Populism is a word that has re-entered our vocabulary with a vengeance. It first entered my subconscious in Autumn 2014 while I was studying for my MSc, albeit in a historical context relating to Latin America. The concept struck me as basic and simple; defined as political support for the ordinary or common (wo)man. There was an indistinct righteousness at the core of it that I found unsettling. It wasn’t long before I discovered the way in which it was deployed as an ideological weapon for garnering any majority support regardless of political affiliation.
For me, the concept came alive during Narendra Modi’s inaugural visit to London as the Prime Minister of India. It was October 2015, the run-up to Navratri and Diwali, and people of Indian descent lost their minds. Feelings of ecstasy surged through these communities nationwide but London proved the beating heart of blistering euphoria. An added bonus was that Modi was a Guji, Gujarati. I myself am Gujarati, and the majority of my Indian network are too. He represented commonalities amongst all Gujis as he seemingly symbolised the hard-working, determined, trustworthy and entrepreneurial character, which the people from the North-Western state of Gujarat are synonymous with.
I was utterly amazed how one man could spark off this instantaneous reaction of pride and joy. Since the millennium Indian politics had been contained within its bubble rarely connecting with the wider Indian diaspora. Enter Modi, a charismatic character who had captivated the hearts and minds of Indians and those of Indian descent in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Europe, Africa, Oceania, the Caribbean and South-East Asia.
The Indian diaspora, and for me specifically the Hindu and Jain communities as they form the realm of my personal experience, is much like an imagined community – an idea conceptualised by Benedict Anderson. They comprise a nation-state which is a social construct, imagined by those who perceive themselves to be part of that group. This is even more important in the context of the Indian diaspora/transnational community as it forms a crucial linkage to how they identify and understand themselves in their current contexts outside of their country of origin.