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The 2015 Gram Pradhan Elections in Uttar Pradesh

Money, Power, and Violence

Siddhartha Mukerji ( is at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow.

The 2015 gram pradhan elections in Uttar Pradesh present a distinct picture of local elections as compared to state-level and national elections. Three factors— money, power, and violence with localised overtones— have driven the course of elections lately. Large-scale monetary benefits accruing from the position of pradhani motivate the contestants to make substantial investment in elections. The second important element is power that is primarily based on caste status. Although caste positions have changed, the power of caste remains intact. Middle castes have gained salience but relative empowerment of certain communities within the Scheduled Castes is a notable feature in rural societies. The most visible expression of power assertion is violence which is colloquially referred to as dabangai.

The paper is based on a field study conducted at three gram panchayats of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. The paper was presented at London School of Economics at the "From Identity to Interests: Quantitative and Qualitative Explanations of Electoral Change in Rural and Urban India" Conference, 7–8 June 2016. The author duly acknowledges and appreciates valuable comments of the referee that helped in shaping up arguments in the paper.

Panchayat elections are critical in understanding the social and political dynamics of Indian villages. They show how the social and political spheres have undergone a noticeable transformation in villages in the recent past. While the electoral patterns are marked by a process of continuity and change, current trends present a vividly unusual picture of social interaction, political economy, and cultural peculiarities. Past practices are reshaped by new trends that seem to be emerging in the context of greater interlinkage between rural and urban. For instance, village life that was far removed from the rigours of urban economic processes associated with globalisation is now very much a part of it. Globalisation has not only exhorted urban commercialisation, it has also brought rural areas within this fold. People who move to and fro between villages and towns are commonly referred to as rurban. A wealthy class, generally termed as the neo-rich, clearly identify its economic fortunes with representation in local politics as it opens new avenues for amassing wealth. Therefore, local elections become an eye-opener for those who are interested in understanding the social realities and political economy dynamics of India’s villages.

Three vital elements—money, power mainly centred around caste and changing caste configurations, and violence form a critical part of political analysis. They have determined the course of panchayat elections. There is an intricate relation between the three. There are powerful caste leaders who contest fiercely or make their agents contest in reserved seats. Alongside, there is intensive competition with and for money implying that elections involve heavy investments for getting higher returns through the misappropriation of welfare funds. Assertion of power combined with prestige to win elections and acquire economic benefits takes the form of violent clashes between rival individuals and groups.

These three elements are being discovered during the course of study of the 2015 gram pradhan elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP). For this purpose, three gram panchayats (Devipur, Barhi and Gahira) of Gorakhpur, a district located in the eastern part of the state were selected. In-depth interviews and focus group discussion methods were used to collect information. The respondents included gram pradhans, a school headmaster and village residents. The study is predominantly a qualitative, descriptive and ethnographic account of social interaction, and the possible impact on political behaviour of political aspirants and ordinary voters. The three panchayats were selected randomly but unwittingly emerged as constituencies reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs). Moreover, the Barhi gram panchayat was reserved for SC women. The method of selection thus provided sufficient ground for exploring the caste angle as well as the political economy of money and power in local elections. The approach is largely interdisciplinary delving into the emerging political sociology of rural UP in the light of electoral trends of pradhani in Gorakhpur.

The region appears distinct in it being a bastion of caste and patriarchal rigidities, and most notoriously known for the use of money and muscle power during elections. The stories of power assertion, corruption, caste politics, violence and threats, and submissiveness and imbecility inform us on the extent to which we are far removed from being a consolidated democracy when viewed from the experiences of grassroots politics. The hard realities of how elections are fought and campaigned in pradhani, and how innocent voters get influenced out of illiteracy and ignorance compel us to present the fallacies of top-down approaches that present an unusually exaggerated picture of democratic success.

In his analysis of state performance at the grass-roots level, Philip Oldenburg (2009) observes that, “State functions differently at the grassroots as opposed to top-down approaches.” A similar analogy can be drawn for the panchayat elections. Oldenburg’s claim about the state being most impervious to regime change at the grass-roots level is also substantiated by the observation that powerful caste leaders continue to maintain their hegemony by means of money, power and violence. Hegemonic politics in local elections also defeats the core purpose of local development and empowerment as envisaged in the 73rd Amendment Act and the extent to which public money allotted for various social welfare schemes is dissipated for all the wrong purposes. It is a story about local politicians telling people not what they would do if voted into power, but what they would do if not voted. So, high participation in elections is just an eyewasher hiding the grim realities of how voters are coerced to vote for powerful rural elites.

