Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s democracy has been downgraded to a “flawed democracy” and an “electoral autocracy” by democracy watchdogs. Some argue that–despite claims of deteriorating civil liberties and institutional autonomy–these measures provide and exaggerated portrayal of backsliding. Under the BJP, India’s political system has evolved from a coalition-based to a BJP-dominant system. This system has resulted in increased voter turnout but with increasingly centralized party control. Distrust has escalated, polarizing politics and prompting street protests. While some see the BJP’s rule as a form of right-wing populism, citizens express satisfaction with democracy. India’s unique context demands a fresh analytical framework to comprehend the dynamics of democratic challenges under BJP rule. As nationalist-populist leaders remake their countries’ politics to conform to their ideological worldview, the line between disagreement and dissent will remain thin.
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