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Conflicting Claims In Democratizing India


Ashutosh Kumar

HANDBOOK OF POLITICS IN INDIAN STATES: REGIONS, PARTIES, AND ECONOMIC REFORMS
Edited by Sudha Pai
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. xix 443, Rs. 1495.00

VOLUME XXXVIII NUMBER 3 March 2014

The last three decades have witnessed the onset of the processes that have resulted in a significant shift in the nature of India’s politics and economy. Among these processes, the most significant one has been the assertion of identity politics. Increasingly democratizing India has experienced a sharp rise in the conflicting claims of different ethnic categories, and of struggles amongst them, often fought out on lines of region, religion, language (even dialect), caste, kinship and community. These competing politicized and mobilized categories, especially the newly emergent and empowered ones, are mostly concentrated within the territorial boundaries of a particular State/region. Due to the weakening of other democratic forums and procedures it is in the changed mode of electoral representation that these competing collective claims-making communities/groups have sought to find expression. What has helped is the emergence of a fragmented nature of electoral system in the post-Congress polity that has accorded an opportunity and incentive to these categories to extend support to the newly emergent State-based parties with the hope that they would provide them more effective kind of recognition, representation, patronage and protection.   The second process that has brought the states (and the regions) into sharp focus in recent decades has been the introduction of the market-oriented new economic policies. As a result, already existing spatial as well as social disparities have been further widened as the market economy privileges the privileged ones leaving relatively underdeveloped States/peripheral regions in the lurch. Thus the coastal States, mineral rich States along with the high-income ‘progressive’ States with better governance ruled by decisive and powerful State level leaders have benefited much more from the flow of foreign as well as domestic investment of private capital in contrast to the ‘laggard’ States having peripheral locations, disturbed law and order situation, poor economic and social infrastructure, unmanageable disparate territory, huge population lacking in terms of cultural capital and unimaginative leadership. What may be called the ‘secession of the rich’, even the rich States, attracting huge private investments and registering impressive growth, have long started resenting the continued dependence of relatively underdeveloped States on the central revenues transferred to them. While the relatively developed States complain of ‘reverse’ discrimination, the peripheral regions of some of these very States also complain of being victims of ‘internal colonialism’. Arguably, the rich States/regions versus poor States/regions syndrome that has been accentuating identity based ...


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