ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Principal State Level Contests and Derivative National Choices: Electoral Trends in 2004-09

Political choices in a national election increasingly derive from the competitive format, electoral cycle, political agenda, participatory pattern and social cleavages defined in state politics. In this sense, the political choices made at the state level are mostly "principal" and those made at the national level are increasingly "derivative". But state level politics shapes and filters rather than pre-determines the national outcome. Using this framework and the trends in 2004-09, this study attempts to understand the structure of contestation that will shape the final outcome in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The complex pattern of principal outcomes and timing in the political calendar shows that neither of the two major national alliances can sweep the polls nor be swept away in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In all probability, we are going to witness one more election in which no single party or pre-poll alliance is likely to get a clear majority and one where the smallest of changes in individual states is likely to have a major impact on government formation in New Delhi.

In the Shadow of Terror: Anti-politician or Anti-politics?

Neoliberal economics, globalisation of aspirations and the hype about India as a superpower have all led the Indian middle/elite classes to believe that they now constitute the backbone of the country. They expect politics to reflect their aspirations and respond to their anxieties. They want politics to represent them since they assume that they represent India. This disconnect leads to constant suspicion of and cynicism about the politician. This is what underlies the tirade against politicians after the Mumbai horrors. The new activism may be short-lived, but the danger is that the "anti-politics" sentiment will seep across social classes and strengthen a vocabulary of a worrisome kind.

Occupational Mobility: How Much Does Caste Matter?

This paper reports the findings of a study conducted in 2007 on the relationship between caste and occupation in Pune and investigates the patterns of intergenerational occupational mobility across four generations and different caste groups in the city. It finds that while caste is not strongly associated with occupational mobility in general, it is certainly important for upward mobility though the extent of mobility is different among different castes. The maratha-kunbis and dalits are the greatest beneficiaries of upward mobility though there is a difference in the mode of their journey. The Other Backward Classes lag behind these two and some castes among them even show stagnation as far as mobility is concerned.

Challenges before the Reservation Discourse

The Supreme Court judgment does not mean the end of the debate on reservations. A long-standing challenge for those who support affirmative action is to end the phenomenon of quotas being an instrument of political mobilisation rather than a mechanism to ensure social justice. The main issues that need addressing are identification of Other Backward Classes, the criteria for deciding the creamy layer and the fallout of sub-classification of the intended beneficiaries. None of these issues can be seen as having been permanently decided by the Mandal Commission or the courts nor can they be seen as not changing over time.

Y D Phadke (1931-2008): Scholar and Public Intellectual

Noted historian, intellectual and activist Y D Phadke who passed away on January 11, wrote in Marathi to make his work accessible to Marathi readers though he was fluent in English. Sadly, the vast body of his acclaimed research and writings has not received critical examination in the Marathi public sphere.

The Imagined Debate between Pollsters and Ethnographers

The Grassroots of Democracy: Field Studies of Indian Elections edited by A M Shah;

Beyond Uttar Pradesh

Will dalit politics across the country see a resurgence following the Bahujan Samaj Party's victory in Uttar Pradesh? While this depends on the political situation in specific states, the BSP's victory gives a new meaning to the category of 'sarva samaj' in redefining caste alignments for future electoral competition. At the same time, the BSP's victory poses a serious challenge to the two coalitions at the national level, the National Democratic Alliance and the United Progressive Alliance.

Maharashtra: Shiv Sena's Dilemmas

The Shiv Sena's recent electoral defeats, followed soon after by Raj Thackeray's resignation, have only added to the party's existential dilemmas. While the battle for party leadership is now in the open, more urgent is the need to reach a resolution between the Sena's long-standing credo of street action and the more recent demands imposed on the party by electoral politics.

Democracy as Weapon of the Weak

Democracy as Weapon of the Weak What India Has Done to Democracy Who Wants Democracy? by Javeed Alam; Tracts for the Time Series, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 2004;

Maharashtra : Towards a New Party System

Maharashtra went to the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in quick succession giving us the rare opportunity to compare changes or continuities in the public mood over a period of six months. If the Lok Sabha elections underscored the inevitability of coalition politics in the state, the assembly polls opened up a multi-level competition across regions and among different social sections. The present indeterminacy of the social bases of parties is an indication of this transformation of the party system in the state.

Participatory Norm: How Broad-based Is It?

Diversification of voters is not matched by a broadening of the social base of participants in politics. Active participants are still from the more privileged sections of society, with education and class being the determining factors. And although the OBCs have made an entry into active politics in recent years, dalits, adivasis, women and the poor still remain largely at the periphery. Thus, participation of more people in politics, as evidenced in recent elections, does not automatically ensure the entry of the less privileged sections into the political process.

Majoritarian Middle Ground?

The BJP's 'defeat' in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections has been seen, albeit mistakenly, as a setback for communal forces. But though the BJP did not emphasise the 'Hindutva' issue during its campaign, as surveys cited in this article indicate, there is already some 'polarisation' among the electorate, with religion often deciding voter-preference. Moreover, the new 'middle ground' of Indian politics - shaped by commonly-held notions among the populace as to what constitutes a 'nation' and how it should be governed - reveals that sections of the populace are increasingly more 'expressively religious' and also attached to respective group identities. At the same time, this 'middle ground' traverses a very complex terrain and thereby defies any straitjacketing into 'secular' or 'communal'.

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