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

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A set of six papers looks at the forms of political power in India and its institutions of democratic accountability, seven decades after independence. 

The Transformation of Backward Class Politics in Uttar Pradesh

A major political development in Uttar Pradesh in recent years has been the growing elitism in candidate recruitment by parties. While parties claim to have become more socially inclusive, they tend to enrol their candidates from among the new business elites of the state, who seek to further entrench their domination through participation in the democratic process. This has far-reaching consequences on backward class politics.

The Struggle of RTI Activists in Gujarat

The Right to Information activists and whistle-blowers in India constantly face risk of harassment, assault, and even murder. The attacks on them are explored, with a special focus on Gujarat, by taking into consideration the nature of the cases they have filed. Who the RTI activists are and the role that non-governmental organisations have played in popularising the RTI is looked at as a tool to question the state in the distant villages of Gujarat, and also among the marginalised—women, Dalits, and Adivasis. The most common issues raised by the activists, the lack of institutional support and follow-up in protecting the activists, and other issues that are eroding the effectiveness of the RTI Act are highlighted.

Patterns of NOTA Voting in India

Since October 2013, Indian voters have the option of voting “None of the Above” if they choose to not vote for any of the candidates contesting in an election. It has been nearly five years since nota’s implementation, but how the option is used is not yet understood well. An examination of the initial trends in such voting shows that there is considerable regional variation. There is no indication that nota is higher in areas with a higher urban or literate population. Moreover, findings suggest that nota voting is not associated with rising turnout and increasing criminality in elections.

Federalism and Democracy in Today’s India

A look at the implications—for both democracy and federalism—of the return of centralised leadership under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after three decades in which political and economic power had flowed away from Delhi, shows that although states have been empowered in recent decades by economic and political decentralisation, India’s federal institutions place relatively weak checks on the power of a government led by a party that has attained a majority in the national Parliament.

Parliamentarism, Not Presidentialism

To opt for a parliamentary over a presidential form of government is arguably the most significant, yet under-analysed, decision made by the Indian constitution-makers. The conventional view is that parliamentarism was an obvious choice given the British colonial inheritance. However, parliamentarism, far from being obvious, was a counter-intuitive choice given the postcolonial agenda of state-led planned development, historically demanding an empowered executive branch most suited to presidentialism. As opposed to the maximalist and plebiscitarian tendencies of presidentialism, parliamentarism was a way to mediate the potentially conflictual cohabitation of mass democracy and planned development.

Towards Hegemony

The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party has contributed to the emergence of a new ideological framework to India’s democracy and public life in general. This framework might be better understood if it is seen as the crafting of hegemony. The politics of crafting a new hegemony did not emerge all of a sudden. Beyond the immediate context, the rise of the party needs to be understood in the broader political context that has shaped up since 1989.
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