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Prioritizing 'Governance' Over 'Government'

Avinash Kumar

Edited by Ranabir Samaddar and Suhit K. Sen
Routledge, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 296, Rs. 795.00

Edited by Ranabir Samaddar and Suhit K. Sen
Routledge, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 405, Rs. 895.00


Contemporary India has witnessed tremendous opposition to the traditional notion of ‘government’ and to the aggregated and obvious notion of ‘authority’. There have been attempts to make departures even from the constitutional principles. The most recent was the confrontation between parliament and civil society. At the base of this confrontation is the debate that prioritizes ‘governance’ over ‘government’; the means and ways adopted by civil society is under severe criticism though. It is largely being felt today that with the growing socio-economic and cultural complexities in the country, governing ‘alone’ is simply not possible. Withdrawal of the welfare state, therefore, has gained momentum and the state is forced to share its authority with other entities. It is in this context that the two volumes under review edited by Ranabir Samaddar and Suhit K. Sen become an important contribution to the growing literature on governance in India. The twin volume has a total of fifteen chapters (seven and eight respectively). The editors at the very outset have noted that the first volume focuses on the graduating years of Indian democracy from ‘colonized’ to ‘free citizenry’ and the second on the discontent between democracy, development and governance.   While the volume in its totality explores some very pertinent and useful questions, we do not see the objectives being adequately achieved by some of the chapters of the volumes. Samaddar’s first chapter in the first volume is a remarkable endeavour in explicating the making of Indian sovereignty and its claimed ‘immunity from democracy’ or any ‘individual legality’. Ambedkar’s attempts at ‘scoffing at the pretensions of the upper caste representatives in the law making’, his attempts to wage a ‘battle against feudal remnants’ through trying to ‘erect a sovereign’ and ‘a universal power’, an issue not much researched upon by scholars, has been brought out very clearly by Samaddar. However, the author could have cut short the excerpts quoted from the Constituent Assembly Debates (CAD). Similarly, Samaddar’s second chapter in the second volume may prove inadequate in fulfilling the reader’s expectations his previous chapter raises. The chapter discussing the predicament of minorities in contemporary times devotes nearly two-third of its word-length to the CAD. The paradoxes of law and the rationalities in demand that the author discusses in the last paragraph are left unexplained in the chapter.   The chapter by Swarna Rajagopalan in volume two is well researched and articulates the ...

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