Geert Wilders, a far-right politician in the Netherlands, has recently led his party - the Party for Freedom (PVV) - to a shock victory, emerging as the single largest party in the recently held Dutch elections.
While Wilders, with his anti-Islamic, anti-immigration and Eurosceptic views, has long lurked in the fringes of Dutch politics, he is hardly an unknown figure in India.
In 2022, following controversial remarks against Prophet Muhammad by former Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma on live television, Wilders came out in her support on X (formerly Twitter), earning him massive following and praise from the Indian right-wing community.
Bonding Over Islamophobia
On May 26, 2022, Sharma took part in a television debate on the channel Times Now, speaking on the issue of the Gyanvapi Mosque, during which she made derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad, leading to a massive controversy.
While Sharma's comments drew the ire of many middle eastern countries, and eventually led to her suspension from the BJP, Wilders took to Twitter to defend her comments. His tweet became viral among Indian social media users, drawing acknowledgement and appreciation from right-leaning users.
Months later, Wilders posted yet another tweet in Sharma's defence, mentioning that, "She deserves the Nobel Prize." The tweet became viral among Indian users yet again.
But the Nupur Sharma controversy was not the first time Wilders had posted about India.
On August 9, 2019, shortly after the Indian parliament decided to revoke Article 370, that gave special status to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, Wilders took to the microblogging platform and stated his support for the decision.
"I support my friends in #India about #Kashmir and their decision to revoke #Art370. No more state terrorism from #Pakistan! #IndiaForKashmir #ModiSavedKashmir," the tweet read.
Wilders' shocking victory in the recently held elections in the Netherlands also drew praise from the Indian right-wing community.
What Now For Wilders?
Since starting his own party - the PVV - Wilders has relentlessly pushed his anti-Islam rhetoric, calling for a ban on the Quran, the hijab and a ban on mosques, in an attempt to "de-Islamize" Netherlands, making him an increasingly controversial and divisive figure in Dutch politics.
He had also called for a referendum for the Netherlands to decide on its future with the European Union.
Despite rising in popularity since 2006, when it first participated in the Dutch general elections, Wilders' party PVV has faced a cordon sanitaire from other political parties for its leader's extreme views. This had rendered the PVV unable to be an active member of a coalition government.
However, after winning 37 seats in the recent snap elections in Netherlands, Wilders has now emerged as the leading power broker in the formation of the next coalition government.
Following the elections, the sitting parliament will appoint a mediator, called the informateur, who shall help conduct negotiations between parties to form a working coalition.
The possibility of Wilders leading a successful mandate as a prime minister will now largely depend on his ability to rally the top political parties in his favour.