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State Politics in India

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Item Code: NAU337
Author: Himanshu Roy, M.P. Singh and A.P.S. Chouhan
Publisher: PRIMUS BOOK_a01
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789386552020
Pages: 925
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 1.07 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

The last decade of the nineteenth century witnessed, for the first time, the demand for a federal polity premised on the principle of linguistic provinces. The regional Chambers of Commerce in the Telugu, Bengali and Tamil linguistic regions were the first to put forth such a demand before the Congress and the colonial state. The Indian National Congress agreed to it in 1920 and reorganized provincial Congress organizations, which had been earlier based on politico-administrative boundaries of the British Indian provinces, on linguistic lines under a new party constitution under Gandhi's influence. However, once it came to power at the Centre in 1947 the national Congress leadership changed its stand. In 1953, under the pressure of a mass upsurge, the Nehru government was compelled to set up a State Reorganisation Commission to consider the question of the creation of linguistic states. In the past 63 years, several works have been published on the theme of ‘state politics’, but most writers have concentrated on electoral politics. This book, however, discusses different aspects of politics in the 27 states and 2 Union Territories with legislative assemblies (with some minor omissions which are regretted). For example, it analyses the different social structures, levels of economic development, landholding patterns, party systems, voting behaviour, political culture and governance and politics of each state. It discusses their internal dynamics which are influenced by the size of the population, demography, territory and topography, economy, and the power structure of the different classes and communities.

The book also takes into account the commonalities across the boundaries at both, the micro and the macro levels, such as the expansion and intensification of capitalist social relations into the innermost areas, breakdown of old structures and social mores, emergence of civil society, development of administrative transparency, growth of alternative party systems and the linkages of each state/region with the nation and global capital. The liberalization of economy over the last few decades has accelerated the growth of commonalities across the states through a growing uniformity of production processes and consumer culture.

About the Author

Himanshu Roy

Himanshu Roy was Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House and is Associate Professor of Political Science at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College, University of Delhi. His recent publications include /ndian Political Thought: Themes and Thinkers (co-edited with M.P Singh, 2011).

M.P. Singh

M.P. Singh was Professor of Political Science at University of Delhi and is presently an honorary Senior Fellow at the Centre for Multilevel Federalism in the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. His recent publications include /ndian Federalism: An Introduction (2011, repr. 2013 and 2014); Federalizing India in the Age of Globalization (co-authored with Rekha Saxena, 2013) and Federalism in South Asia (2014).

A.PS. Chouhan

A.PS. Chouhan is Professor of Political Science and Head of the Department at Jiwaji University, Gwalior. He is also a member of Board of Studies, School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His publications include Prashasanik Vikendrikaran ke Ubharte Pratiman (co-authored with Kamlesh Gupta, 2009) and Credit Control Mechanism in Indian Economy (1998).


In each state politics has its own internal dynamics, and is different from others multifacetedly. This variation is premised on the size of the population, territory, or on the kind of topography, economy, and on the power structure of different classes and communities (e.g.-castes, tribes, religion in their inner/inter class/ communitarian relationships, respectively). These dynamics may aggravate or soften the distinctions of each state under different kinds of governance actuating under a process in a state. Moreover, the internal dynamics of politics may acquire further identity contours under the impact of religiosity, regional jingoism, subregional, and ethnic movements. Or, under the impact of religious organizations, rural-urban divide, industrialization—urbanization process, it becomes violent/vituperative. 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.

Yet there are commonalities across the boundaries at micro and macro levels. The common linkages are the expansion and intensification of capitalism and its social relations into the innermost peripheral areas, breakdown of the old structures and social mores, emergence of civil society, development of administrative transparency, growth of alternative party systems and the linkages of each state with the global capital. The liberalization of economy over the decades has sped up the growth of commonalities across the states through uniform production process and consumer culture. It has brought technologies and products of a universal standard into the market and workplaces that have rung in similar kind of culture across the regions among the different classes and segments.

The growth of wage labour under the expanding capitalist production of different layers, and the subsequent social mobility of labour in the wake of liberalization, has led to or has sought for a standardized taxation system, universalization of governance particularly under the pressure of the international capital. Since globalization has opened up the economy and society of the different states to international capital and its culture, there is also an external demand for the universalization of attributes of capital.

The expanding market economy has also generated social tension. Or, it has led to the breakdown of the pre-capitalist/preceding forms of capitalist social formations resulting in social movements of different kinds in different regions which, in turn, expedited the rate of rural-urban migration and the growth of the civil society. These movements, not all, are however, disjointed or segmentary, micro in scale and localized in issues which are essentially against the dominant model of economic-social development which are initiated, actively supported or coordinated by, mostly, the voluntary organizations. A consequence of the protest movements, particularly like the militancy/terrorism/insurgency, etc. has been the formulation and application of uniform legal, anti-terror laws (POTA) or counter—-terror measures (NIA, NCTC) and of developmental policies which reflect the centralizing tendency of the federation. It also, simultaneously, reflects the clamour for democratization of administrative structure, better development of local infrastructure and good governance which has led to institutional innovations in the federalized polity, e.g. the formation of tribal/autonomous/administrative councils,’ regular Panchayat elections, etc.

