Members of India’s BJP Join the Far Right Transnational Conference Circuit

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On July 8, the fourth iteration of the National Conservatism (NatCon) conference will be held, with 114 representatives from the American, Hungarian, Israeli, Polish, and British far right in attendance. The NatCon event, which now rivals CPAC as the most influential transnational far-right event in the world, will, for the first time, feature speakers close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party, BJP) and its more militant ally, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organisation, RSS). 

Ram Madhav and Swapan Dasgupta, both of whom have been leaders within the BJP, will be attending NatCon according to the conference website. Dasgupta is a far-right intellectual who was previously an elected member of India’s upper legislative chamber, the Rajya Sabha. He regularly writes in English in favor of Hindutva, a form of Hindu supremacy that favors that community over others in Indian society. Madhav is also close to the BJP, having served as the party’s national general secretary from 2014 to 2020 He was also a longtime leader in the RSS, previously serving as its spokesperson. Both are in leadership positions at the pro-Modi think tank the India Foundation. 

Representatives of India’s far right have seldom attended events organized by similar movements in Europe and North America, one exception being this year’s MCC Budapest Summit on Education, put on by the Hungarian university Mathias Corvinus Collegium. NatCon may be a turning point, as India’s far right joins the movement’s transnational conference circuit. It also appears to add India to the list of countries that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is developing ties with. Orbán is also close to Trump, the Putin regime in Russia, and the Chinese Communist Party.

Most experts agree that under Modi’s rule India is experiencing democratic backsliding. The Varieties of Democracy Institute  (V-DEM) described India in their most recent Democracy Report 2023 as an “electoral autocracy” that is “one of the worst autocratizers” in the world. Under Modi’s leadership, the BJP has transformed India’s politics by using politicized state institutions and terrorism laws to target opposition parties, by dismantling much of the election regulatory agency, promoting discriminatory practices against the Muslim minority, and intimidating media outlets and universities. The BJP is a primary promoter of Hindutva, which favors Hindus over Indian citizens of other faiths. The RSS, a paramilitary organization promoting Hindutva and strongly influenced by 20th century fascism, has strong ties to the BJP. RSS adherents have provoked violence against Muslims and other “undesirable” communities. The organization holds an irredentist view of the borders of modern-day India, believing that a larger country should be carved out of the territory of its neighbors.

Aside from the representatives from the BJP, other NatCon attendees will include several staffers from the Amercian Heritage Foundation, the main proponent of the Christian Nationalist Project 2025 plan to dismantle democratic institutions and human rights in the United States (see GPAHE’s deep-dive analysis into Project 2025 here). Heritage has at least ten speakers appearing at NatCon, including President Kevin D. Roberts, Fellow Christopher DeMuth, Fellow Arthur Milikh, Research Fellow Delano Squires, James J. Carafano, Tech Policy Center Director Kara Frederick, Oversight Project Executive Director Mike Howell, Project 2025 Director Paul Dans, Asian Studies Center Director Jeff M. Smith, and Research Associate Emma Waters. Also attending is Mary Margaret Olohan of Heritage’s media project, the Daily Signal, which was recently spun off as an independent organization.  

Speakers from Project 2025 partner Claremont Institute include Senior Fellow and Former President Brian Kennedy, Board of Directors Chairman Tim Klingenstein, Fellow David P. Goldman and Fellow Inez Stepman, and assistant professor David Azerrad from Hillsdale College.

Trump supporters who will be present at NatCon this year include the conspiracist Jack Posobiec, former Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio). Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon is scheduled to speak at the event, though he recently began serving a prison sentence, and it is unlikely that he will be able to attend. Other Republican elected officials attending as speakers include U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), U.S Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Ohio), U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore, Idaho Solicitor General Theo Wold, and Utah House Rep. Tyler Clancy

In addition, a number of representatives of pro-Orbán organizations are expected to send speakers, as is customary at NatCon events. These include Danube Institute President John O’Sullivan, President of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs Gladden Pappin, and Orbán’s Political Director Balázs Orbán (no relation), who holds a number of other roles including the Chairman of the Board of Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), the Advisory Board Chair of the National University of Public Service (NKE), and the head of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs (HIIA) (For more on Balázs Orbán and the MCC, see GPAHE’s previous reporting on them here). These organizations, which openly promote Orbán’s autocratic agenda, are known for having close ties to the organizers of the NatCon conferences, and have appeared at every iteration of their events.

Speakers representing far-right Polish Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice, PiS), the authoritarian political party that was recently thrown out of power after instituting policies that harmed Polish democracy, include Andrzej Zybertowicz, an advisor to President Andrzej Duda and former cabinet member of previous PiS administrations, and former PiS MEP Ryszard Legutko who is also the co-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) grouping in the European Union. Representatives of Israeli nationalist groups include Shalem College founder Ofir Haivry, and Herzl Institute President Yoram Hazony, a former ghostwriter and advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both Hazony and Haivry are leading officials in the Edmund Burke Foundation, the organization that puts on the NatCon events. Eugene Kontorovich, an Israeli professor of law at George Mason University, is also a scheduled speaker. 

Other speakers of note include Jonathan Keeperman, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) lecturer who was recently outed as the person behind the Twitter handle persona “Lomez” and director of the far-right publishing house Passage Press, known for putting out books by historical fascist and reactionary writers. Mark Krikorian, the longtime executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant group founded by white nationalist John Tanton, is a scheduled speaker for the event, as is Institute for Sound Public Policy Executive Director Kevin Lynn, formerly with the anti-immigrant group Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), also Tanton-connected. Finally, Alexandre Pesey, executive director of the Institut de Formation Politique (Political Education Institute, IFP), a far-right school that has historical ties to the French anti-LGBTQ+ group La Manif pour tous, is expected to speak at the conference.

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