This article examines the BJP’s attempt to build centres of elite, traditional intellectuals by bringing together a variety of stakeholders in government and civil society. While dismantling advisory committees and attacking universities and established research institutions, the BJP has sought to build think tanks to give its political ideology a footprint in already established policy networks. Some scholars have characterized the BJP’s think tanks as institutions of ‘soft Hindutva’, that is, organizations that avoid overt association with the BJP and Hindu nationalist linkages but pursue a diffuse Hindutva agenda nevertheless. Through a study of the BJP’s two most prominent think tanks, I examine how such organizations build an alternative sense of respectable intellectual legitimacy, consolidate Hindutva networks across political, administrative, and military fields, and build a ‘mimetic’ Hindutva intellectual culture. The think tanks negotiate a fine balance between projecting a ‘respectable’ religious conservatism along with an aggressive Hindu majoritarianism. My findings demonstrate how manifestations of Hindutva can be both explicitly political and anti-political at the same time: advocating for political interventionism while eschewing politics and forging an apolitical route towards cultural transformation.