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Comparing Political Regimes across Indian States: A Preliminary Essay

Author(s): John Harriss

Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 34, No. 48 (Nov. 27 - Dec. 3, 1999), pp. 3367-3377
Published by: Economic and Political Weekly
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Comparing Political Regimes across Indian States

A Preliminary Essay
John Harriss
This article makes a strong case for differentiating the political systems of different states in India on
the basis of the balance of caste/class power and the nature of party organisation within those states. Such
differences can then be shown to influence the policy formulation and performances of these states, especially
with regard to decentralisation of power to lower caste/class groups and alleviation of poverty.
IT has been suggested- for example,by context.Othershavedisagreed.V S Vyas Approaching the ideal of democracy,
AtulKohli(1987) - thatIndiaconstitutes and P Bhargava,for example,summing therefore,dependsuponthedifferentiation
a 'laboratory'for comparativepolitical up the findingsof comparativestudiesof of therealmof politicsfromoverallsystems
analysis.The fact thatthe countryhas a public intervention and rural poverty of inequalityina society- so thatcollective
numberof stateswithquitediversepolitics, alleviationin ninestates,sayemphatically decisions are not made by particular
but within the framework of Indian that"successin povertyalleviationefforts individualsor groupsof people because
federalism,createsconditionsfor 'con- was not significantly affected ... [at least] of thepowerderivedfromtheireconomic
trolledexperiments'.But these apparent by the professedpoliticalideologyof the or social status[Rueschmayeret al 1992:
opportunities havenotbeentakenup very rulingpartiesinthedifferentstates"(1995: 41ff]. In practice democraticforms of
much.Thereareimportantbodiesof work 2572). The debate which is inherentin government,involvingthe accountability
by individualscholarson the politics of these differentstatementsis more signi- of the executiveto an assemblyof repre-
particularstates - one thinks of the ficant than it once was because of the sentatives elected through free, open
sustainedresearchby Zoya Hasan and increasedsalienceof state-levelpoliticsin elections, in the context of freedom of
PaulBrasson UttarPradesh,thatof James the contextof India'seconomicreforms. expression and association, can never
Manoron Karnataka, of JayantLele and Thegreaterfinancialautonomyof thestates eliminatealtogetherthe significanceof
latterly, of Thomas Blom Hansen on which these entail "is likely to combine differencesof wealth,powerandstatusin
Maharashtra, andof GhanshyamShahon with increasedregulatoryautonomy... society.Hence,theMarxistshavegenerally
Gujarat.It is also strikingthatsome states makingthe state level a more important rejectedsuchrepresentative democracyas
have not been the subjectsof such con- politicalarena,andtherefore,moreinneed a sham,concealingthe exerciseof power
sistent research.And exercises in com- of study"[Jenkins1996: 198].The effort bythedominantclass.Theviewexpressed
parativepoliticshave beenratherthinon of developinga comparativeanalysisof by Rueschmayerandhis co-authorsis that
theground.Effortsweremadein collabo- statepoliticsseemsworthwhile,therefore. theidealof democracyis approached more
rativeexerciseson the politicsof various or less closely accordingto thebalanceof
states orchestratedby Myron Weiner class power in a society, and the nature
(1968), by IqbalNarain(1967 and 1976) The term 'regime' is used widely but of the state system. The developmentof
andthenby JohnWood(1984).Thelatter quitelooselyinpoliticalscience.Itis quite capitalismis, in some ways,actuallycon-
includesaninterestingcomparativeessay often appliedto a particulargovernment, ducivetoapproaching thedemocraticideal
by RoderickChurchwhich is referredto as in 'theTeluguDesamregimein Andhra becauseit weakensthepowerof landlords
laterin thisarticle.ThenKohlipublished Pradesh';but as frequentlyit is applied and strengthens subordinate classes,
the resultsof his researchon the effec- to suchbroaddistinctionsas thatbetween shifting them from the relatively un-
tiveness of different party regimes in democraticandauthoritarian formsof rule. favourableenvironmentof peasantagri-
Karnataka(that of the Congress under Clearly,in a discussionof Indianstates, culturein which, as Marxarguedin The
DevarajUrs),in UP (theJanatacoalition) operatingwithintheframeworkof federal Eighteenth Brumaire, they are 'like
and in West Bengal (the Left Front),in democracylaid downin the Constitution potatoesin a sack' - dividedfrom each
relationto povertyreduction,in his book of India, the latterdistinctiondoes not other, lacking a sense of a collective
TheState and Poverty in India (1987). But apply. We may be concerned,however, interest,and given their identityby the
themostambitiouscomparative projectso with differences in the democratic more self-consciousclasses which make
farhas beenthatof FrancineFrankeland functioningof differentstates,anddescribe uptherestof society.Thedemocraticideal
M S A Rao, who broughttogetherwork these in termsof 'regimetypes'. is approachedmore closely, too, if the
bya groupof scholarswithina framework 'Democracy'is takento mean:'govern- state-system(theorganisationof thestate)
whichfocusedon the problematicof 'the mentbythepeople;theformof government is relatively autonomousin relationto
declineof dominance'(1989, 1990).The in which sovereignpowerresidesin the society. But thereis narrowgap between
exercisewhich I have undertakendraws peopleandis exercisedeitherdirectlyby theScylla,of a state-systemdominatedby
heavilyupon,andaimsto extendthework them [participatorydemocracy] or by particularinterestswithinsociety,suchas
of Frankeland Rao. officers elected by them [representative thoseof landlords,or of industrialcapital,
Kohliconcludedfromhis comparative democracy]'.Clearly,this is a statement or of financecapital,and the Charybdis,
studythatdifferencesbetweenthepolitical of anideal,forit evadestherealproblems of a state-system which is absolutely
regimes of differentstates do make a of collectiveaction,whicharisefromthe autonomousand able to exercise dic-
significantdifference,specificallyto the factthatthegoalsheldby individuals('the tatorshipover society, over-ridingthe
adoptionof pro-poorpoliciesin theIndian people') rarely coincide absolutely. interestsand aspirationsof 'thepeople'.

Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999 3367

This is where 'civil society' enters the arethese: arethereappreciabledifferences and ideological coherence - which Kohli
equation:the more developed is the sphere between states in terms of the balance of also highlighted - enter in here.
of private, voluntary association, of civil class power, and the extent of political 'Measuring' regime differences is
society, the wider is the-gap between the participationof historically subordinated, obviously difficult, both conceptually and
Scylla and the Charybdis, and the greater lower classes? What is the nature of this practically(given whatis in some instances,
the space for democracy, for it implies that 'participation',ideologically and organis- in regardto India, the paucity of data, and
different interests are organised within ationally, and what are the relationships in others data inconsistencies). We can
society, and able (at least to a significant of the lower classes with other classes? obtain some qualitative information on
degree) to hold the organisations in the Note that it has often been argued that the characteristicsof differentstateregimes
state-system accountable [derived from Indian politics are characterised by from the political science literature and
Rueschmayer et al 1992]. 'political accommodationism', referring from political commentaries (for example,
In the light of this discussion it would to the way in which dominant elites build Manor's commentary on the new support
seem perfectly sensible to compare Indian coalitions of political support amongst base built by Devaraj Urs between 1972
states as democratic regimes. Although sections of dependent groups by means of and 1980 in Karnataka).3It is also of value
the majorityof the labour force across the a strategy of selective inclusion.1 to trace changes in the composition of
country remains agricultural, there are Tackling these questions in the Indian state legislatures and of state governments
important regional differences and case requires study of evidence on class (and the backgrounds of chief ministers,
differences between states in terms of the structuresandtheirrelationshipswithcaste/ too) in terms of caste and occupation (not
organisation of agriculture, the level of ethnicity and historical structures of of course that these translateat all directly
development of capitalism, andof agrarian dominance (defined, following Frankel into policy and policy practice, but still,
class structures. There are differences and Rao as: 'the exercise of authority in shifts like that which took place in the
between states in terms of the extent of society by groups who achieved socio- 1970s when agriculturalists started to be
industrial development, and hence in the economic superiority and claimed represented much more strongly, are
development of both the industrial legitimacy for their commands in terms of significant). It is possible to take quite
bourgeoisie and the working class. These superiorritualstatus').2 'Class formation' systematic account of the frequency of
differences may then be reflected, in turn, is always and everywhere a problematic changes of government and to derive from
in variations in the nature and the extent concept. The relationships between this indicators of regime stability, which
of political mobilisation, and of 'objective' differences between groups of can be supplemented from the descriptive
organisationin civil society, both of which people, in terms of theirroles and relations literature.Generally my approachhas been
are likely to be very significantly within productive systems, and the to try to develop a framework worked out
influenced, in the Indian context, by caste subjective categories in terms of which by Roderick Church in a comparative
and other ethnic identities. These political people experience and understand these discussion of state politics (in UP, Bihar,
differences may exercise a significant roles and relations - between 'class-in- West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka,
influence on the functioning of the various itself' and 'class-for-itself - have always Maharashtraand Gujarat)written in 1984.
(state-level) 'state systems'. This is one to be treatedcontextually and historically. At this time, Church argued, there was
level of comparison, therefore, which we In the Indian case this means studying the a 'crisis of participation' amongst lower
might describe as 'structural'.Another is relationships between class and caste. We castes/classes. This was in the context of
that of 'regime' in the sense, rather, of know thatthereis no neatmappingbetween a fourfold distinction between caste
'government'. This is the sense employed 'class' and 'caste', but there are strong categories:
by Atul Kohli when he writes: broad correspondences, for example The 'upper'castes,the 'highcastes' or the
Variations in regional distributive between landownershipandcaste position. 'twice-born'arethe brahmans,kshatriyas
outcomes ... are a function of the regime We also know that in many instances class and banias. They have long dominated
controllingpolitical power. Regime type, relationships are experienced as relations society and politics as landlords in the
in turn - at least in the case of India - between castes [see Harriss 1994]. Some- countryside and as businessmen and
closely reflects the nature of the ruling times potential or actual class political professionals in the city. [Note the
politicalparty.The ideology, organisation mobilisation is cross-cut by caste relations, connection that is made throughoutthe
and class alliances underlying a party- and vice-versa - and sometimes not. In discussion between caste statusand class
dominatedregimearethenof considerable practice we have to study the class/caste positions.]
consequence for the redistributive bases of different regimes in order to The 'middle' castes are the principal
performanceof that regime (1987: 10) addressthe criticalquestion of 'the balance farmingcastes (jats,yadavsandkurmisin
In his book, of course, he goes on to of class power'. the north, for example; Marathas in
Maharashtra,and so on). According to
compare the performance of different Further analysis entails examining
caste traditionthey are Sudras, the term
party-dominated regimes in three Indian political organisation, including the for all those below the twice-born and
states. formation of different types of association
above the untouchables,but they have a
For the purposes of this paper, we may and the ideology, organisation and class
seek to distinguish regime differences alliances underlying different party- special status and importancebecause of
theirnumbersandland.Typicallythey are
across states at both the structural level dominatedregimes/governments.Whatare kisans (farmersor [rich]/middlepeasants.
and thatof 'party-dominatedgovernment', the stated objectives of different regimes? [It is usually the case that the locally
searching in the first place for evidence How do they seek to win support, 'dominantcastes' - dominantby virtueof
on the nature and extent of political ideologically and organisationally? What their control over land and labour,which
mobilisation and of organisation in both are the alliances on which they depend? are still commonly the basis of local
civil and political society. In the light of What are the relationships between 'local political power - are from these 'middle'
the preceding short discussion of demo- power' and state-level politics? Questions castes].
cratic political systems critical questions concerning leadership and organisational At the bottom of the traditional status

3368 Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999

hierarchyare the 'scheduled' castes, the TABLE1: TYPOLOGY
ex-untouchables,who now have special
Category Characteristics States
constitutionalprotection and privileges.
They areprimarilyagriculturallabourers. A Upper caste/class-dominated Bihar, Uttar Pradesh
The 'lower' castes form an economic and Congress regimes + [Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan]
social stratum which is sandwiched
B Lower castes/classes recruitedinto Gujarat,Karnataka,Maharashtra[?:JH]
betweenthe middlecastes above themand + [AndhraPradesh?]
Congress regimes
theScheduledCastesbelow. Itis composed
of marginal farmers, sharecroppersand C Lower castes/classes strongly represented Kerala, West Bengal
landless labourers from low status in non-Congressregimes + [Tamil Nadu]
service and artisan castes - barbers, D Competition between Congress and a Punjab
'middle' caste regional party (excluding
boatmen,blacksmiths,carpenters,grain- lower castes/classes?)
parchers, oil-pressers, and so on. The
proportionof people in this stratumvaries Notes:
from region to region, but it is usually 1 The evidence supportingChurch's classification is found in the papers in Wood (ed) (1984).
abouta thirdof the population.4Because 2 I have added other states (+ [...]), which Churchdid not consider, in the light mainly of evidence
individual castes are usually small and found in the relevant chaptersin Frankeland Rao's two-volume work on state politics:
widely dispersed, as well as poor, the Orissa, describedin detail by Mohanty(1990) as still dominatedby brahmansand karans(scribes,
lower castes find it difficult to develop a comparablewith kayasthas in northernIndia).
common sense of identity or to assert Rajasthan,dominatedby rajputs,as indeed it remainsto the present(see the articleby Jenkins 1998
which shows how even the jats in the state, an important'middle' caste, in Church's terms, have
muchpoliticalpoweron theirown. (These) been kept out of power).
lower castes are the last stratum to be Madhya Pradesh is not included in Frankel and Rao's volumes, perhaps because, as Christophe
brought into politics ... [Church 1984: Jaffrelot has noted recently, traditionaldominance by princes and upper castes was still not in
230-31;emphasis mine]. decline in thatstate at the time at which Frankel-Raoand theirco-authorswere writing, in the mid-
1980s - indeed it hardly is today [Jaffrelot 1998: 40].
Church went on to argue that by the Andhra Pradesh is perhapsmore clearly placed in category B than Maharashtra.Andhrapolitics
1960s ''the only people systematically were still dominatedmainly by reddys, and in some of the coastal districts by kammas, in a way
excluded from a share of political which was comparable with Marathadominance in Maharashtra.But, Ram Reddy notes, "The
representation and policy benefits were Congress Party [in Andhra]underthe direction of IndiraGandhi [and her satrap,P V Narasimha
the castes below the middle castes and Rao, as chief minister]succeeded to a substantialextent in weakeningthe hold of the rich peasantry
above the Scheduled Castes" and that as over the 'vote banks' providedby the poor peasants and landless [this is analysed in detail in the
ethnographicaccount of MargueriteRobinson (1988)]", so thatwhen IndiraGandhiwas defeated
people from these groups sought a larger nationwide in 1977 after the period of emergency rule, "in AndhraPradeshthe JanataPartycould
share in state power, they encountered not make a dent in.her hold over the poorer sections. The backward castes and the harijans
resistance or attempts at co-optation on continued to identify Mrs Gandhi with the poor, while the dominant agriculturalcastes aligned
the part of dominant groups (from the themselves with the Janata. The Congress victory, with the support of the weaker sections,
indicatedan increasingsocial polarisationboth along caste and class lines" [Reddy in Frankeland
upperand middle castes): "This is evident
in new levels of violence and corruption, Rao 1989:284].
Tamil Nadu: Here the Congress lost control in 1967, ceding power to the Dravida Munnetra
in populist appeals to the 'poor', in calls
Karzagham, a regional party which propagated Tamil cultural nationalism, and which was
for law and order, in the emergence of successful in mobilising lower castes againstTamil Nadu's relatively fragmenteddominantcastes.
regionalism, in struggles over reservations Punjab: While each of these major states presents a distinctive political history, Punjabarguably
for the 'backward classes', and in the constitutes a case apartwhich cannot be incorporatedinto the three main categories which have
efforts of political parties to recruit been distinguished.The structureof dominancearoundbrahmans/kshstriyaswhich prevailedover
most of India was not strongly developed here, because of the importanceof Sikhism. Punjabwas
representatives from lower castes" [this also strongly affected by social reform movements with anti-brahmanicalovertones, in the later
and the previous quotation, Church 1984:
19th/early20th centuries.So it has not been a state with an 'uppercaste/class dominatedCongress
231]. This powerful statement has proven regime'. Moder Punjabpolitics are fundamentallyinfluenced by the relations of Sikhs, who are
remarkably accurate, and it applies to predominantin ruralpartsof the state, and Hindus who, although they only make up a little more
Indian politics in the 1990s, as well as to than a thirdof the whole population,are numericallydominantin urbanareas. Politics have been
the 1980s. dominated since independence by competition between a strong Sikh-based regional party, the
The lower castes have mobilised, or Akali Dal, and Congress, both of them subject to intense factionalism,with the communist parties
and Hindu nationalistJan Sangh/BJPalso playing significant roles. It is said that "Elite (Sikh) Jat
have been mobilised politically in several dominanceunderthe hegemony of successful landownersis one importantdimension of the Akali
different ways: (i) as 'poor people', held Dal" [P Wallace in FrankelandRao 1990: 456]. In termsof Church'sdefinitions it can be described
to have interestsin common with scheduled as a 'middle' caste dominatedparty.Some poorerSikhs, including Sikh artisans,and certainlythe
castesandtribes;(ii) throughstatusappeals, Sikh Scheduled Castes (who make up close to 30 per cent of the population),have generally been
when a hard-pressed upper caste group inclined to support the Congress, which has also been supported by some of the town-based
seeks to recruittheir support (as happened Hindus, others of whom have supportedthe Jan Sangh/BJP. The communist parties have won
in thekshatriyamovement in Gujarat,when supportfrom "marginal(Sikh) farmersratherthan landless labourers"[P Wallace in Frankeland
Rao 1990: 446]. The Akali Dal has usually had to pursuea strategyof accommodationwith Hindus
rajputkshatriyawere preparedto concede in orderto secure and hbld office, and has commonly enteredinto alliance with the JanSangh/BJP
'kshatriya' status to hitherto low-ranking (as indeed it has done at the nationallevel within the loose coalitions which have kept the BJP in
kolis in order to increase their political office in central governmentafter the 1998 general election). The effect has been to exclude those
clout), or when it is sought to establish who would be referredto in terms of the schema proposed here as 'lower castes/classes' from
links between middle and lower castes as significantpolitical participation;and it is thoughtthatthe movement led by Bhindranwale,which
fellow membersof the 'backwardclasses' ;5 brought civil war to the state in the 1980s, appealed to poor Sikhs as well as to educated
unemployed youth.
(iii) by emphasising the regional 3 Haryana,Himachal Pradesh,Jammuand Kashmirand Assam, amongst the majorstates, are not
community(throughappeals, forexample, considered here.
to 'We Telugus' or 'We Bengalis'). Such Source: Church (1984).

Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999 3369

attempts,however, to unite the lower castes of a 'risky business' with potentially very Weiner studied local Congress organis-
with those above them are inherently high returns. Though many of the early ation in the 1960s, reported that he could
problematical because of real differences legislators were extraordinarilyprincipled find little active 'organisation' to speak
in economic interests. The lower castes and personally austere, not all were, and of, at all. The same is true of other political
may be won by populist appeals (as Indira the prospect thatthe Congress would form parties, as well [see for example, Manor's
Gandhi sought to) "but they can also be ministries in 1937, under the Government comments on the JanataDal in Karataka;
drawnto more radical alternatives, as well of India Act, had already brought in many Manor 1998]. Interventions by central
as to the regional parties. The net effect new members,attractedby the possibilities government in state-level politics, which
is to make political coalitions more fluid of government patronage. The Congress have increased in frequency as part of
and to add a new element of uncertainty party machine which exercised largely these developments, have also contributed
to party politics" [Church 1984: 233]. unchallenged authority, both at the centre significantly to political instability.
Aroundthe early-middle 1980s, Church and in the states, for the first 30 years of The outstandingly successful political
argued,the patternsof politics in different independent India, was always oiled by parties of the last quarter-century have
states could be understood in terms the patronage - the exchange of offices, jobs been the CPI(M) in West Bengal and
extent and mode of political participation and access to public resources for the Kerala, the Jan Sangh/BJP in parts of
of the lower castes: "First, there are those mobilisation of electoral support, or 'the north India, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra,
states in which lower castes have achieved loaves and the fishes of offices andjobs', and the DMK/ADMK in Tamil Nadu.
positions of power in the legislature and as Ashok Mehta memorably put it - rather These parties, while they have certainly
government and where governmentpolicy thananorganisationdependentupon active not always been above the games of patro-
to some extent addresses the concerns of cadres. It is by these means that 'political nage andcorruption,6do have organisation
thepoor(my emphasis; JH). These include accommodationism', referred to earlier - and (less so, latterly, in the case of the
West Bengal, Gujarat,Karnataka,Kerala selective inclusion, designed to build DMK/ADMK) coherent ideology (crude
and (perhaps to a lesser extent) Maha- coalitions of support - has been made to though this may seem to outsiders to be,
rashtra. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar remain work. But increasingly,throughthe history in the case of Shiv Sena especially). An
states where the lower castes have made of independent India, political office has important influence, therefore, upon
little progress. Second, among states in been sought in order to derive rents in regime differences at state level is the
which the lower castes have made the various forms. extent to which states have been governed
most progress, there are those in which the One of the concomitants of these general by these parties. The DMK/ADMK in
Congress has taken the initiative in features of the Indian political system is Tamil Nadu, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra,
recruiting the lower castes and bringing that there is competition for 'the spoils of and the Telugu Desam in AndhraPradesh,
change" (1984: 236-37). Thus Church office'. Large majorities are often not a are - in the Indian context - relatively
proposed a typology of political regimes guarantee of a stable and secure govern- 'strong' parties, with frankly regional
in different states, in the early 1980s (see ment, because it is then more difficult for agendas and organisations. But in practice
Table 1). those in power to satisfy the aspirations the CPI(M) in West Bengal and Kerala,
Before proceeding to extend this frame- of all their supporters. There is a built-in and the BJP in the north Indian states in
work to take account of political develop- tendency towards factionalism - com- which it is most strong, where it has
ments in the last 15 years, it is important petition between groups led by particular established distinctive regional versions
to take account of other factors which individuals who are in pursuit of personal of the overall ideology of hindutva [see
make for differences between political gain and personal differences, ratherthan for the BJP in Maharashtra,Hansan 1996,
regimes:ideology, leadership,organisation being divided from each other ideo- 1998; Rajasthan, Jenkins 1998], function
and stability (all aspects of the institu- logically. Ideology, indeed, counts for like regional parties, as has the JanataDal
tionalisation of politics). In the Indian rather little in this political system. And in Karnatakaand Orissa. It is significant
case, all of these are affected by certain there is no major state which has not - and refers back to the initial discussion
general (national) tendencies of politics experiencedperiodsof instabilityas a result above, distinguishing between regimes in
and governance. Firstly, although much of factional in-fighting in ruling parties. terms of the extent and mode of parti-
policy analysis seems to operate with the Changes of government, in this context, cipation by lower castes/classes - that as
implicitassumptionsthatthe Indianstate(s) most emphatically, often mean nothing Partha Chatterjee has put it: "The more
corresponds with the model of rational- more than a reshuffling of personnel, and the processes of democracy have deepened
legal authority, and that it is engaged in have absolutely no ideological or policy in India, the more has its centre of gravity
rational problem-solving in the common implications. moved downwards ... (and that) ... Today,
interest, the reality is of course very Another aspect of the spoils is that there are numerous groups that are able
different.It is a notoriousfact thatpolitical political parties are but weakly institu- to make their demands heard in the demo-
life in India has become increasingly tionalised (they are not dependent upon cratic arena ...". But there are differences,
criminalised andis in thrallto those whom active cadres but rather on the prospect still, in these respects, between states.
Chatterjeedescribes as "self-seeking and or the actualityof thedistributionof spoils). A few words more on idea of the
unprincipled political speculators", for This is a problem which has grown pro- 'accommodationism'in Indianpolitics [the
whom "politics is ... a business, like gressively worse, as many commentators following has been stimulated by Jenkins
speculating in share markets ... a risky have remarked, since Indira Gandhi, in 1996]. This can be viewed eitherpositively
business where you can go bust all of a pursuing her struggle for ascendancy over or negatively, or - perhaps more sensibly
sudden, but where you can also make a the old leadership of the Congress Party - as having positive as well as negative
fortuneif things go all right"(1997[ 1991 ]: in the late 1960s and 1970s, rather sys- aspects.Froma radicalperspective 'accom-
213-14). Though the extent of outright tematically broke up the old Congress modation' means at best fudge and
criminality has steadily increased, Indian machine. Atul Kohli (1996), revisiting in tokenism, if not deliberate manipulation
politics has always had the characteristics the 1980s places in which the late Myron to head-off pressureforthe thorough-going