The main objective of this study is to explore the interplay of money, power and violence as factors determining the course of panchayat elections in UP. In this exploration, I have attempted to answer the following questions:

(i) What is the role of money in elections?

(ii) How is this money used and with what political calculations?

(iii) How local hegemons more appropriately referred to as powerful caste leaders control elections?

(iv) What are their strategies in seats reserved for SCs?

(v) What are the political and economic ambitions linked with pradhani?

(vi) What are the forms of power assertions in pradhani?

(vii) What are the forms of violence and impact on voter’s choice?


Pradhani elections start and end with money. Money serves as a source of power, status and prestige during elections. This was not the case earlier. Elderly people with humble background also commanded respect mainly because of their family status in the villages. This was certainly linked with one’s caste position. Villages comprised a political community- driven by collective interests and social solidarity. Panchayats were no less than an incarnation of Hegelian state, a paragon of collective wisdom and moral pursuits in public life. The harmony was also strengthened by the simplicity of village economies that remained reasonably disconnected from the rigours of economic life in cities. People stayed in villages and preferred to maintain the proximity with nature and family. The existence of such social milieu made the electoral process equable in villages. Reputation and family status which was undoubtedly linked with caste identity determined the prospects of winning pradhani. Stability and status quo were seen as essential features of local politics. Today, as the erstwhile gram pradhan of Devipur gram panchayat stated, “Politics of money and prosperity has replaced the politics of respect and social prestige.”

Flow of money in panchayat elections has increased manifold in the 2015 elections. What is the added incentive? The strategic advantage of electoral investment is that the position offers opportunities to extract shares from welfare funds that come directly in the joint account of gram pradhan and gram vikas secretary since 2010. Previously, the pradhan was dependent on the block development officer for financial allocation which was seen as major reason for implementation failures. The policy change empowered the pradhan financially, but inadvertently resulted in greater scope for financial embezzlement. Powerful caste leaders, mostly from middle-caste peasantry viewed this as a favourable source of earning. But, the poor ones also did not fall behind. They saw pradhani as a way of overcoming the economic hardships in their life, a point that was well substantiated in the presentation at Sariska.1

Local elections have emerged as a business deal with three major stakeholders: the powerful caste leader who is the major investor, the proxy candidate, and the voter. It involves heavy investments with higher returns. While in open constituencies and some Other Backward Class (OBC) constituencies where upper castes or the backward castes are in a dominant position, the investment is made directly by contestants belonging to such caste groups, in reserved constituencies the caste leaders make investments for their proxy candidates. In both cases, the return expected is much higher that the amount invested. In the three villages surveyed, an average of₹5–₹6 lakh was spent in election campaigning. The proxy candidates were also lured by the financial incentives of pradhani. In some cases, two–three candidates with insignificant position were fielded to cut the votes in favour of the hegemon’s candidate. To this end, they were given a sum of₹25,000 each at the Barhi gram panchayat. The voters were paid in cash and kind which were satisfactorily above the expected incentive. They were given₹2,000–₹3,000 in addition to alcohol and non-vegetarian food for men, and sari and payal for women. Many a times they took money but did not vote for the incentive provider. At Devipur, the hegemon’s candidate was voted out for getting rid of the patron’s hegemony. In other cases, the people voted for those who paid better and promised benefits individually. The hegemons in all three villages hired agents to distribute money. In the second gram panchayat, a sum of₹3,000—which was promised as pension for all supporters—was put in their account. Moreover, it was also announced that the pension may be withdrawn if the hegemon’s candidate was not supported. A primary schoolteacher, belonging to the Pasi (SC) community said that the village is mainly inhabited by SCs who are illiterate and ignorant, and therefore fail to make real sense of their political power. Money and alcohol is enough to excite them.

