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Conservatism in India refers to the political philosophy which seeks to promote preservation of certain traditional values that are cherished and have developed in the subcontinent of India. Politics in India since the 1990s has been predominantly involved with the conflict of the left wing and the right wing of the government machinery. Historically, Conservatism in India has been divided between liberal conservatives and social conservatives.[citation needed]


A number of political parties with conservative ideologies existed in India prior to independence. These included the Congress Nationalist Party,[1] the Punjab Unionist Party[2][failed verification] the Hindu Mahasabha and the Akali Dal.

In addition, a number of figures within the Indian National Congress, such as Sardar Vallabhai Patel were conservative.[3]

In contrast to secular parties, such as the Punjab Unionist Party, Islamic conservatism was used by the All India Muslim League to pursue their objective of a separate Islamic state.[4] (see Conservatism in Pakistan)

Post Independence

Main article: Swatantra Party

The first conservative party to espouse liberal economic ideals in India since independence was the Swatantra Party. It is a Classical Liberal party as its principles are based on individual freedom, market-based economy and limited government. It existed from 1959 to 1974. It was founded by C. Rajagopalachari in reaction to what he felt was the Jawaharlal Nehru-dominated Indian National Congress's increasingly socialist and statist outlook. Swatantra (Freedom) stood for a market-based economy with the "Licence Raj" dismantled, although it opposed laissez faire policies. The party was thus favored by some traders and industrialists, but at the state-level its leadership was dominated by the traditional privileged classes such as zamindars (feudal landlords) and erstwhile princes.[5][6]

In the 1962 general election, the first after its formation, Swatantra Party received 6.8 percent of the total votes and won 18 seats in the third Lok Sabha (1962–67). It emerged as the main opposition to the dominant Congress in four states—Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Orissa. By the next general election in 1967, Swatantra had become a significant force in some parts of India; it won 8.7 percent of the votes and became the single-largest opposition party in the fourth Lok Sabha (1967–71) with 44 seats. In 1971, Swatantra Party joined a "Grand Alliance" of parties from across the political spectrum who aimed to defeat Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The party secured eight seats, winning only 3% of the votes. The next year, in 1972, its founder C. Rajagopalachari died, and the party declined rapidly. By 1974, it merged into the Charan Singh-led Bharatiya Kranti Dal, another coalition committed to anti-Congressism.

Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party

Main articles: Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party

The Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), commonly known as the Jana Sangh, was an Indian nationalist political party that existed from 1951 to 1977 and was socially conservative. In 1977, it merged with several other left, centre and right parties opposed to rule of the Indian National Congress and formed the Janata Party. After the Janata Party split in 1980, it was re-formed as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980, which is currently India's largest political party by primary membership and representation in Lok Sabha.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is one of the two major political parties in India, along with the Indian National Congress.[7] As of 2016, it is the country's largest political party in terms of representation in the Parliament of India and State legislative assemblies of India, and it is the world's largest party in terms of primary membership. The BJP is a right-wing party,[8][9] with close ideological and organisational links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

After the 1998 general election, the BJP-led coalition known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed a government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for a year. Following fresh elections, the NDA government, again headed by Vajpayee, lasted for a full term in office; this was the first non-Congress government to do so. In the 2004 general election, the NDA suffered an unexpected defeat, and for the next ten years the BJP was the principal opposition party. Long time Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi led it to a landslide victory in the 2014 general election. Since that election, Modi leads the NDA government as Prime Minister and as of March 2020, the BJP and its alliance governs 18 states.

The official ideology of the BJP is "integral humanism", first formulated by Deendayal Upadhyaya in 1965. The party expresses a commitment to Hindutva, and its policy has historically reflected Hindu nationalist positions. The BJP advocates social conservatism and a foreign policy centered on nationalist principles. Its key issues have included the abrogation of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the implementation of a uniform civil code. However, the 1998–2004 NDA government did not pursue any of these controversial issues. It instead focused on a largely neoliberal economic policy prioritising, globalisation and economic growth over social welfare. In the August 2019, Modi led BJP government has finally abrogated Article 370 thus fulfilling one of its election promises within first 100 days of second term of Modi government in office. The Ayodhya verdict by the Supreme court in favour of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, in Oct 2019 has settled the contentious issue pending for over 7 decades and finally paved the way for the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya.

Other political parties

A number of regional conservative political parties also exist in India, these include the

A splinter of the INC, INC(O) had emerged after Indira Gandhi wanted to use a populist agenda in order to mobilize popular support for the party. The regional party elites, who formed the INC(O), stood for a more right-wing agenda, and distrusted Soviet help.

See also


  1. ^ Beck, Sanderson. South Asia 1800-1950.
  2. ^ Hardy (1972). The Muslims of British India. CUP Archive. ISBN 978-0-521-09783-3.
  3. ^ McLeod, John (2015). The History of India (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-61069-765-1.
  4. ^ Ali, Imran (1976). "Relations between the Muslim league and the Panjab national unionist party 1935–47". South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. 6: 51–65. doi:10.1080/00856407608730709.
  5. ^ The 21 Principles of the Swatantra Party. 1959.
  6. ^ Erdman, 1963–64
  7. ^ "In Numbers: The Rise of BJP and decline of Congress". The Times of India. 19 May 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  8. ^ Banerjee 2005, p. 3118.
  9. ^ Malik & Singh 1992, p. 318.