3370 Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999

structuralchanges which are necessary for placidity and civility of Rajasthanpolitics Mohanty argues that "a brahman-karan
the empowerment of poor, exploited and will be rocked by the 'power-drive' of the middle class dominates society andpolitics
oppressedpeople. But accommodationcan agriculturalcastes, while bound to arrive, in contemporaryOrissa" (1990: 321); and
also be considered positively, as part of is difficult to predict" (1990: 53). It has that "The failure of caste associations or
a gradual process of change which may still not come. Jaffrelot's work on politics opposition parties to pave the way for the
lead to greaterequity and inhibit violence, in Madhya Pradesh (1998), similarly, autonomous politicisation of the lower
in a context in which radical change is shows the continuing pre-eminence of castes ... facilitated the continuation of
politically infeasible (this is more or less brahmans, rajputs and banias in both the upper caste control over major political
what the authors of Redistribution With BJP and the Congress in that state, though parties" [Mohanty in Frankel and Rao
Growth argued in the 1970s, of course). it seems that part of the reason for the 1990]. The numericalstrengthof scheduled
The standard works on the political success of Congress in retaining office in castes and tribes in the population of the
economy of India,those of PranabBardhan the state is that the party, under Digvijay state "could not be exploited by the left
(1984) and of Francine Frankel (1978), Singh's leadership, has been successful in parties ... conservative elements could
converge around the view that political incorporatingsome from the lower castes, manage to receive their [the SCs'/STs']
accommodationhas frustratedthe projects and members of the scheduled tribes (who political support ... (and) despite their
both of rapid economic growth and of makeup one-fifthof the state's population). visible presence in the state and the
human development in India, and Paul This is thecontext, too, of some progressive legislature they have not emerged as an
Brass, in his survey of Indian politics, measures in education and local self- independent political force" [Misra 1989:
arguesthat"'accommodativepolitics' have government in the recent past. Previously 254]. Left-wing parties have never won
failed and cannot succeed in the face of the Congress in MP had a long history of much support outside small pockets. The
growing class antagonisms in the factionalism, and the longest single period most outstanding political leader from
countryside andthe increasing dominance in office of any CM, before Digvijay Singh, Orissa has been the late Biju Patnaik, who
of India's 'proprietary classes"' (1990: was that of Arjun Singh (between 1980 maintained a political following in oppo-
246). This last assessment seems to have and 1985). The most significant changes sition to Congress for over two decades,
been falsified by events in the decade of party regime in these two states are widening the social base of electoral
since it was written, but it will be argued those which have taken place in the 1990s. politics and mobilising the rising 'agrarian
here that there are significant differences (2) Orissa: Orissa has features in middle class', as Mohanty describes it,
between states in the extent to which ac- common with these two states. It too was including notably khandayats,numerically
commodative politics still work, and in partially constituted by former princely the largest single caste group, and who
their modalities.7 states, and like MP it has a high proportion should probablybe considered as 'middle'
We are now in a position to attempt to of scheduled tribes within its population. caste [in terms of Church's definitions;
extend and develop the framework first The princes of Orissa seem to have been and see Mitra 1982]. Biju Patnaik led the
worked out by Church (see Table 2). less successful in retainingpolitical power, Janata Dal government of Orissa after
A (ii): States where upper caste/class but the right wing parties, initially 1990, before losing office again to
dominance has persisted - (1) MP and Swatantra- to which some of the princes Congress in 1995. The politics of Orissa
Rajasthan: These are both constituted gravitatedandwhich took partin a coalition have had an unusually strong personal
largely by former princely states and in government after 1967 - and later the Jan element, and party contests have been
both some of the former rulers have Sangh/BJP, have long been influential. governed by intra-elite competition.
remained politically powerful. They are
states, too, in which right wing parties - TABLE2: TYPOLOGY
Swatantrain the 1960s, and the Jan Sangh,
Category Characteristics States
later BJP - have traditional base. The Jan
Sangh shared office in Madhya Pradesh, A(i) States in which upper caste/class dominance-as persisted and Madhya Pradesh
briefly, as early as 1967, establishing a Congress has remainedstrong in the context of a stable two-party Orissa, Rajasthana
system [ 'traditionaldominance' ratherthan politics of
pattern of two-party competition at an accommodationvis-a-vis lower classes]
early stage; and the party led the Janata
government in Rajasthan after 1977. The A(ii) States in which upper caste/class dominance has been effectively Bihar,
BJP took office in both states in 1990, and challenged by middle castes/classes, and Congress supporthas Uttar Pradesha
retained it in 1993 (after a period of collapsed in the context of fracturedand unstable party
president's rule, following the demolition competition [both 'dominance' and the politics of accommodation
of the Babri masjid at Ayodhya in 1992) have broken down]
in Rajasthan (until 1998, when the party B States with middlecaste/classdominatedregimes,where the Congress Andhra Pradesh,
lost) thoughnot in MadhyaPradesh(where has been effectively challenged but has not collapsed, and there is Gujarat,
the party lost again to Congress in 1998). fairly stable and mainly two-partycompetition [the politics of Karnataka,
Neitherstate has offered much opportunity accommodationvis-a-vis lower class interests have continued to Maharashtra,
for left-wing political parties or their work effectively, most effectively in Maharashtraand Karnataka, Punjab?b
least effectively in Gujarat]
ideologies. Political leadership in
Rajasthanwas divided between brahmans, C States in which lower castes/classes are more strongly represented Kerala,
rajputs,and jats, and the state assemblies in political regimes where the Congress lost its dominance at an e Tamil Nadu,
dominated by these three groups, and the arly stage West Bengalc
scheduled castes, Jenkins has shown how
Notes: a: These five states are classified as 'low income states'.
the BJP has been a vehicle for extending b: AP and Karnatakaare 'middle income states', and Punjab,Gujaratand Maharashtraare
rajput dominance (1998). Narain and 'high income states'.
Mathurremarkedthat "The day when the c: These three states are 'middle income states'.

Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999 3371

Latterly the Congress and Patnaik's population);thepatidarsof Gujarat(about especially,successfulindustrialists,who
following(whichhaspassedsubstantially 12 percent);thelingayatsandvokkaligas have pursuedeffective strategiesof ac-
to his son Navin, now leaderof the Biju of Karnataka (who togetherconstitute30 commodationof the lower caste/classe
JanataDal, which is in alliancewith the per cent or so of the population);andthe interests,assistedin this by the fact that
BJP)havecompetedfor power,operating marathasin Maharashtra (30 per cent or though those described as 'backward
fromthe same social base, and, "Mono- so of the populationof the state).Thejat castes' makeup about50 per cent of the
polisingthecompetitivearenathey(have) Sikhs, similarly,constitutemorethan20 population in the districts of Andhra
pre-empted alternative popularforcesfrom percentof thepopulationof Punjab.Upper Pradesh,theyarealsounevenlydistributed
acquiring politicalsignificance"[Mohanty castes (brahmins,baniasand kshatriyas) anddividedinto a largenumberof small
in Frankeland Rao 1990]. It is unlikely, havebeensignificantin thepoliticsof all groups. "In its actual functioning, the
here,thatchangesof party-regimeareof fourstates,butmoreso in Gujarat,where practiceof politicalaccommodationtook
any great significancefor policy or its brahminsandbaniasgenerallydominated on an ad hoc and expedientcharacterin
implementation. therulingCongressPartyuptoandthrough responseto the variousclaims raisedby
A (ii): States where upper caste/class the 1960s[Wood1984].Inallthesestates, competingsocialgroups.Radicalpolitics
dominancehas been effectively challenged thedominant'middle'castes(andtheupper [in a state in which communistswere
- (1) BiharandUttarPradesharethe core castes) have been challengedby lower initiallypowerful- it was thoughtlikely
statesof the 'Hindiheartland',wherethe castes,or theyhaveaccommodated lower thatthe CPIwouldformthe firstgovern-
uppercastes are much more numerous. caste aspirations,butthe politicalgripof ment of the state after its formationin
The CongressParty in both states was the 'middle'castes has remainedstrong, 1956] were therebyavoidedand amelio-
dominatedby membersof these upper thoughperhapsin varyingdegrees.They rative measurespursued"[this and the
castes. About UP, Zoya Hasan writes, arealso statesin whichthe BJPnow has following quotations from Reddy in
"fromtheoutsettherulingpartyrestricted a significantpresence,whichis important FrankelandRao 1989:265]. The politics
the access of lowercastes to positionsin in relationto theconcernsof thisanalysis of patronage(in which "Theunderlying
government,and successive Congress especiallybecauseof thewayin whichthe assumptionwas that every aspirantto
regimesweredominatedby uppercastes- partyhas mobilisedsupportwhichcross- power had his price ...", p 265) gave way,
classes.Uppercastedominationprovided cuts middleclasses and some groupsof as a resultof the policies adoptedin the
the frameworkof politicalbondingin a low caste/classpeople, thoughnot in a 1970s under the inspirationof Indira
fragmented society" (1998: 19). But way whichpromisesto deliververymuch Gandhi to a populist strategy, which
'middle'caste,in ourterms,'OtherBack- to the latter.The strengthof the BJP is continuedto winherandherpartysupport
ward Classes' (OBCs) have become evidentin Gujarat,whereit cameto power in the state even in the aftermathof the
politically powerfulin both states; the in 1995andhasbeenin office, thoughnot emergency(as noted above). But by the
Congress party has very substantially withoutinternalconvulsions,for muchof end of the 1970s resentmentsbuilt up
destroyeditself,afterrulingeachstatefor the time since then, and in Maharashtra, amongsthighercaste groupsbecauseof
most of the time from independenceup whereit also held office, in alliancewith what was perceived as the tilt towards
to 1989/1990,andno longerhas muchof Shiv Sena,from1995untilOctober1999. scheduled castes and "the rural poor
anelectoralbase;andpoliticsin eachstate TheBJP'selectoralstrengthinbothAndhra themselvesbecame divided along caste
is fragmented,and bitterly contested Pradesh,whereit won 18 per cent of the lines. Finally, the break-downin client-
betweenformationswhichderivefromthe vote and 4/42 seats in the 1998 general patronrelationsat the local level resulted
Lok Dal, in which OBCs are strong,the election,but has virtuallyno presencein in the failureof politicalcommunication
BJP, to which the upper castes have thestateassembly,andinKamataka, where andcreateda void whichwentunfilledin
gravitatedbutwhichseeks, as elsewhere, it won 27 percentof the vote in 1998and the absenceof any new grassrootsparty
to win supportfromlowercastes as well, became the second largestparty in the organisation"(p 285). Youth, educated
and dalit-based parties (notably the stateassemblyin 1994,albeitwitha much middleclasses,membersof 'lower'castes
Bahujan SamajParty,oneof whoseleaders, smallershareof thevotethantheCongress, and Kammaindustrialistsalike went in
Mayawati, becamethefirstscheduledcaste is muchless secure.Manorarguesthatthe searchof analternativeto Congress.Then
womanto hold the chief ministershipof prospectsof the BJP in Kamatakastill intheearly1980sIndiraGandhi'sfrequent
a majorstate,in a brief tenurein UP in dependratheron the self-destructionof interventionsin Andhrapolitics, and a
1995).The ruleof law has brokendown the Congressand the JanataDal thanon rapid succession of ineffectual chief
to a greaterextentin Biharthanelsewhere its ownefforts,andthattheBJP'sorganis- ministers,builtupresentments whichwere
in India,but the home ministerof India ation"hasalwaysbeenfarless strongand successfully exploited by the film star
wenton recordin theLokSabhain March extensiveinKarnataka thanitscounterparts N T Rama Rao, who establisheda new
1997 to statethatUP is movingtowards innorthern andwesternIndia"(1998:194). political party,the Telugu Desam Party
'anarchy,chaos and destruction'. Thesejudgmentswere confirmedduring (TDP), and - steppinginto the political
B: States with 'middle' caste/class the 1999 Lok Sabhaand VidhanSabha vacuum created by the decline of the
dominated regimes: There are of course electionsinthestate.TheBJPis alsolikely Congress,and the 'void' at local level -
many differencesbetween these states. to remaina minorforce,in Manor'sview, won office in the statein 1983 [see also
But they are alike in having powerful inAndhraPradesh,thoughtheperformance Kohli 1988,andVakil 1990,whoconfirm
'middle' castes/classes - numerically of the partyin the 1998 generalelection the analysisgiven by Ram Reddy].One
significant,locally dominantcastes, but showed that it has finally arrivedin the charismatic leader (NTR) effectively
whosedominanceextendsoverwideareas, state. replacedanother(IndiraGandhi),butlater
and which have generally exercised (1) AndhraPradesh:Thepoliticsof this was a nationalleader while the former
pervasivepolitical influence:the reddys state has continuedto be dominatedby regional:"It was (NTR's) charismathat
andkammasof AndhraPradesh(whomake 'forwardcaste'reddysandkammas,major dominatedthe electoralscene, rendering
up, together, about 20 per cent of the landholdersandin thecaseof thekammas most of the organisedpolitical parties