The returns are also high, nearly 10 times of what had been invested in elections previously. This is often extracted from the funds allotted for welfare schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Mid Day Meal Scheme in schools, Samajwadi Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana–Gramin (PMAY–G), etc. But, other developmental works sanctioned by the zilla panchayat may also involve substantial extractions. The scope of financial embezzlement is therefore enormous. In all possibilities, there is a nexus between the pradhan and gram vikas secretary. But this is just about half the story. The picture is even more complicated and intricate than it appears to be. The long chain of corruption existing at the local level ranges from gram pradhan at the bottom to zilla panchayat members at the top. The gram pradhan views his role as a facilitator in this process only out of what could be called as a “compulsive disorder,” a situation in which compulsive extractions result in a disorderly financial management system. A pradhan can survive in politics only if he pays commission at different levels of this chain. This includes the gram vikas secretary, the junior engineer, staff at the block level and zilla panchayat. So, financial embezzlement is not necessarily done for personal aggrandizement but for those whose lack of cooperation may block even the little developmental work done in villages. The pradhan played safe by justifying his position in the corruption network as growing out of a compulsive disorder. This is well substantiated by the statement made by the ex-pradhan of Devipur. He said that,

Around 75% of the fund allotted goes into paying commission to Panchayat Secretary, junior engineer, staff at Block and Zilla Panchayat levels and rest 25% is used for development works. If the commission is not paid then we would have to run around the Block office and Zilla Panchayat and the files would never be cleared. If there is an honest person nobody would allow him to work. He will be rejected by both family and society. Honest people also take but very little. Corruption is so strongly embedded that it can end only with the destruction of the planet.

Therefore, money mattered most in pradhan elections. The returns are worth the price paid via electoral investments. But, voter’s choice is ambivalent. They may take money but still not vote for the benefactor. There is a practice of free ridership here. Whether they vote or not, they may still get the money, alcohol and non-vegetarian food items. But the practice is still not free from a system of checks and balance. There are ways to check the free riders. The investors play a strategic role by threatening to recuperate the amount from those who did not vote. How do they identify the free riders? Agents are hired to act as spies for collecting information post-elections about the ones who took money and still did not vote. Villages are close-knit societies where information flow is facilitated by door-to-door interactions. Threats may also be used to recover money from the non-supporters, a point that will be discussed later.


Power is intricately linked with caste and money. Villages were seen as centres of caste politics. During independence, power and wealth were concentrated in upper castes who held large stretches of land in the villages. Congress maintained its political stronghold in villages through a well-built partronage system in which the upper-caste landlords mobilised support in rural areas and served as patrons of the landless labourers, majority of whom were SCs and backwards (James Manor 2010). Given the rigidities of social system that prevented upward mobility, M K Gandhi’s model of village panchayats was unaccepted by B R Ambedkar who viewed villages as the chief sites of caste discrimination. Therefore, empowering villages would only perpetuate casteism. Other prominent leaders who supported this argument were G L Mehta, A K Iyer and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Gandhian alternative of village panchayats to promote decentralisation could therefore find a place only in the Directive Principles of State Policy under Article 40.

The 73rd Amendment that institutionalised panchayati raj in India tried to address the concern of caste discrimination by reserving seats for marginalised communities SCs, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs and women in local bodies. Empowering them at the grass-roots level was a legal remedy to counter upper-caste domination in villages. Therefore, the idea was not only to check caste discrimination but also provide an avenue for political empowerment of the marginalised communities. But, has this led to the end of domination and caste power? It is implausible to borrow the claim that power assertions based on caste status has declined. Power bases may have shifted but caste power remains intact. The macro-political processes of democratic assertions by the OBCs and the lower castes in the 1980s and 1990s have reordered power bases. Caste has assumed new dimensions in the process of modernisation and democratisation. Marginalised castes desire to preserve their social identity for accruing the benefits of state’s welfare policies. Political elites that emerge in such communities feel much the same as their counterparts in the upper castes. The electoral process at the grass-roots level is a clear reflection of such changing trends in the power game.

The study of electoral trends in Gorakhpur’s gram panchayats provided ample evidence of the changing patterns of social interaction, power bases, and cultural practices in villages. Firstly, there is a clear shift in power bases of different caste groups. Upper-caste domination is gradually being replaced by middle castes. In two of the three gram panchayats surveyed, the hegemon belonged to the OBC community. In the third, it was a Thakur. At Devipur, a family belonging to Yadav community had maintained its hegemony since independence and was ruling the village since then. It had established a hierarchical relation with SCs in the village, but had still fielded a Chamar as the proxy candidate probably with an intention of securing Chamar votes. A schoolteacher of the primary school belonging to the Chamar community in the village said that the Chamars are still treated as outcastes by the upper and backward castes in the village. Food or water served by them is not accepted. They are not allowed to sit with them. They work in the periphery and are subjected to menial tasks like feeding the animals with fodder and water.

