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Dynamics of Indian Democracy

Manjari Katju

Edited by Ramashray Roy and Paul Wallace
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2007, Rs. 720.00

Edited by Peter Ronald deSouza and E. Sridharan
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2006, Rs. 450.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 9 September 2007

The common theme running through the two edited books is the dynamics of Indian democracy as seen through the prism of the electoral and party politics. While the first book focuses on the 2004 elections, the second concerns itself with India’s political parties. The two books discuss their respective themes in a context where the following issues stand out: one, the entry of the Indian polity into the era of coalitional governments and alliance politics; two, the maturing of the regional elite and the acceleration of regional politics outside the Congress umbrella; and three, the fragility of the party structures of most parties because of their weak organizations and singular leaderships.   As the title makes evident the first book looks at the 2004 elections and attempts to analyse the socio-political forces at work and the behaviour of the electorate during that time. The unexpected lead and victory of the Congress led alliance over the ruling NDA in the elections surprised many and became a topic of much discussion. It became a dominant theme of many a seminar and discussion fora not to speak of the regular conversations in political, academic, media and social circles. According to the book, issues of economy and governance dominated the 2004 elections rather than the usual sway of personalities and concerns such as religious, caste, tribal and minority identities. The editors highlight what according to them were two ‘outstanding facts’ of the 2004 parliamentary elections—one, the complete involvement of the Congress in coalition politics, and two, regional parties continued to grow further.   The book deals with its subject matter in two sections. The first deals with national level themes or overarching trends visible in Indian politics. This takes the book beyond the discussion of the 2004 elections. The chapters in this section look at some of the continuities and breaks in Indian politics—how are sections of the electorate placing themselves as far as electoral politics is concerned and what has acquired salience in Indian politics. The following section, on the other hand, deals with politics within some Indian states, these being, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Meghalaya, Orissa and West Bengal.   A chapter in the earlier section compares the formation and functioning of coalition governments in Kerala, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh adding further to the list of states analysed in the book. Discussing the elections, Ramashray Roy attributes the defeat of the NDA in 2004 to the ‘peripheralization’ (...

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