Populist Nationalism during Indira Gandhi’s Regime: A Challenge to Political Masculinities in India.

Ms. Khushboo Chawla

The new nationalism in the twenty-first century associated with the rise of populist parties throughout the world is mostly dominated by the male political leaders with India being no exception where the masculinity of Narendra Modi is emphasized by his 56 inch chest. However, India’s democracy did have a chance to be ruled by a female political leader, Indira Gandhi, as the Prime Minister (the first and the only woman Prime Minister) of the country wherein her cult and charisma made her popular among the masses and challenged the political masculinities prevalent in India during that time as most of the political positions and institutions were male-dominated. This particular paper, therefore, explore the relationship between the left-wing socialist nationalism and political masculinity prevalent during Indira Gandhi’s regime in India.

Nevertheless, the reason for locating the research question during that time is the difference of the nationalist narrative prevalent then from the recent one. Narendra Modi’s new cultural nationalism is based on symbolising the masculinity of the leader as the ‘strongman’ character who is capable of rescuing society from its all ills whereas Indira Gandhi emphasising her feminine character (she being compared as Maa Durga- A Goddess of power) contrasted with the masculinity of other political leaders in India. Using socioeconomic nationalist rhetoric, she challenged the political masculinities in India (‘Woh kehte hai Indira Hatao, Main kehti hu Garibi Hatao’). Therefore, the particular paper adopts the qualitative methodology of content analysis of the speeches of Indira Gandhi and INC manifestoes during her whole tenure and also the content analysis of certain policy decisions like 1975 Emergency, Garibi Hatao Andolan etc. made during her reign. The significance of the particular paper lies in the fact of establishing the nexus between political leadership, masculinity and nationalism during populist regime of Indira Gandhi in India which reinforces the feminist slogan of ‘Personal is Political’ and can further be proved as an exception to the masculine aspect of the defender of the nation.