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In a Sub-set of National Politics


A.K. Verma

AN INDIAN POLITICAL LIFE: CHARAN SINGH AND CONGRESS POLITICS, 1957-1967
By Paul Brass
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 475, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 5 May 2013

Paul R. Brass’s mega project on ‘The Politics of Northern India: 1937-1987’ is steadily progressing. His style is unique, focusing on the second rung of leaders who played a vital role in the pre-Independence period and immediately thereafter. His first focussed on Chaudhary Charan Singh with whom the author had an excellent rapport. Others in line are Lal Bahadur Shastri, Vallabhbhai Patel, Jaiprakash Narayan, Indira Gandhi and Rafi Ahmad Kidwai. The first volume on Charan Singh was published in 2011, and now the second volume has been published. With Brass staying in India for nine months during 2012-13, we hope that the third and final volume of this series will be published soon.   The volume under review has been built on the image of Charan Singh as an ardent expert of agrarian economics and land reforms. It starts logically with the issues of political economy enmeshed in the complex web of intra-regional economic conflicts as also politics of factionalism in the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh. Factionalism may be an inevitable fact of Party politics in a democratic polity, but its intensity was so grave at the eve of the fourth general elections in 1967 that it produced anti-Congress sentiments leading to the end of ‘Congress one-party dominance’ and the beginning of an era of fractured mandates, post-poll coalitions, defections and counter defections that destabilized governments very frequently in states. Though this volume claims to cover a period only upto 1967, Brass has dealt with some issues viz., the various proposals for the division of the state till date and mentions the latest developments in that regard focusing on the efforts of Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav governments in respect. That shows a deficit either in planning the book or in its execution. This volume, as the previous one, also suffers from two factual errors. One, it gives an incorrect number for the states in the Indian Union as 27 (p. 52); after November 2000, it has gone up to 28 when Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh were created from UP, Bihar and MP respectively. Two, it also wrongly cites the name of the former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh as Vishnu Pratap Singh (p. 92).   The book may be divided into the first five chapters dealing with the issues of political economy, states reorganization and development of the state, but the subsequent six chapters dealing with the decline of the Congress are descriptive narrations covering ...


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