The changing social structure and their new civic requirements have compelled the political parties to mend their ways of governance. It has also simultaneously altered the regional/state party systems resulting into the demise of Congress system and has predominantly become the bi-party or bi-coalitional systems across the majority of states and union territories." The rise of the Other Backward Castes (OBCs), Dalits and other marginalized sections catapulted the non-Congress parties into power and heralded the era of political decentralization through coalition formations not only in states but also at the centre." Their aspirations (of OBCs, Dalits and marginalized) for accountable, efficient and transparent functioning of the local administration across different states rung in universalized attributes of governance reflected in the new legislations (Lokayuktas, Right to Information, Right to Services) for civic efficiency.

The contemporary subaltern politics in states, thus, veers around three issues: (1) governance, (2) development policies, and (3) decentralization of polity. It has moved away, markedly, not wholly from the demands of linguistic states, land reforms, caste politics (under the facade of social justice), nationalization, secession and religiosity which were the dominant themes of the academic discourse on state politics since the 1960s. As the social structure, germane to politics, has substantively changed, the politics of the states was inevitably set to change. The changes, in terms of policy formulation and administrative application, were substantive. The prominent changes since 1967 are outlined in brief below.’

  1. Governance, decentralization, efficient civic functioning and infrastructural development are the new social mantras which have acquired prominence in the last 20 years resulting in the conduct of regular Panchayat elections, formation of new smaller states, autonomous/administrative/tribal councils, etc. The agenda is the efficient administrative functioning for the civic and municipal requirements of the citizens, and their direct engagement with the polity.

  2. States are much more integrated with each other, with the Centre, and with the global capital today than they were in the past. Yet, their political autonomy, vis-a-vis the centre, is more functional today. The impact of the coalition politics and the assertion of the locality have markedly changed their operative relation. In fact, teleologically the coalition politics itself is the by-product of the assertion of the locality which has partly recovered their lost rights of being autonomous usurped by the centre. It also simultaneously reflects the struggle of the provinces for the readjustment of power-structure with the centre.

  3. The expansion of civil society today has strengthened the secular public sphere and citizenship, and has restrained the coercive application of state apparatus in its engagements with the citizens in its regular functioning resulting into larger degree of citizens’ freedom.

  4. It has also resulted in the change of the party system, both in the states and at the centre. It has become more competitive and has ushered in the formation of non-Congress governments and a better federalized polity.

  5. This in turn has led to the making of India’s foreign policy more democratic as border and littoral states attempt to assert their local politics into its making; atleast, towards her immediate neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Earlier, in the Congress system, it was absent or marginal.

  6. Finally, capitalism has destroyed the old social structure and mores and has rung in new wage-labour formation with their spatial mobility, and universal consumer culture resulting in the marginalization of regional diversities in public and personal domains to a large extent. It has simultaneously integrated India, economically and culturally, into the nation more strongly and has moved in to the arena of global capitalism along with its culture, economy polity and its attendant ramifications.

Caste and religious politics in the post-Nehruvian era, which were the dominant sites of politics, then socially progressive, necessitated by the requirements of social justice, are now marginalized by the new development politics of the regions/subregions and the market which, unlike the primodial past, are secular.

Contextualizing these changes and other specificities in the backdrop of each of the 29 states and 2 union territories (Delhi and Pondicherry) with legislative assemblies was a Herculean task. Equally difficult was to theorize the post-Nehruvian developments in the backdrop of an academic and the cultural diversities of the contributors working in different universities of India. However, it was to be actuated; and to actuate it, we conducted two workshops at Gwalior organized by A.P.S. Chouhan at Jiwaji University to work on the standard.

attributes of the papers. We also invited A.C. Sinha, a sociologist at the North- Eastern Hill University, Shillong, and National Fellow, Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Delhi to be a part of this editorial collective meeting to assist us on papers on North-Eastern states. Once the manuscript was ready, the editors and the Commissioning editors again sat down in the editorial office for three days to discuss each essay for its quality content. A.C. Sinha’ editorial inputs and his assistance in locating the contributors for Rajasthan, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland were valuable. Krishna Murari, Sonu Kumar, Niraj Kumar and Utpal Kumar incorporated the editorial inputs in the soft copy of the manuscript. We thank these people and the contributors for their efforts in the making of this book which took six years for its publication.


The study of provincial politics and of native states in British India was an underdeveloped area. Native states in any case formed a backyard of the British Raj, but politics, especially constitutional and institutional politics in British Indian provinces were also largely eclipsed by the nationalist movement politics. However, in retrospect, constitutional reforms introduced in the first half of the twentieth century in the British Indian provinces by the Imperial government in London were significant early experiments in representative, responsible, and federal governance. Bolder moves in all these respects under the 1950 Constitution after India’s independence must be studied in this historical backdrop. Yet there are serious gaps in studies of devolution of powers to the provincial governments under the Government of India Act, 1909; this is also true of the studies of diarchy at the provincial level under the Government of India Act, 1919, and of provincial autonomy under the first federal constitution in British India, the Government of India Act, 1935.

