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How Does Delhi Vote?

K.K. Kailash

By Sanjay Kumar
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2013, pp. xx 217, Rs. 450.00


Delhi probably has the single largest con- centration of scholars and opinion makers in the country who make a living studying, observing and commenting on politics. Yet, very few among them have actually systematically examined the politics of their own city. The recent good show of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) has brought the local politics of Delhi to the national centre stage and has not surprisingly raised many questions. How did the AAP which was formed barely a year ago come within striking distance of governing alone? How did the party create space for itself in an established two-party system? Will the AAP phenomenon also stir the electoral pot in other parts of the country? Unfortunately, we do not have clear answers to the many questions, as studying local electoral politics is often considered passé.   Against this backdrop, Changing Electoral Politics in Delhi: From Caste to Class by Sanjay Kumar is a very useful contribution. The study based on survey research done during three assembly elections (1998, 2003 and 2008) over the last two decades sets out to examine the relationship between caste and electoral politics in Delhi. The puzzle that drives the study is the fact that despite Delhi having large numbers of dalits, Muslims and Other Backward Castes (OBCs), caste and region based parties which have become key players in many other States have not been able to dent the stranglehold of the two polity-wide parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The book asks if it is not caste-based mobilization, then on what grounds does political mobilization take place in the city? The answer is that it is class and not caste.   The story of the electoral politics of Delhi comes to us in seven chapters besides an introduction. The changing demographic profile of the city in the light of continuous migration into Delhi from different States is examined. The issue of migration is one of the key explanatory variables in the study. The issue of caste-based voting is looked at by exploring the social profile of votes for the two major parties. It provides disaggregates for ten different community/groups in the city.   The main argument that Sanjay Kumar highlights with empirical evidence is that class is a more important social cleavage than caste in the context of Delhi. He argues that while there is a certain amount of caste-based voting, there is a definitive class ...

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