05 January 2013

India's Politics: Corruption

Rajni Kothari ("Politics in India", 1970) on corruption:

"An elaborate network of patronage has developed, extending deep into the countryside. Much of this is controlled and directed from levels lower than the state. Availability of new kinds of jobs, distribution of loans and benefits, control of institutions dealing with credit and scarce materials, establishment of new positions of prestige and authority, the penetration of educational institutions and voluntary organisations with new resources, and above all a known and intelligible pattern of influence and corruption – all these have brought life and significance to the governmental machine, endowed it with political meaning, and led to an increasing communication between traditional society and the new structure of institutions."

04 January 2013

India's Politics: The Urban Middle Class

Rajni Kothari ("Politics in India", 1970) on how the urban middle class lost power to the rural zamindars:

"Different stages in the social organisation of politics call for somewhat different leadership and organisational skills, and the movement from one stage to another may displace one kind of leadership by another. Consequently, one social group endowed with one type of social skills may be displaced by another endowed with another type of skills.

Thus in the early stage of intellectual awakening and urban-style political organisation, the need was for people able to deal with Western and Westernised administrators, well-versed in fine points of debate and ideological disputation, possessing legal acumen, and capable of founding and sustaining small associations of public-minded persons that would agitate for specific causes. Such men were mainly provided by the Brahminic and traditional administrative classes who not only took to the new education but had also been endowed by a long tradition of scholastic knowledge and formal brilliance.

With the movement into a more diversified and mass-oriented politics, however, not only was there a need for a wider base of support articulation but also for new types of managerial and organisational skills. With this shift in orientation, the Brahminic and administrative castes began to be outnumbered by men from commercial and peasant proprietor occupations, occupations that had always called for a high level of interpersonal skills, a pragmatic and bargaining approach to problems, and an ability to marshal a new type of solidarity among their own castes, often based on a reinterpretation of their traditional status and a populist and anti-elitist ideology. These were the new entrepreneurs, the new innovators, of politics. They were less modern than the elites they replaced, less educated and more rural-based, operated through an idiom that was decidedly more traditional.

There has taken place a growing politicisation of the traditional sub-centres of Indian society. The rural elites have seized the organisation of these sub-centres and have on the basis of a new consolidation – caste federations, cooperative societies, panchayati raj – pushed themselves upward to state and national levels. Utilising the opportunities of cooptation offered by the metropolitan elite, they have occupied crucial positions at higher levels and have generally succeeded in outnumbering and outwitting the modernists."

03 January 2013

India's Politicians: The Rural Zamindars

Rajni Kothari ("Politics in India", 1970) on politicians – the rural zamindars:

"In order to make itself secure in office, the ruling groups in the states have increasingly relied on the rural vote, spreading its patronage far and wide controlling local authorities, educational institutions and other developmental agencies, including important voluntary organisations. Concomitantly, institutional power shifted downward and a different set of men emerged who took charge of these networks, captured positions in the party organisation, and slowly acquired considerable strength and power.

The new organisation men that emerged are to be found away from the urban centres of state power in small towns and district capitals, closer to the traditional order, and exhibiting a new style in Indian politics. They are pragmatic men, less oriented to the modernist idiom but modernisers in their own way, men who understand the subtleties and nuances of local society, powerful persons who have taken time in coming up, and who are therefore confident of their own strength. When elections come, the state leaders have to rely increasingly upon these men who happen both to occupy positions of influence in the institutions of planned change and to be in close communication with socially entrenched and economically powerful local elites. Some of them are popular leaders, others ruthless managers, but they control the vote.

Generally coming from the well-to-do class of peasant proprietors, they are men of some means, skilled in the art of managing men and running institutions, and very knowledgeable concerning local conditions.

They have to establish a rapport with the local bullies (muscle) who can intimidate and cajole the people, who normally keep faith, and who in their crude way maintain peace in the locality."

02 January 2013

India's Politics: Caste

Rajni Kothari ("Politics in India", 1970) on caste:

"Everyone recognises that the social system in India is organised around caste structures and caste identities. In dealing with the relationship between caste and politics, however, the tendency is to start at the wrong end of the question: Is caste disappearing? In part such an approach comes from a widely held dichotomy between traditional and modern forms of organisation. In reality, however, no social system disappears. A more useful point of departure would be: What form is caste taking under the impact of politics, and what form is politics taking in a caste-oriented society?

Those who complain of 'casteism in politics' in India are really looking for a sort of politics that has no basis in society. They also probably lack any clear conception of either the nature of politics or the nature of the caste system. (Some of them would want to throw out both politics and the caste system) The process of politics is one of identifying and manipulating existing structures in order to mobilise support and consolidate positions. Where the caste structure provides one of the most important organisational clusters in which the population is found to live, politics must strive to organise through such a structure."

01 January 2013

"Politics in India": Rajni Kothari

Rajni Kothari's "Politics in India" (1970) is a systematic study of Indian politics.


A. Introduction
1. Theoretical background
2. Historical background
3. Political background

B. The Political System
4. Development of the system
5. Political parties

C. The System's Environment
6. Indian/Hindu society
7. Indian/Hindu culture

D. The System's Performance
8. Political performance
9. Economic performance
10. Foreign affairs
11. Future trends