3372 Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999

irrelevant"(p 286). The TDP offered 'to charismaticleader,Chandrababu Naidu, ShahandWoodhavenoted,thattherewas
restorethe dignityof the Telugupeople'. is underthreatas the schemehasbeencut alsoadiscrepancybetweenpoliticalpower
The policies it proposed were frankly down in response to the World Bank and social dominancein the state. The
populist(notablypromisingrice at Rs 2 conditionality.In sum, continuityin the economy was dominatedby brahmans,
perkilo), andattemptedto accommodate dominance of 'middle' caste/class baniasand patidars,but political power
youth, women and the 'lower' castes/ interests,butthe populistprogrammesof was held mainly by rajput and koli
classes - indicating"the continuity in the TDP mayrepresenta significantshift kshatriyas, and Wood remarked, in-
politicalstyle".Indeedthe interimbudget within the regime. sightfully, that "The haves, possessing
passed by the TDP immediatelyafter it (2) Gujarat:The more complex caste- social andeconomicpowerbutexcluded
cameto powershiftedfromirrigationand class structureof this statehas madefor from access to political power in the
power development,which received an politics which are even more Byzantine Congress-I,appearto have nowhereto
increasedoutlay of only 6 per cent, to thanis usual in India.GhanshyamShah turnexcepttohopelesslyweakanddivided
socialandcommunityservices,on which comments,"thesocialsituationin Gujarat oppositionparties,ortolawlessbehaviour"
trfeoutlaywas increasedby 30 per cent is not quite clear. Caste as a social (1984: 221). He anticipatedthe violence
[see Pai 1996]. The continuitiesin the organisation ... is crumbling, though not and turbulent conflict which have
leadership of thedominant'middle'castes/ disappearing.At the same time caste characterisedGujarat'spolitics in the
classes is shown in studies of the com- sentimentsprevailin the intra-classcon- 1980s.But the 'haves'did find a partyto
positionof the stateassemblyand of the flictsamongthepoorfarmers,agricultural turnto by the end of the decade, in the
statecabinet(thoughit is truethatkammas labourersand industrialworkers[in this BJP. Accordingto Shah's accountof it
weremorestronglyrepresentedunderthe relativelyhighlyindustrialised statewith (1998), first the Jan Sanghand then the
TDP - NTR was himselfa kamma),and particularlyextensive commercialagri- BJP have pursueda long-runstrategyof
the representationof members of the culture]as well as the rich peasantsand building supportin Gujarat,seeking to
'lower'castes/classesinlocalgovernment business class. While differentclasses incorporatedalits(scheduledcastes)and
has beenonly gradual.RamReddysums cuttingacrosscasteboundariesarebeing OBCs (lower castes in our terminology)
up:"Whilethe partiesin powerchanged, formed,classconsciousnessas suchis yet underuppercaste leadership."Theparty
the stabilityof the polity continued.The to develop.Thissituationworksin favour hasputthedalit,tribalandOBCmembers
successof apartyseemedto lie in building of theupperclassesof thedominantcastes in the forefrontin various campaigns"
a strongandcharismatic personalityonthe in perpetuatingtheir hold over society" (1998:257), fieldingsignificantnumbers
onehandandcarryingoutpopulistpolicies (1990: 111). The state does not fit so of OBC candidates in state assembly
on the other,capableof appealingto a clearlyintothecategoryof 'a middlecaste elections,whilstatthesametimecontriving
broadspectrumof disadvantaged groups. dominated regime' as do Andhra, neveractivelyto supportjob reservations
[No newpartyorganisationcouldbe built Karnatakaand Maharashtra,because for them.And in 1991 as manyas 63 per
to substitutehorizontalmobilisationof membersof the uppercastes- brahmans cent, still, of the state and districtlevel
thepoorforverticalpatronclientnetworks andespeciallybanias,as well as patidars leaderswerefromuppercastes(brahmans,
...(which)... contributed to excessive - a classic 'middle' caste in Church's banias)and the patidars.After the BJP
dependenceon a singlecharismaticleader terms,exercisinglocaldominancein parts took power in the state in 1995 it was
and increasingcentralisationof power; of thestate,and'kshatriyas'- whoinclude rapidlysplitby a conflictbetweenleaders
p287].As the politicsof accommodation both rajputsand some kolis, the most whichseemedto reflecttraditional rivalry
appeared tobreakdownbecauseof itsown numerous caste group of the state between patidarsand rajputs-cum-kolis.
social contradictions[not all groups or (accountingfor arounda quarterof the Shankarsinh Vaghela,himselfa rajputbut
aspirantstopowercanpossiblybesatisfied] population),who includelarge numbers witha base amongstkolis, brokeawayto
another party emerged with a new of small and marginal farmers, and formthe RashtriyaJanataParty,ruledfor
charismaticleader and more expansive agricultural labourers,andcanbe defined a time with Congresssupportand "tried
populistpolicies"(p 291). Sure enough as 'lower'caste,have all vied for power. with some success to emergeas a leader
NTR's TDP, thoughit retainedoffice in As Wood argued(1984) the Congress-I of the OBCsin Gujarat"[Shah:in Franke
1985aftera badlybungledattemptby the wassuccessfulinthe 1980sinestablishing land Rao 1998: 265]. But in the state
Congress governmentat the centre to a powerbase by deployingthe so-called electionsin 1998thepolarisationon caste
removehim, lost in the state in 1989 to 'KHAM'strategywhichwaspresentedby lines which Vaghelaanticipateddid not
the Congress,even thoughby this stage its own advocatesin the partyas a way occurandtheBJPwonwidespreadsupport
RajivGandhi'scharismahadwornrather of 'uplifting'disadvantagedmembersof in a comprehensive victory (Vaghela
thin.TheCongressgovernmentinthestate society. 'KHAM' refers to 'kshatriya' subsequentlymergedthe RJPwith Con-
was thendefeatedin turnin 1994 by the including lower caste kolis, harijan gress, arguing - curiously for one so
TDP,whichwasableto highlighttheissue (scheduledcastes- around7 per cent of recentlya leaderof theBJP- thathisparty
of the distributionaleffects of the fiscal the population), 'Adivasis' (scheduled had no ideological differences with
reformswhichwereby thenbeingimple- tribes- around18 percent),andMuslims Congress). The currentchief minister,
mentedin the country.The issue of sub- (another8 percent or more).Thusit was KeshubhaiPatel,is now perceived,how-
sidisedrice was centrallyimportant.The thatChurchdefinedGujaratas a statein ever, as favouringpatidarsat the cost of
cheaprice scheme had been effectively which lower castes/classes had been 'lower' castes, and there are reportsof
run by the TDP before 1989, and the recruitedinto Congressregimes,though troublein the rulingpartyfor this reason
recordof the Congressin runningit was it was alreadyclear that the 'KHAM' (Frontline, June 18, 1999).
perceivedas poor, not least becausethe strategyhadexacerbateddivisionswithin Insum,thereis littleevidenceto suggest
price had been increasedfrom Rs 2 to each of its constituentgroups,with the thatlowercastes/classeshave won much
Rs 3.50 per kilo. Now the futureof the worse-offamongstthembeing excluded politicalgroundin Gujarat,andthecurrent
TDP, under a new and somewhat from benefits.But it did mean, as both ascendancyof the BJPis foundedon 'the

Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999 3373

upperclassesof thedominantcastes'.But His view was that as a result of these organisational setting ... it has an
regimeshiftsoccurredin the later 1970s eventsin theearly1980s,it was no longer incompatible leadership structure
and 1980s in the periodof the 'KHAM' possible for any single social force to emanatingmainlyfromdiscreteandpre-
strategyandagainin the mid-1990swith dominate Karnatakapolitics, and he existing political backgrounds [The
the assumptionof powerby the BJP,and (correctly,as it has turnedout) foresaw recurrent conflictsbetweenthetopleaders
therealignmentof economicandpolitical thatpolitics in Karnatakamightbecome of the JanataParty,later JanataDal in
power. increasinglyunstable. Karataka - Hegde, Bommai and Deve
(3) Karataka:Thepoliticsof Karataka The local dominanceof lingayatsand Gowda, a brahman,a lingayat and a
has been describedby Manoras a state vokkaligasmay have persisted- this is vokkaliga,respectively,- bear out this
witha conservativesocialorder,in which quiteclearlyshownbyRayandKumpatla's point].TheJanataPartyhasnoideological
"thedisparitiesinwealth,statusandpower analysisof thesocialbackgrounds of zilla commitmentto the poor;its ideologycan
havenot been so severe as to undermine parishad presidents inthemid-1980s,under be spelled out only in terms of some
thecomparativecohesivenessof society" the Janatagovernmentof the state(1987) generalities like democracy and de-
(1989: 323). Later, he argues that this - buttheywerenolongerdominant,Manor centralisation.The hold of the dominant
'cohesion'"rootedin small peasantpro- maintained,as they had been at supra- landowningcastesinthepartyis enormous.
prietorship"(p 331), has been dominated local levels. He considered that "The Its policies and programmes are not
by lingayatsand vokkaligas.Congress problemof the Hegdegovernment[after thereforeintendedto imperilthe entren-
administrationsled by vokkaligas and 1983] was not thatthey favouredlocally ched interestsof thepropertiedclassesas
lingayatsin the 1950s and 1960s aresaid dominant groups but that they risked a whole ..." [Ray and Kumpatla 1987:
to have carried out 'modest reforms', spreadingtheir resourcestoo thinly by 1830]. Manor,and Kohli, in the light of
offering modest concessions to poorer distributing largesse to nearly every their commentarieson the Urs' govern-
groups[thoughit is possible thatManor sizeablegroupin the state"(1989: 357). ment,mightwellarguethatthisis precisely
has latterlyover-emphasisedthe effec- SrinivasandPanninihadbeeneven more thepoint:thesewereregimeswhichwere
tivenessof the land reformsof 1961, as positiveaboutthe characterof the Hegde able to pursue modestly progressive
well as those carriedout in the times of government, suggesting that it had agendasbecause- pursuingthe politics
the Urs administration in the 1970s: see "restoredthe bias thatUrs gave to rural of accommodationthey took a pragmatic
Damle 1989]. But by the late 1960s the upliftandpovertyeradication" (1984:73). attitudetowardspropertiedclasses.But it
solidarity of 'lingayat raj' was being Ray and Kumpatla,however,foundthat has yet to be demonstratedthat they
undermined by frustrations overaccessto in local governmentthe representation of achievedlastingbenefitsforpoorerpeople
patronage. ThisassistedDevarajUrs' rise lingayatsandvokkaligaswasgreaterunder in Karnataka(and, it would seem, from
to power,whichinvolvedmobilisationof Hegde thanit had been in Urs' time and the studies of Minhas-Jain-Tendulkar
lowercaste/classgroupsin the 1970s.But held thatbecausethe Janatagovernment (1987) and Datt-Ravallion(1998), that
Urs'regime,describedas 'progressive'by had neitherthe will nor the capacityto they did not). The 1994 elections to the
Manor(1980) and after him by Kohli, challengelocalpowerholders"thenewly state assembly in which lingayats and
lackedorganisational foundationsanddid createdpowerful[panchayatiraj]system vokkaligaswon, respectively,29 and 24
not endure.Neitherdoes it seem - in the of democraticdecentralisation is unlikely percentof the seats,showthepersistence
lightof subsequentevents -that Urssowed to create substantialgains for the rural of theirinfluence(see alsoHaroldGould's
the seedsof radicalchangein Karnataka poor"(1987: 1825), a finding which is analysis( 1997)of theJanataDalelectoral
societyin theway in whichM N Srinivas broadlysubstantiated byManor'sownlater strategyin thegeneralelectionsin thestate
and M N Panninisuggestedwhen they workon panchayatirajin Karnataka, with in 1996, which confirmsthe point.
wrote,"Hesucceededinmakingthepoorer RichardCrook.Crookand Manorargue Insum,it is notclearthat'middle'caste/
sectionsrealise that in a democracynot that decentralisationin Karnatakahas class dominance has been shaken in
only shouldthe governmentworkfor the improved political participation and Karnataka, orthatlowercastes/classeshave
welfareof thepoorbutalso thatit should governmentperformance,but, they say exercisedsomevoice in the way thatthey
berunbythem"(1984:73). TheCongress- "Even(this) the most successfulof our haveinAndhraandinGujarat. Itis possible
I wasrestoredto powerin 1980,underthe cases showed little evidence of having that both the Urs and the JanataParty/
leadershipof GunduRao,who proceeded beenparticularly responsiveto 'vulnerable JanataDal regimeshavebeen more'pro-
to governwith such bunglingineptitude groups', the poor or the marginalised" poor' than others, but it has yet to be
(Manorsaves his most cuttinglanguage (1998: 301). In Karnatakathere was no shown that - if this was so - they have
forGunduRao)as to alienate"avastarray mechanism or political process for had much effect.
of importantsocial groups"who then, in checkingtheexerciseof localpower,such (4) Maharashtra: JayantLele, who has
January1983"astonished Indiabyrejecting as might be supplied,they imply - a la written extensively on Maharashtra
a Congressgovernment forthefirsttime". Kohli - by dominancein the political politics,says of the marathasthat"Inno
Accordingto Manor"Becauseso many system of a leftist party.We shouldnot other state do we find an ideologically
alienated groups had turned to the then "expectdemocraticdecentralisation guided and economicallydifferentiated
opposition,the Janatagovernmentwhich in India to assist in povertyalleviation casteclusterof thissize"(1990: 180);and
took power in 1983 contained repre- overthe shortto mediumterm,unlessthe RobertJenkinssums up Lele's views on
sentativesof nearlyeveryimportant social centralisedsystemis dominatedby aleftist the politics of the state as follows: "the
forcein thestate.Despiteill-informedand party"[CrookandManor1998:77]. The Marathacaste clusterhas constructeda
quite unsubstantiated cliches in sections Urs regime,andsubsequentlytheJanata/ systemof elite-pluralist hegemony,which
of the Indian press, lingayats and Janata Dal failed (pace Srinivas and subsumesmanyunprivilegedmembersof
vokkaligashave not succeededin domi- Pannini)to bringaboutradicalchangein that caste cluster as well as other dis-
nating that government"[this and the Karnataka politics:"Hegde,likeUrs,heads advantagedcastes, and has cut short a
precedingquotationsManor1989:356]. a partywhichhas a loose ideologicaland 'coalitionof the disadvantaged'... this

