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

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Contesting Identities and Forging Coalitions

Punjab Politics

Punjab's political dynamics is characterised by a spectrum within which there is a movement from contesting identities resulting in confrontations to these identities, through mutual accommodations and forging coalitions. It is not a linear process; it also faces reversals back to confrontations, and then moves forward again to coalitions. The identities of religion, nation, language, class and caste have been particularly at play in this dynamic arena of Punjab politics.

Forging alliances between differing political parties has been a practised tradition in Punjab, more than many other Indian states. Political parties with competing support bases have sometimes merged with each other or coalitions have been forged among political parties representing well-defined and competing social segments. These alliances have been shaped and nurtured by political, economic and demographic contexts, and can be located in three historically evolved axes that provided contextual articulation to a common structural base. The axes comprise: one, stunting or encouraging identity assertions; two, majoritarian ambitions, and minority aspirations and apprehensions; and three, intermeshed religio-caste and class articulations. These axes have provided sufficient conditions for competitive political spaces, and their interaction with the economy, politics and social processes has led to the emergence of coalition of interests. This complexity has posed a challenge to political analysts to locate the dominant identity in a particular context. If in one context, it leads to the observation that the “predominant(ing) tendency in Punjab legislative politics has been towards political communal coalition building” (Brass 1974: 362), in another context, there is a celebration of the emergence of a secular Punjabi identity (Singh and Thandi 1999; Singh 2012).

‘Dwarfed’ or Encouraged Identity Assertions 

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Updated On : 25th Jan, 2017

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