Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

Hindutva and the Shared Scripts of the Global Right

Gandhi, Supriya

A multitude of images featuring the prime minister, Narendra Modi, routinely emanates from the digital and print platforms of the ruling Hindu right in India. In some of these, Modi strikes a majestic stance against a backdrop of gleaming bridges, roads, or high-rise buildings, his benevolent gaze meeting the viewer’s own. Though seemingly banal, these images offer a way for Modi’s followers to experience his visual presence as a devotee might. Indeed, both Modi’s supporters and detractors often invoke the language of bhakti, a rich and complex tradition of spiritual discipline and devotion, to describe his followers’ faith in him. In keeping with bhakti practices of visuality, the viewers of these images might accrue some of Modi’s visionary power and see what he envisions for the nation. They may also see themselves in what he shows behind him, for conjoined with devotion to Modi’s person is a desire for the glossy horizon that frames these images. Here lies capitalist modernity’s promised land––a dream both deferred and, at least in the hyperreal zone of the virtual world, also realized in the here and now.