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

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Change in Karnataka over the Last Generation

This paper looks at the social and political changes in, and relevant to, rural Karnataka over the last few decades. It finds that the changes have been incremental but have added up to something of significance. Karnataka politics has been characterised by rainbow coalitions of social groups, irrespective of which party is in power, and this has given its institutions some continuity, social life some cohesiveness, and governance comparative freedom from excesses and corruption. But there are signs that social relations are coming under strain.

T his paper examines social and political changes that have occurred since 1972 at the village level where most of Karnatakas residents live, and at higher levels when they affect villages.1 Throughout this discussion, we encounter an oddity. Important changes have occurred despite the tendency of nearly all state governments to proceed cautiously, concentrating almost exclusively on incremental change. Six major changes are worth noting. In 1972 chief minister Devaraj Urs broke the dominance that lingayats and vokkaligas had exercised over state level politics since independence. Since then, Karnatakas leaders have constructed broad rainbow coalitions in which important cabinet posts were given to leaders from every numerically powerful social group. In 1983, the states party system changed when the Congress Party lost a state election for the first time. Since then, the alternation of parties at state elections has (with one exception) been the norm. After 1985, a Janata government generously empowered and funded panchayati raj institutions. Caste (jati) has increasingly come to denote difference rather than hierarchy. Society at the village level has become much less cohesive (discussed in Section V). After the late 1980s, a boom in software and outsourcing occurred in greater Bangalore.

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