Power distribution also had intra-caste dimensions, which evince the fragmentation of political and economic power within typified homogeneous social categories. There are castes within castes and a social hiatus exists between the sub-castes. How did this distance emerge and what made certain sub-castes powerful than others? Social welfare policies for the SCs and OBCs have not led to equitable distribution of benefits and entitlements. Relatively better-off communities cornered the benefits leading to deprivation of others. This inequality was clearly visible between the Pasi and other SC communities like Chamars, Kanaujia (Dhobi) and Doms during the survey. Democratisation and the flow of welfare benefits have empowered the Pasi community more than others. But importantly, the upwardly mobile members of Pasi community also develop a sense of purity and impurity in caste terms. Like the OBCs, they prefer to maintain a social distance from the Chamar community in particular by following the same hierarchical practices in the public domain. The schoolteacher said that they dislike Chamars for being uneducated and socially undesirable. The intra-caste power distribution patterns had implications for the panchayat elections.

First, the three gram panchayats had almost equal number of Pasi and Chamar inhabitants. But more number of Pasi candidates contested the pradhani elections. At Devipur, four out of five candidates were Pasis. At Barhi, again the majority of candidates were Pasis. Only at Gahira, there were equal number of candidates from both the communities. Moreover, the elected candidate was a Pasi in all three cases. All three Pasi candidates were not as resourceful and powerful as the caste leaders in the respective villages, but their position was relatively better than their Chamar counterparts. The winner candidates commanded respect in the village but comprised only the second layer of the power structure that included the caste leader on the top, and Chamar and other SC communities at the bottom. The three-layered power structure is given below.

At Devipur, the hegemon’s Chamar candidate was defeated by a Pasi candidate who was educated. People voted against this candidate to get rid of his patron’s long-established hegemony in the village. The Chamar candidate was the poorest amongst all voters. He worked as a servile dependent of the hegemon and was an animal feeder by profession. The Barhi constituency was reserved for an SC lady. She belonged to the Pasi community and her husband was a close ally of the OBC leader. Again the lady occupied the third layer of the power structure whose invisibility in the elections was perceivable. Infact, it was difficult to capture this reality as the villagers who were interviewed kept referring to the Pasi man seeming that he was the contesting candidate. Only towards the end of the conversation, when a reference to how the villagers approach the gram panchayat came up, the information regarding reserved status (SC female) of the constituency was divulged. A villager said that when the pradhan, who is a lady, is called for some help or assistance, she would pass on the message to her husband who would further contact the caste leader for his confirmation. This again presents a three-layered power structure where the OBC leader assumes the topmost position and the Pasi lady would be at the third level.

(The OBC leader)

SC male (the pradhan pati)

SC female (the gram pradhan)

The hegemon at Barhi had also fielded other Pasi candidates to cut the votes of Chamar candidates and consolidate votes in favour of the preferred Pasi candidate. The elected Pasi candidate’s family in this case was also resourceful but only second to the OBC leader. The latter was the single-most powerful man in the village with not parallels. The villagers said that over the years he had developed close contact with the politicians and government officials at block and zilla levels.

Shifts of power bases were also captured through the perceptions of Brahmins in the gram panchayat. There were eight to nine Brahmin families that resided in a separate colony of the village called as the “Brahmin Tola.” They felt insecure in a system dominated by the OBCs and the strong ones within the SCs and felt neglected by them because of their caste status. For instance, one of them pointed out that under the Samajwadi Party rule few OBC elites have reaped all the benefits. They stated that the benefits of schemes like Samajwadi Pension Yojana have not been equally distributed. It has gone to the resourceful and powerful families within the OBCs and their affiliates in other castes. In the village, the caste leader along with his pradhan affiliate decide the distribution of job cards. The caste solidarity amongst Brahmins was also revealed by the fact that they decided collectively on the candidate to be voted.

The Garahi gram panchayat was the largest in the block and was primarily inhabited by the SCs with more or less equal number of Chamars and Pasis. The upper caste comprised a minuscule 10%. The caste leader in this gram panchayat was a Thakur whose proxy candidate, a Pasi, was elected. The Pasis had a sense of social solidarity and intra-case divisions within the SCs had an impact on panchayat elections. The Thakur family had an influence on the entire region and was at the helm of political affairs since independence. The villagers informed that they had spent more than₹6,00,000 for pradhani elections and was able to influence the voter’s choice both by money and muscle power. The latter phenomenon was often referred to as dabangai in the local dialect.

