A New Theoretical Approach to Populism. Sociological Theory, 29(2), 75-96.
McDonnell, D. & Cabrera, L. (2019) The right-wing populism of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (and why comparativists should care). Democratization, 26(3), 484-501.
Öniş, Z. & Kutlay, M. (2020) The Global Political Economy of Right-wing Populism: Deconstructing the Paradox. The International Spectator, 55(2), 108-126.
Pal, J. (2019). The Making of a Technocrat: Social Media and Narendra Modi. In PUNATHAMBEKAR A. & MOHAN S. (Eds.), Global Digital Cultures: Perspectives from South Asia (pp. 163-183). ANN ARBOR: University of Michigan Press.
Sinha, S. (2017). Fragile Hegemony: Modi, Social Media and Competitive Electoral Populism in India. International Journal of Communication, 11, 4158-4180.
Stanley, B. (2008) The thin ideology of populism. Journal of Political Ideologies, 13(1), 95-110.
Preliminary scope of work
Topic characteristics / Research Question(s):
Populism has risen across the world in democracies like the USA, Greece, Italy, the Czech Republic, and India. Viewed as a ‘thin ideology’ (Stanley, 2008), populism allows other ideologies to be superimposed on it. Right-wing populism pits the nativist commonfolk ‘we’ against a pluralistic elite. Left-wing populism pits the working class ‘we’ against the exploitative bourgeoise.
A new form of populism being studied is technocratic populism; technocracy being an approach to governance where technical expertise is prized over democratic representation, with emphasis on an ‘apolitical’ result based approach rather than one based on values. The binary of the left-right political spectrum is absent – populists are assumed to have basic competence in understanding policy problems, adhering to efficiency and results rather than ideology (Friedman, 2019).
Populism is viewed as both an ideology and a political strategy (Bustikova & Guasti, 2018). For the research, we will treat populism as a deliberate political strategy employed by political parties (Jansen, 2011) rather than an external sociopolitical phenomenon or an ideology. The focus will be on how technocratic populism manifests in the political strategy of India’s ruling party – the BJP. Conventional narratives of populism in India view it through the prism of right-wing Hindu nationalism (McDonnell & Cabrera, 2019; Onis & Kutley, 2020). My research will argue for technocratic rhetoric being equally important in maintaining the BJP’s diverse voting coalition, with the rhetoric of national progress, ‘expert’ governance, and efficacy.

Technocracy and populism both emerge from a critique of traditional party-based democracy (Caramani, 2017); their modern-day proliferation has been attributed to brewing discontent over party democracy (Bornschier, 2017; Pal, 2019). India, however, sees a different manifestation of technocratic populism, with mainstream parties co-opting populist and technocratic stances. Indian politics is characterized by vote-bank politics, where political parties cater to distinct blocs based on community identities (Engineer, 1995; Breeding, 2011). The research will focus on how the BJP employs technocratic populist appeal to unify a diverse base, and leverage different vote-banks against each other when policies conflict with the interests of a group within the larger coalition.

Working hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: The BJP employs both a technocratic and a right-wing populist approach for a broader appeal – technocratic rhetoric is present in all their political campaigns.

Hypothesis 2: The potency of technocratic and right-wing populist appeal differs across electoral levels – the more localized the political arena, the weaker the appeal.

Hypothesis 3: The BJP criticizes opposing groups for resisting superior technical knowledge, employing a technocratic rebuttal; characterizing the rest of their coalition as the populist ‘we’ – whose wellbeing is compromised by the dissenting groups.
Methodology:

There will be a supply side qualitative analysis of speeches, campaigns and social media engagement by BJP leaders, through a technocratic populist lens. A demand side analysis of the votes and support the BJP gets – a quantitative analysis of voting patterns and opinion polls of citizens on major BJP government policies. The third component will focus on how vote-banks react to specific controversial policies. It will have both qualitative and quantitative elements – analyzing speeches, media and social media engagements from BJP politicians defending their policy initiatives whilst discrediting opposition; and also examining whether such controversies lead to any significant changes in their voter bloc composition or voter support. The research will examine three major policies – demonetization of 2016, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the Indian Agricultural Acts.

Quantitative analysis will involve examining the composition of the BJP’s voting bloc for the 2014 and 2019 national elections, and selected state-assembly elections. I will rely on the database of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CDCS), the India Today-Axis poll surveys, and other similar databases that breakdown electorate votes composition based on caste, gender, religion, profession and other metrics.