3374 Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999

system is flexible enough to respondto in 1995, thoughits social characterwas noneof themhas'middle'castesextending
most challengesof change"(1996: 210, changedin otherways. Marathastrength localdominanceoverwideareas,as is the
note 12). Dalits have been more con- wasmaintained - butthekindsofmarathas case with the marathas,the reddysor the
tinuouslyorganisedin Maharashtra than who won were differentfromthose who lingayatsand vokkaligas.In all the three
has beenthe case elsewherein India,and hadheldseatsin previousassemblies.The statestherearestrongindicationsof higher
in consequenceperhapsthere has been MarathaMahaSangh(acasteassociation) levels of political mobilisation and
more'generous'accommodation of elites allied with the Shiv Sena, but successful participation by 'lower'castes/classesthan
fromthescheduledcastes,scheduledtribes marathacandidateswho won on the Shiv is trueelsewhere.Papersin Wood(1984)
andMuslimsthanelsewhere,so that"They Sena ticketwere young and had little or substantiate thiscase for KeralaandWest
have developeda vested interestin the no support from Maharashtra's co- Bengal, where it is due to the activities
maintenanceof the system. Lele says operativesorotherinstitutions:"Theyare of aleft-of-centreparty,theCPI(M)which
elsewhere,"Ambedkar'sproject'of low those disgruntledelementswho are not has combined coherent leadership,
caste-emancipation'is on the buffers'... absorbedin the local powerstructureby pragmatism towardsthepropertied classes,
(while) ... Those from the OtherBackward the clannishmarathasof the Congress" and ideological and organisational
Classes .. have also realised that without [Vora 1996: 173; points confirmedin commitment which has successfully
controloverlandor trade,withouta caste Banerjee'sanalysis(1997) of the success challengedlocallandedpower-holders. In
clusterideologyequivalentto thatof the of the BJP-ShivSenain the 1996general bothstatestherehasbeenmoresignificant
Marathasor Mahars[the most numerous election].The BJP's64 MLAs"reflected effortmadeatassetredistribution through
Scheduled Caste] and without spatial the party'ssystematicstrategyof trans- agrarianreformthan elsewhere.Kerala,
concentrations, mobilisingagainstMaratha formingits upper-casteimage"[Hansen however,hasamoredevelopedcivilsociety
hegemonyor theCongresssystemcannot 1998: 147]. Only 10 were brahminsand and more politicalcompetition,whereas
yieldalastingalternate systemof rewards" 24 came from the maratha-kunbi caste the CPI(M)in West Bengal has become
[Lele1990:188].TheMaharashtra govern- cluster. rathera monolithicmachine.Echeverri-
ment was unableto providesatisfactory A commentatorarguesthat in India's Gentacknowledges"Theparty'srelative
informationto the MandalCommission most urbanisedand industrialisedstate success in dislodgingtraditionallanded
aboutthestatusof the 'OBCs'in thestate, "the rural-basedCongress is becoming elites ...". But he argues that "democratic
buttherewas also unlikeGujarat,littlein irrelevant"[Vora1996:172],butthesame competitionis essential in maintaining
the way of 'anti-reservation' outburstsin on
writergoes tosuggestthatcrucialfactors partycommitmentanddisciplineoverthe
Maharashtrain the 1980s. The state's in the elections were first, the Congress longerrun" andhefearsthat"Thedeclining
widelycelebratedemploymentguarantee in-fighting,whichmeantthattherewere competitiveness of politicsinWestBengal
scheme(EGS)- thestate'smostimportant large numbersof rebel Congress can- suggests thatthere may be a reductionin
anti-povertyprogramme,has played a didates, and second, the party's loss of responsiveness to the rural poor"
significantpartin 'thesystem',too:"Large supportamongstMuslims(followingthe [Echeverri-Grant 1993: 168-169].None-
partof the fundsfor the EGS is provided violenceagainstMuslimsin the Bombay thelessthe workof RichardCrookshows
bytheprosperous urbansectorof thestate... riots of 1992-1993).Here,as elsewhere, that amongst all the instances of de-
(the)politicallypowerfulruralelite in the the self-destructionof the Congresshas centralisationwhich he has been able to
statesucceededin extractingfinancefrom played a significant,if not vital, partin identifyandto studyfromacrosstheworld,
theurbansectorfor the GS in orderto get theBJP'srise.It is certainlystill too early West Bengal'shas been most successful.
benefitsfromtheassetscreatedin therural to write off the Congressas a political He concludeshis comparativestudy by
areas [whilst also managing potential force in Maharashtra (thoughit has been arguingthat"Itis highly significantthat
resistance:JH]" [MahendraDev 1995: furtherdamagedbytherecentsplitbetween the most successful cases [like West
2674]. SharadPawar and Sonia Gandhi).But Bengal] were the ones where central
Anotheroutcomeof thesystemwasthat meanwhilethere has been a change of governmentnot only had an ideological
Congress rule proved most durable, party-regimefor the first time in Maha- commitmentto pro-poorpolicies,butwas
amongstall the majorstates, in Maha- rashtra.The significanceof this has yet preparedto engage actively with local
rashtra,anduntil1995thepartywas only to becomeapparent. OnoneleveltheBJP- politics ... to challenge local elite resistance
outof powertherefortwoyears(andeven ShivSenaseemstoaccommodate different if necessaryandto ensureimplementation
then,thegovernmentwhichruledbetween class interestsveryeffectively,thoughin of policies".(Wherecentralgovernments
1978 and 1980, in the aftermathof the a differentway from thatwhich worked hadnotconfrontedlocal elites,theresults
emergency,includedthose who hadbeen under the old Maharashtrian Congress of decentralisation in relationto the poor
and who were to be again leadersof the systemin Maharashtra. The implications were universallypoor.)
Congress-I).The 1995 state assembly in the longer run of local challenge to InTamilNadutheparticipation of lower
electionssaw the first serious challenge Marathadominancemaybeprofound.But castes/classeshas ratherbeen articulated
to bothCongressandthe Marathadomi- in termsof policy,at leastin theshortrun, by a local,regionalpartywhichatonetime
nance.The BJP-ShivSena alliance won therehas not been greatdeal of change. propagated culturalnationalism,andwhich
29.1 per cent of the vote and 64 and 73 C: States in which lower castes/classes has had charismaticleaders who have
seats respectivelyagainst the Congress have been more strongly represented: successfully appealed to lower castes/
'80(and30.9percentof thevote),bringing Kerala,TamilNaduandWestBengalare classes through populist programmes.
aboutthefirstchangeof partyregime.For stateswhichstandoutbecausetheircaste/ Cross-classpoliticalallianceshave been
the firsttime in its history,the state had classstructures
beenquite establishedby fairlywell-institutionalised
a realnon-Congress government,andone fragmented.In none of them was upper politicalparties.Politics is quiteclearly
not dominatedby marathascomingfrom castedominanceas stronglyentrenchedas notuppercaste/class-dominated asin(say)
ruralareas.The castecompositionof the in the north (though brahmans had MP, or middle caste/class-dominated as
VidhanSabhadid not changevery much positionsof importancein all of them); in (e g) Maharashtra,but the DMK/

Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999 3375

AIADMK regime does have a petit institutionalisedpartysystem than does institutions,and requiresthat they should be
Karnataka,where the party system is identified by a commission appointedby the
bourgeois rather than working class
character.Kohli's observationsonMadurai - thoughit is still president. When the V P Singh government
increasinglyfragmented decidedin 1990, to adoptthe recommendations
suggest that the ADMK became dominatedby thelocallypowerfulmiddle of the second such Backward Classes
deradicalised,failedto buildinstitutional castes/classes.
UnsurprisinglyCrookfound Commission there was violent protest from
roots (beyondthe MGR fan clubs), and thatdecentralisationin Karnataka wasless members of upper castes, especially across
failed to deliver on its anti-centre,anti- effectivein relationto povertyalleviation northernIndia. The extraordinarysensitivity
brahman and pro-poor goals, which thanin WestBengalgiventhatthecentral surrounding 'Mandal' (the name of the
chairman of the second commission, which
"slowlybroughtto theforea rulerelected (state) governmentmade no attemptto came to be applied generally to the recom-
primarilybyvirtueof his personalappeal" challenge local power. There has been mendationsof the report)is in parta reflection
(1990:182).Similarly,Washbrooks views morepartycompetitionin Gujaratthanin of the increasingpolitical strengthof some of
"theAIADMKregimewas one of bread Maharashtra which may have made for the 'OBCs' ('other backward classes'), and
(or rice) andcircuses(or movies) and in rathergreaterresponsivenessto the poor may also have contributedto its development.
One reason for favouringthe use of Church's
broadpoliticalterms,mightbe conceived (eg through the PDS). Where stable, distinctionbetween'middle'and'lower'castes,
as a form of Bonapartistor Caesarian relatively well-institutionalisedparties ratherthan - as if often the case in political
democracy.Classically,the bourgeoisie, competefortheirvotes,thepoliticalsystem commentaryin and on India - using only the
or the elite of wealth, withdrewfrom a is likelytobe moreresponsiveto theneeds category of 'OBCs', is precisely thatthe latter
formalpositionof controlover the state and interestsof poorerpeople,andmore are quite clearly differentiatedin the way that
apparatusandthe constitutionalpolitical effective in bringing about poverty Church suggests.
6 A fortioriduringtheperiodin whichJayalalitha,
process.Not only was theirdirectcontrol reduction.
leader of the ADMK, was chief minister of
no longernecessaryfor the purposesof
Notes Tamil Nadu after 1991.
capitalaccumulationbut theirattemptto 7 Jenkins'argument,developed in the context of
exercise it ... provoked resistance and [This paper was written in connection with a a discussion about 'the politics of protecting
instability.Formalcontrolwastransferred collaborative project on 'Political Systems and the poor', in the process of economic reform
to [Iwouldratherputit, 'wasassumedby'] Poverty',directedby MickMoore(of theInstitute in Maharashtra,is an interesting one. He
a cadreof professionalpoliticalmanagers of Development Studies,Sussex)andJamesPutzel suggests "that both the rich and politicians
(of the LSE) for the governance departmentof alike, though clearly diverting to themselves
who on the basis of a populistideology, theUK departmentfor internationaldevelopment. a good deal of the resourcesmeantfor the poor,
mollifiedresistanceby turing whatwas I am grateful to Mick and James for their havesomethingtogainfrompreservinga system
left of the stateinto a welfareagencyand encouragementof my work.] of social welfare which has allowed them to
by stirringup feelings of patriotismand 1 Frankel's control the flow of resources and thereby to
atavism"[Washbrookin FrankelandRao masterlyanalysisof India's political shore up their waning traditionalauthority..
economy 1947-77 shows how accommodation there may be life left yet in the corpse of
1989: 258]. worked and what its effects were [Frankel
Inconclusion,therefore,theredoesseem politicalaccommodationism"(1996:200).And
1978]. no badthing,either,forthepoorof Maharashtra,
to be a strong case for differentiating 2 In the two-volume work Dominanceand State he seems to suggest, stand their best chance
betweenthe politicalsystemsof different Power in Modern India (1989, 1990) edited of gaining some protectionfrom the effects of
statesin termsof thebalanceof caste/class by Frankel and Rao, various authors analyse economic liberalisation. There are political
the relationsof dominance,in this sense, and
power,andthenatureof theirparty systems, 'statepower' ('the exertionof secularauthority pressures in India,in his view, which will tend
and it may be expected that these dif- to createthe conditionsfor the type of coalition
by individuals appointed or elected to offices
ferencescan be shown to influencethe of the state, who claim legitimacy under the envisaged by Joan Nelson between 'some;
of the amongthe poor' and those in middlingincome
policyprocessandtheperformance law'). A centraltheme of the work as a whole deciles.
states.Forexample,in the groupof states concernsthedeclineof 'dominance',associated
where middle castes/classeshave been with brahmanism. References
3 There is a lot of variation in terms of the
dominant, amiddleincomestate(according
quantity,content and quality of the literature Bardhan, P (1984): The Political Economy of
toDattandRavallion)likeAndhraPradesh relating to different states, which presents a Development in India, Blackwell, Oxford.
has donebetterin povertyreductionthan seriousproblemforexercisessuchasthepresent Bhalla,S (1987): 'Trendsin Employmentin Indian
Kamataka,and a high income state like one. Very little is available on the politics of Agriculture, Land and Asset Distribution',
better Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh, in particular(no articles in Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics,
It seems likely that,in each of the more the Economic and Political Weekly, for 42, 4.
successfulcases, the powerof the locally example, between commentarieson the 1967 Chatterjee, P (1997): A Possible India, OUP,
General Election and some on the assembly Delhi.
dominantcastes/classeshas been chal- elections of 1993), and not much on Orissa. Church,R (1984): 'The Patternof State Politics
lenged to a greaterextent. Agricultural 4 Church and others refer to the last censuses in IndiraGandhi's India' in J R Wood (ed),
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parts of India. and Decentralisationin SouthAsia and West
ption and lower ratesof increaseof real 5 The concept of 'backward classes' is an Africa: Participation, Accountability and
wages in agriculture).Similarappearto importantone, and is politicallyalive in India. Performance in Comparative Perspective,
the case of Maharashtra vis-a-visGujarat There is a long history of official debateover CUP, Cambridge.
[accordingto theanalysisofBhalla1987]. whetheror not membersof certainothercaste Damle, C (1989): 'Land Reforms Legislation in
This reflects the continuingpower of groups should be the subjects of positive Karnataka:Myth of Success', EPW, August
dominant castes/classeswhich can discrimination- as are the schedule castes - 19.
locally on account of their 'social' backwardness. Datt, G and M, Ravallion (1998) 'Why Have
lead to what has been described as Article 340 of the Indian Constitutionrefers Some IndianStates Done BetterThan Others
'responsive wage deceleration',or the to 'otherbackwardclasses' who maybe eligible At Reducing Rural Poverty', Economica.
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3376 Economic and Political Weekly November 27, 1999

Indiaand the-US,VistaarPublications,Delhi, Parthasarathy,G (1995): 'Public Intervention Srinivas, M N and M N Pannini (1984):
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and State Power in Modern India: Decline Robinson,M (1988): Local Politics: The Law of Intervention for Poverty Alleviation: An
of a Social Order,(Volumes I and II), OUP, the Fishes, OUP, Delhi. Overview', EPW, October 14.
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Machine', EPW, 32, 37, September 13. Shah, G (1998): 'The BJP's Riddle in Gujarat... "KHAM" Strategy ,and Congress (I)
Hansen, T B (1996): 'The Vernacularisationof in T Hansen and C Jaffrelot (eds) The BJP Recruitmentin Gujarat' in J R Wood (ed)
Hindutva',Contributionsto IndianSociology, and the Compulsions of Politics in India, State Politics in ContemporaryIndia: Crisis
30, 2. OUP, Delhi. or Continuity? Westview, Boulder.
- (1998) 'BJP and the Politics of Hindutva in
Maharahtra',in T Hansen and C, Jaffrelot
(eds) TheBJPand the Compulsionsof Politics
in India, OUP, Delhi.
Harriss,J (1994): 'BetweenEconomismandPost- QUEST FOR A JUST WORLD ORDER
Modernism: Reflections on the Study of
AgrarianChange in India' in D Booth (ed)
Essays in honour of K Raman Pillai
RethinkingSocial Development, Longman, Edited by: B. Mohanan & P. S. Nair
Hasan Z (1998): Questfor Power: Oppositional
The 22 articlesin this book touch upon the world economic order,the
Movlementsand Post-Congress Politics in
UP, OUP, Delhi. world political order,the global security arrangements,the prospectsof
Jaffrelot,C (1998): 'The Sangh Parivar..', in T universalHumanRights,the worldenvironmentorderandthe challenges
Hansen and C Jaffrelot (eds), The BJP and
the Compulsionsof Politics in India, OUP,
before world governancethroughthe UN system. In all these articlesthe
Delhi. perspectiveis thatof thedevelopingworldandmoreparticularlycountries
Jenkins,R (1996): 'The Politics of Protectingthe in the Asian region. The picture of the world that emerges on reading
Poor During Adjustment...', in U Thakkar
andM Kulkarni(eds),Politics inMaharashtra,
the articles is neither satisfactorynor just. It is not alarmingeither. It
Himalaya Publishing House, Bombay. reflects the QUEST, a quest that is partly inchoate, mostly inarticulate
- (1998): 'Rajput Hindutva, Caste Politics, and some times contentious.To-be able to know the dimensions to the
Regional Identityand Hindu Nationalism in
ContemporaryRajasthan'in T Hansenand C
quest, one has to readthe entirebook and reflect on issues it raises. Well
Jaffrelot(eds), TheBJP and the Compulsions there is no limit to the quest and the more you get to know aboutit, the
of Politics in India, OUP, Delhi. more you realise how little you know. But even to know whatyou know,
Kohli, A (1987): The State and Poverty in India,
CUP, Cambridge. you need to read this book.
-(1988): 'TheNTR Phenomenon',Asian Survey, - N. R. Madhava Menon
- (1990): Democracy and Discontent: India's Member Law Commission of India
Growing Crisis of Governability, CUP,
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