The study of state politics in independent India also remained a rather under-cultivated field of inquiry. This state of affairs may be explained in terms of a number of reasons. First, in the Nehru era there was a carryover of the nationalist ambience and fervour of the freedom struggle, and for this reason all that really mattered was the politics at the national level. Congress dominance at the Union as well as state levels submerged politics in the states under the overarching national patterns. Popular mass movements for the creation of unilingual states in various parts of the country during the 1950s and 1960s briefly brought federal and state politics to the forefront, but once such demands were conceded, the leaders of these movements in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat tended to join or rejoin the Congress party. And, the overarching one-party dominance was easily restored once again even in the areas of the linguistic regional agitations.

Second, the breaches in Congress dominance in the late 1960s and the late 1970s were over relatively short periods of time, after which Congress dominance was restored. The emergence of states as important arenas of politics turned out to be rather brief episodes. Thus, the Nehru and Indira Gandhi eras and Rajiv Gandhi years, especially the reigns of the first and the third prime ministers (Rajiv Gandhi was the sixth), were characterized by a great deal of centralization or ‘nationalization’ of the Indian political system. State politics were then either a subsidiary arena or were appendage to national politics.

Third, the distribution of powers and revenue resources in the Indian Constitution is heavily skewed in favour of the Centre. This feature greatly reduces the importance and effectiveness of the state governments, and makes them heavily dependent on federal mandatory and discretionary fiscal transfers under the Constitution and shared-cost-centrally-sponsored schemes of development under the federal spending power. Notably the Union and state jurisdictions are demarcated with at least some exclusive areas reserved for each order of government, but the Constitution does not expressly prohibit the Union government to spend its money even in exclusive state concerns.

Fourth, even though law and order is supposed to be an exclusive state concern, there has been an enormous expansion of the central paramilitary police forces. The 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976, has made the deployment of armed forces and central paramilitary forces in aid of civil power in a state an exclusive Union competence. Incidence of internal disturbances and terrorist activities by external and indigenous groups has resulted in a great deal of increase in the coercive power of governments and centralization in the political system. These developments tend to overshadow the state governments and subordinate state politics to the imperatives of national politics, although the state governments are now very zealously guarding their turf against any new encroachments by the Centre.

The first major attempt in the study of state politics was published in 1968 by Myron Weiner.’ It is a selective study of only eight states: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jarnmu & Kashmir, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab. The focus was deliberately kept rather open-ended and wide in view of the exploratory nattire of the exercise, though the conceptual and theoretical concern reflected the dominant preoccupation of the Western, especially American, scholarship of the time, namely, political aspects of modernization in relation to political and economic development. Methodologically, Weiner made a significant point:

Each of the Indian states provides us with an unusual microcosm and macrocosm for studying the processes of development: a microcosm since the states are constituent units of a larger system, and a macrocosm because the units are themselves so large that they can be studied as total systems. .. . The states share a common legal system, a common constitutional framework, a common administrative structure, a common international environment, but their internal political patterns vary considerably."

Weiner set great store by the methodological advantage that the factors that are held constant in this quasi-experimental research design cannot account for states’ variable political patterns and must be looked for in historical, sociological, and political economy factors. Also, the authors writing on their respective states’ did try to explain the varying patterns of state politics in terms of the social and economic factors, e.g. why West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala had active communist movements while the others did not? Why was the central Congress party leadership able to impose a chief minister in Madhya Pradesh from outside but was not able to influence the choice of the CM in West Bengal and Madras? Why was political participation high in Kerala, Madras, and Punjab, and low in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, and Bihar? Why was factionalism in the ruling Congress party and fragmentation among the opposing parties more intense in some states than in others? Why were some states more seriously afflicted by community tensions and violence than others? Why did some states (e.g. Punjab) manage to register better economic development than others (e.g. Uttar Pradesh)? No overarching, systematic explanatory framework emerged from the separate state studies beyond the rather overstated methodological assumptions alluded to above, and the underlining of two crucial all-pervasive factors of the dominant Congress party and the All India Services.

Myron Weiner, in his editorial Introduction, candidly admitted that the volume sought to measure political stability more than political performance. He also surmised that until then the states had not really played ‘an innovative role in development. He went on to say: ‘Some powers constitutionally shared by the states and the centre are exercised almost exclusively by the central government because of lack of interest or skill on the part of state leaders.’ And under the veneer of political stability attributable to one-party dominance of the Indian National Congress (INC), Weiner did point to the seeds of latent instability early on. This was evident in the fact even before the 1967 general elections (in which the Congress lost in 9 of the then 18 states), there were five states in which party competition was so intense that the Congress had failed in at least one of the three preceding general elections to win a majority of seats and had either formed a government with a plurality of seats or actually missed forming a government: Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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