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Linguism in Politics


T.C.A. Raghavan

CHANGING POLITICAL LEADER­SHIP IN AN INDIAN PROVINCE: THE CENTRAL PROVINCES AND BERAR 1919-39
By D.E.U. Baker
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1979, pp. xi 233, Rs. 60.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 5-6 March-April/May-June 1980

Dr Baker deserves credit for remedying the neglect of the Central Provinces and Berar. It should be appreciated that it is not an easy task to write a monograph on political changes in a province where information about the social and economic history of the region is still rudimentary. Baker has studied the period 1919-1939 intensively to indicate the process through which political leadership of the province passed from Marathi to Hindi-speaking politicians. C.P. and Berar consisted of two main linguistic groups—Marathi and Hindi—concentrated in distinct regions: Nagpur and Berar on the one hand, and the Mahakoshal on the other. The Marathi region was relatively more prosperous and also showed a greater degree of politiciza­tion. In the beginning of the period under survey, the Marathi-speaking politicians dominated provincial politics because of the ‘innate vigour of Marathi political life’, the growing clash between the Maharashtrian brahmans and the non-brahmins movement, a certain amount of trade union activity, the proximity to the provincial capital, etc., Manakoshal on the other hand had yet to emerge from the control of the loyalist notables (Baker uses the term to represent large landowners and bankers). In the two decades that followed the mass movements launched by the Cong­ress all over the country social and econo­mic developments worked towards chang­ing the existing political pattern of the pro­vince. The earlier lack of politicization and the absence of a vigorous political life in the Hindi region was now, argues Baker, to its advantage. Unlike the Marathi region where a number of political parties existed, the Congress in Mahakoshal had virtually no organized or effective political opposition. Thus when intra-regional con­flict took place, the Hindi Congressmen were better placed. The political reforms laid down by the Government of India Act of 1935 were, according to Baker, the raison d'etre of the conflict between the Marathi and Hindi-speaking politicians. Earlier, politi­cians from the two regions were insulated from each other. With the 1937 elections and the formation of the Provincial Assembly the two were thrown together into a single political arena (the Assembly), with Congressmen from both regions com­bining to form the ministry. This started a struggle for power in which Baker identi­fies the main protagonists as N.B. Khare, D.P. Mishra and R.S. Shukla. Though Shukla and Mishra were rivals for the leadership of the Hindi Congress, they ...


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