Overall, the electoral practices in pradhani such as selection of candidates, campaigning, election results present a picture quite contrasting to the monolithic understanding of socio-
political trends in elections. A fragmented caste structure at the grass-roots level reinforces a power structure that appears to be very different from the one erected by the long-established caste system that was thought to be unalterable. Upper castes’ control over power resources is weakening if not ending. Middle castes particularly are able to take control of the political and economic resources of the village. The community is truly rurban, having political contacts at the district level and using local resources at the village level. Pasis are also following the suit.


Violence in panchayat elections has increased manifold. This is in contrast with the harmony and serenity of the past. There were several instances of violence during elections despite tight security measures at the polling booths such as use of CCTV cameras and double locks for ballot boxes. Violence was mainly in the form of physical clashes between rival groups. There were instances of booth capturing, bogus voting and looting of ballot papers (Hindu 2015). Deaths during violent clashes were reported in Fatehpur, Ghazipur, Etah, Badaun and Sultanpur districts (India Today 2015). There were attacks on security personnel at Etah and Jaunpur districts, and city magistrate at Mirzapur by the contesting candidates (Hindu 2015). Vehicles were set on fire. Some stray violent incidents were also reported in Mainpuri, Hardoi and Barabanki.

A phenomenal rise in violence is directly linked with monetary incentives, power and hegemony at the grass-roots level. The financial autonomy of pradhan serves as an incentive to use all means for capturing political power. Violence is one of them. In local elections it is easier to influence people through violence. This is because of regular and close contact with the muscle men who are hired as agents by the politically powerful caste leaders. The villagers succumb to the pressures to avoid confrontation. But this may not always be true. Violent tactics may also have negative repercussions on the voter’s behaviour. To get rid of the hegemons who use violence to influence voting, the voters may support the opponents. So, violence at times may prove counterproductive as evident in Devipur.

Violence is also a form of power assertion. Use of violence in elections is a way of confirming the hegemony of powerful rural elites. Psychologically, violence becomes a source of prestige and status in the public domain. The local expression of power and violence is dabangai which also has a patriarchal dimension. You are less likely to be called a man if you are not a dabang or do not display dabangai. You would command respect only if you are a dabang. Dabang is the one who establishes his authority through violence and threat. Dabangai is best expressed in panchayat elections where powerful caste leaders, assisted by hired muscle men, campaign around the village during elections.

Violence may not always be understood in physical terms. Most commonly, it exists in the form of latent threats expressed verbally without using physical violence. The practice is very common in Gorakhpur. Such threats may take the form of verbal abuses, blackmailing and life threats, and may continue even after the elections. In Devipur, non-supporters traced through spies were threatened of recovery of the money they had received during campaigning. The schoolteacher informed that even the local police does not help because they are controlled by the hegemon.

At Barhi (the second village), voters said that they were scared of the caste leader. One of the young voters belonging to Chamar community said that apprehending his disapproval he was abused by the elected candidate, who had threatened him that once he assumes pradhani through his wife he would not extend any help to him and ensure that all his work gets blocked. He also said that since the pradhan pati belonged to a resourceful family and was close to the hegemon, he would show his dabangi in all possible ways. The Brahmins in the village felt most threatened by the hegemon and his pradhan associate, claiming that they were verbally abused and threatened with dire consequences if they did not vote for the hegemon’s candidate. Blackmailing was also one of the visible forms of latent threat in this gram panchayat. The hegemon threatened to withdraw the pension amount on account of betrayal during elections.

The elections were less threatening at Garahi, probably because of its size and diversity but the dabangai of the caste leader was very much intact. The villagers did not report of any violence or threat in the village. This was probably because of countervailing pressures exerted by multiple dabangs. When asked about violence and threat in the village, a young voter said that everyone is a dabang in the village. A consistent pattern of voters’ response to political violence was difficult to establish. While they felt threatened in some cases and became submissive, they deliberately defeated the hegemon or his proxy candidate by not voting in their favour to express their retaliation against violence and aggression.


The electoral trends in pradhani draw our attention to the unsavoury if not undemocratic practices of grass-roots politics. Excessive flow of money, and relentless use of caste power and violence show the insularity of political elites and lack of political will to promote public welfare. As development does not assume electoral salience in pradhani elections, the elected representatives lack the political will to take any initiative on that front. Money distributed during elections is enough to influence voters and if that does not work, assertion of power though violence and threat may be used as an alternative. It would therefore not be implausible to consider that development motivations are next to absent in pradhani elections. Ironically, voters may sometimes take money but still not vote for the money-giver. But, threat signals often coerce them to vote for the powerful candidate. There is a fear of being socially boycotted as well.