Outline:
1. Introduction: the global context of populism’s rise, and an overview of Indian politics in the last decade.
2. Populism, technocratic populism, populism in India; defining concepts and summarizing how Indian politics relates to populism and technocracy.
3. Theory – BJP’s strategic use of technocratic populism  hypotheses.
4. Case selection, data, and methods
5. Analysis –
i) supply side
ii) demand side
iii) policy side.
6. Confirming/rejecting hypotheses. Summary and discussion of findings.
7. Conclusions.
8. Bibliography.
Preliminary scope of work in English
Topic characteristics / Research Question(s):
Populism has risen across the world in democracies like the USA, Greece, Italy, the Czech Republic, and India. Viewed as a ‘thin ideology’ (Stanley, 2008), populism allows other ideologies to be superimposed on it. Right-wing populism pits the nativist commonfolk ‘we’ against a pluralistic elite. Left-wing populism pits the working class ‘we’ against the exploitative bourgeoise.
A new form of populism being studied is technocratic populism; technocracy being an approach to governance where technical expertise is prized over democratic representation, with emphasis on an ‘apolitical’ result based approach rather than one based on values. The binary of the left-right political spectrum is absent – populists are assumed to have basic competence in understanding policy problems, adhering to efficiency and results rather than ideology (Friedman, 2019).
Populism is viewed as both an ideology and a political strategy (Bustikova & Guasti, 2018). For the research, we will treat populism as a deliberate political strategy employed by political parties (Jansen, 2011) rather than an external sociopolitical phenomenon or an ideology. The focus will be on how technocratic populism manifests in the political strategy of India’s ruling party – the BJP. Conventional narratives of populism in India view it through the prism of right-wing Hindu nationalism (McDonnell & Cabrera, 2019; Onis & Kutley, 2020). My research will argue for technocratic rhetoric being equally important in maintaining the BJP’s diverse voting coalition, with the rhetoric of national progress, ‘expert’ governance, and efficacy.

Technocracy and populism both emerge from a critique of traditional party-based democracy (Caramani, 2017); their modern-day proliferation has been attributed to brewing discontent over party democracy (Bornschier, 2017; Pal, 2019). India, however, sees a different manifestation of technocratic populism, with mainstream parties co-opting populist and technocratic stances. Indian politics is characterized by vote-bank politics, where political parties cater to distinct blocs based on community identities (Engineer, 1995; Breeding, 2011). The research will focus on how the BJP employs technocratic populist appeal to unify a diverse base, and leverage different vote-banks against each other when policies conflict with the interests of a group within the larger coalition.

Working hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: The BJP employs both a technocratic and a right-wing populist approach for a broader appeal – technocratic rhetoric is present in all their political campaigns.

Hypothesis 2: The potency of technocratic and right-wing populist appeal differs across electoral levels – the more localized the political arena, the weaker the appeal.

Hypothesis 3: The BJP criticizes opposing groups for resisting superior technical knowledge, employing a technocratic rebuttal; characterizing the rest of their coalition as the populist ‘we’ – whose wellbeing is compromised by the dissenting groups.
Methodology:

There will be a supply side qualitative analysis of speeches, campaigns and social media engagement by BJP leaders, through a technocratic populist lens. A demand side analysis of the votes and support the BJP gets – a quantitative analysis of voting patterns and opinion polls of citizens on major BJP government policies. The third component will focus on how vote-banks react to specific controversial policies. It will have both qualitative and quantitative elements – analyzing speeches, media and social media engagements from BJP politicians defending their policy initiatives whilst discrediting opposition; and also examining whether such controversies lead to any significant changes in their voter bloc composition or voter support. The research will examine three major policies – demonetization of 2016, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the Indian Agricultural Acts.

Quantitative analysis will involve examining the composition of the BJP’s voting bloc for the 2014 and 2019 national elections, and selected state-assembly elections. I will rely on the database of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CDCS), the India Today-Axis poll surveys, and other similar databases that breakdown electorate votes composition based on caste, gender, religion, profession and other metrics.

Outline:
1. Introduction: the global context of populism’s rise, and an overview of Indian politics in the last decade.
2. Populism, technocratic populism, populism in India; defining concepts and summarizing how Indian politics relates to populism and technocracy.
3. Theory – BJP’s strategic use of technocratic populism  hypotheses.
4. Case selection, data, and methods
5. Analysis –
i) supply side
ii) demand side
iii) policy side.
6. Confirming/rejecting hypotheses. Summary and discussion of findings.
7. Conclusions.
8. Bibliography.

 
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