By Nidhi Mathur
India’s 2009 Elections; Coalition Politics, Party Competition and Congress Continuity, Paul Wallace and Ramashray Roy (Eds.), Sage Publications, Pp 412 (HB), Rs 995.00
India’s democracy and politics are intertwined and complex. Elections provide a window into the process and the basis for important political judgements.
India’s electorate emphasised political stability and governance coherence in the 15th general elections in 2009. Prediction of a fragmented electorate and party system emboldened small groups to envision obtaining power in third and fourth fronts, emphasising regions, case, ideological and personality considerations.
The prognosis based on the 2009 elections and preceding elections is the waxing and waning of particular regional parties, but continuance of their major importance at the state level. Coalition politics also make them natural players. But one primary question raised by the 2009 elections is what is the nature of India’s federal system and in particular, it’s Centre-state relations? A somewhat new concept may be in the process of replacing that of the older nation-state.
The first part of the book under review looks at India as a whole, while the second part focuses on the state. Four analysts from different backgrounds join in emphasising the coherence and continuity as well as positive changes in India’s federalism from different perspectives. Ramashray Roy’s emphasis is on the strength and importance of regional parties within the larger coalition. Jyotindra Dasgupta deals with the development of India’s integration and national identity. Rainuka Dagar says that “female leadership in state governance” continues to be low and regrets that the women’s “vote bank” has not emerged. Chrisophe Jaffrelot focuses on the BSP and its ambitious leader, Mayawati.
The second part of the book consists of individual case studies. Here Ghanshyam Shah says Gujarat is the only state in India where the BJP has continuously scored 50 per cent of the total seats in the last six Lok Sabha elections and focuses on Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He says that Congress has no comparable state leader to match Modi’s popularity. Amiya Chaudhuri examines the various reasons for the decline of CPI (M)’s rural base, its policies including the use of violence in rural areas. A gripping read on contemporary politics.
(Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, B1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area, Mathura Road, Post Bag 7, New Delhi – 110 044; www.sagepublications.com)