The UP Election Commission came up with notable measures to put limits on the use of money in the 2015 pradhani elections. The expense limit was set at₹75,000 for gram pardhan and₹10,000 for ward members of the gram panchayat. This policy, however, did not deter the contestants and their patrons to exceed the prescribed expenditure limits. Sometimes the expenditures, as seen in the case of Gariha gram panchayat, could be 10 times higher than the stipulated amount. Absence of a monitoring mechanism for checking excessive expenditures is what defeats the purpose of the policy measure. The commission also lacks resources and staff to undertake such monitoring tasks. However, greater use of information and communications technology for monitoring and supervision of electoral investments could be a possible solution. Also, effective penal measures in case of non-adherence to prescribed norms can discourage excessive expenditures. Voters must also be sensitised about misuse of money and power by rural elites so that they use their political power wisely to vote for a concrete developmental agenda than short-term monetary gains. The non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations and other voluntary organisations can play a constructive role in this regard. Unfortunately, very few civil society organisations like Janaagraha2 have led campaigns for sensitising voters. Also, such NGOs are urban-centric and have limited opportunities to go rural.

Similarly, adequate security measures, as mentioned earlier, were taken to ensure peaceful conduct of elections. But, controlling violence and abuses did not appear to be an easy task. The ineffectiveness of local policing could be cited as the major bottleneck. The police is often kept at bay by the local power elites either through money, or at times, through muscle power. Villagers feel reluctant to approach the police with complaints of threat and violence. With reference to the question on the assistance of local police, the village headmaster at Devipur responded that, “it is pointless approaching the police with such complaints as they would never go against their patrons (mai baap).” Second, as most of the violence is in the form of latent threat or blackmailing, it cannot be legally addressed due to inadequacy of evidence. But, greater collectivisation could help withstand such threat rather than relying exclusively on local police for protection. A good example is Devipur where the school headmaster mobilised poor voters to elect an educated candidate to counter the hegemony of the caste leader.

The turbulence in local politics is hardly an indication of a democratic upsurge or political dynamism. The empowered caste leaders from the erstwhile marginalised sections have fallen in line with their upper-caste counterparts with similar ambitions and social behaviour. But the emerging trends in local elections and politics do not indicate the collapse of democracy. It only brings to light the indiscipline and incivility of the grass-roots democracy. This may well be explained by Ashutosh Varshney who exclaims that, “Decline of civic virtues in politics is a feature of every democracy; but this does not negate democracy ... Inequalities may make a polity less democratic and not undemocratic ...” (Varshney 2013). He characterises the Indian democracy as a noisy and shaky which is well experienced in UP’s pradhani politics. How is democracy maintained despite the use of force and violence to influence voters during elections? Violence and threat may not always translate into votes. Voters may act fearlessly and democratically to counter the hegemony by not voting for the hegemon. Democracy itself may create avenues for the emergence of multiple power centres that make it less pressurising for the voters to exercise independent choice. Because of the countervailing pressures, the voters are at ease to take decisions out of choice and not out of compulsion. Not relying enough on the assistance of governing agencies and implementation of policy measures, people have found their own democratic ways of countering threat and violence and that is the reason why despite all the uncivility and uncouthness of local politics, the show goes on.


1 Paper entitled “Sociopolitical Dynamics of Pradhani Elections in UP (2016)” presented at the EECURI (India–Europe Project) Conference in Sariska, Rajasthan in January 2015.

2 Janaagraha is a Bengaluru-based civil society organisation. It started a campaign called “Jago Re” to clean up the electoral rolls in metro cities of India.


Hindu (2015): “Two Killed as Violence Mars 2nd Phase of UP Panchayat Polls,” 2 December,

India Today (2015): “3 Killed in Gram Panchayat Elections in Violence in UP,”
14 December,

Manor, James (2010): “Parties and Party System,” Parties and Party Politics in India, Zoya Hasan’s (ed), New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Oldenburg, Philip (2009): “Face to Face with the Indian State: A Grassroots View,” Rudolphs et al (eds), Experiencing the State, Oxford University Press.

Varshney, Ashutosh (2013): Battles Half Won: India’s Improbable Democracy, Delhi: Penguin, Viking.

Updated On : 19th Jun, 2018


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