Since independence several attempts were made to find a space for the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) in Indian polity. However, barring Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal, the PRIs could never survive elsewhere in the country. This led to the necessity of constitutionalizing panchayats in 1992, an attempt which also met with limited success.
Why were PRIs retained in certain states even without a constitutional mandate? Conversely, why did others lag behind? These facts draw attention to the question of 'political will'. But what prompts certain political regimes to adopt a pro-panchayat approach and others to oppose them, even though all states are operating within the same democratic system?
In their quest to answer these questions, the authors have tried to look into the linkages between the panchayats and state level politics. This, in turn, has enabled them to identify the political factors that have so far determined the course of decentralization in this country. Their findings are based on the case studies of four states, namely, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar. Apart from highlighting the political variables whose presence or absence make or mar the prospects of panchayats, this volume also raises serious questions about the capacity of the present political system to provide genuine support to the project of decentralization and local democracy.
About the Author:
Buddhadeb Ghosh is a Senor Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.
Girish Kumar is a Fellow in Political Sciences at the Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi.
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