Author: Himanshu Roy
"state politics in india" | Greater depths of state politics in India
The quasi-federal features of Indian state necessitate micro analysis of state politics exploring the particular and definite behaviour of the states. The internal power dynamics of states define the political power play at the centre. Political dispensation at state level demands meticulous scrutiny as it has an enduring effect on the political configuration at the centre. There is much to extol about the book ‘State Politics in India’, edited by Himanshu Roy, MP Singh et el as the book is eloquent, epoch-making, and important seeing the changing nature of state politics in the country. In the past seven decades, several works have been published on the subject but unlike existing literature, this volume takes the study of state politics beyond electoral politics.
This book discusses history, social structure, economy, party system, voting behaviour, electoral outcome, political culture and governance in 28 states and two Union territories with legislative assemblies (Delhi and Puducherry). The compendium examines in greater depth the internal politics in each of these states and UTs which differs multifaceted due to variations in the size of the populace, demography, area, topography, economy and the power structure of the different caste and communities.
The book is a magnificent collection of deeply thought out and substantively analysed twenty-nine chapters, throwing light on not only politics of each state in India rather it enciphers a unique combination of the study of different forms in which the state apparatus operates in India and the multi-layer interaction of the people with the state. The pan-India outlook of the book enriches the reader’s perspective uniquely and leads to a broader understanding of various political and social processes in India. The book further moves to transcend the existing limitations of horizontal introspection of state politics and provides for a vertical analysis, which is both empirical and multilevel.
The idea of the book is enthralling per se as it has segmented itself to include assorted discourses of a discursive study of 28 states and two Union Territories. The rich enquiry by the contributors in each chapter and the conceptualisation of ideas by the editors is a particular combination to study and decode State Politics in India.
The seventy years of Indian political narrative has seen a lot of change and continuity, but the momentum which has shaped the timing of the book is the changing dynamics of federal politics in India after 2014 federal election with Narendra Modi at the helm. The book so importantly carves out one new discourse as for how the economic and social outlook towards political dispensation has changed over the years. The book is loud and clear about one thing, meaning that 3p’s – people, participation and polls, have provided to state politics in India. In decoding the political history in Indian politics the contributors have left no stone unturned as there is a detailed discussion in each chapter on the politics, social relations, economy, demographics, cultural vertices, and other various entitlements of the states.
“The stage of socio-political awareness of the labour and peasantry, the power of the local elite, their historical legacies and the overall economic development of the state play an equally important role in shaping its specificity” (p ix), the book underlines and celebrates the magnificent attributes of particularity and specificities of each state in a 919 pages long treatise.
There is one remarkable feature about the book which makes it more enticing for the readers as for how it has not missed out any small analysis at even the grass root level of the states. It has focused on mapping various identities involved and has included their various articulations in form of texts. It further underscores that the pertaining issues of governance, development policies and decentralisation of polity circumambient subaltern politics in various states.
“The economic reforms have augmented the scope of the private sector and autonomy of state governments. Like the union government, the state governments are now also vying with each other to attract private capital – national, multinational, and global multilateral – by offering better infrastructural facilities (‘race to the top’) or tax concessions and holidays (‘race to the bottom’)” (p 18).
“Over the decades, the traditional social structure and its agenda of development (the rhetorical socialistic pattern of society) have declined… the transformation from rural India to urban India, the betterment of social, economic position of the other backward castes, and Dalits and their political emergence gradually changed the content of politics.” (p 893)
In a unique attempt, the book distinguishes itself from the conventional and stereotypical study of state politics in India. The book generates a neo-narrative to look at the politics in all twenty-nine state units with a bottom to top approach, where each and every aspiration is accommodated with voice and representation. The text in the various chapters raises an emerging question on the allocation of due importance to both mainstream and sub-regional political, social and cultural spaces. The idea is to acknowledge their constitutive participation to create a real space for constructive dialogue.
The work should also be credited for micro-level analysis of determinants like democratisation, multicultural secularisation, federalisation, economic liberalisation/privatisation/globalisation and sustainable development. The book has done a detailed investigation of the impact of all these factors on politics in India in general and states in particular. Editors pinpointed the variations in the way these processes and factors manifest themselves in the different states of India. For this purpose they had employed an explanatory framework comprising the following five factors: (1) “ geography and history; (2) demography, culture, and social capital; (3) political economy with foci on macroeconomic sectors and class structure; (4) patterns of state party system and social and political movements; and (5) the quality of political leadership with appropriate motivation and skill.” (p 24)
My only criticism is that due to different disciplinary background the papers of different contributors lack similarities in nuances and standardisation of contents. Due to the differences in contributors academic background, some chapters of the volume look better balanced, in terms of quality and content, in comparison to others. Another missing link is that the compendium does not reflect much on the changing political landscape of the country post-2014 general election as the book was already in print. Resultantly, it misses the changing contours of state politics due to victories of Bharatiya Janata Party in different state assembly elections held after 2014. All this is suggestive for the next edition.
Nevertheless, the comprehensive, coherent, clear and candid presentation of editor’s experience and knowledge that too in the lucid language will provoke further research on state politics. The book is well researched sourced from the most relevant sources on the theme and is essential reading for students, researchers, experts and teachers interested in decoding the internal dynamics of state politics in India. Indeed, it is a prodigious theoretical contribution to the existing literature on State Politics in India.
Anant Prakash (email@example.com) is a Guest Faculty of Political Science in Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi.