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Key Issues in the Study of State Politics in India


Analysing the interconnections between politics and development in South Asia, this chapter argues that since 1989 power has been decentralised—away from the national level—and at the same time centralised within numerous federal states. A categorization of Indian states regarding their concentration of power is developed and the rise in abuses of power by various Chief Ministers is analysed. Taking a Machiavellian perspective I will addresses the question whether Chief Ministers draw on ‘clientelism’, populism, or ‘post-clientelism’? It will be argued that due to the long-term disadvantages of clientelism and populism, the increase in state revenues led to a proliferation of ‘post-clientelist’ programmes. Additional policy puzzles will be examined such as: do Chief Ministers choose to nurture, distract (through opportunities for enrichment), marginalise or occasionally cut down their subordinates? How and to what extent do Chief Ministers indulge in corruption (for themselves, their parties or in turning a blind eye)? How do Chief Ministers ‘manage’ national leaders?

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  1. 1.

    In a small minority of states, significant powers have also flowed further downward to panchayati raj institutions (especially at district and local levels), but most state governments have been rather ungenerous to panchayats. For more detail see Manor 2010.

  2. 2.

    It was in 1995 that Chandrababu Naidu seized power in a palace coup from his father-in-law, Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao . It is arguable that Rama Rao had personally dominated the state government before his ouster, but Naidu proceeded far more systematically and effectively in radically centralising power. When he was defeated by the Congress Party at a state election in May 2004, the new Congress Chief Minister (Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy) sought to exercise personal dominance over the state government in much the same way that Naidu had done. That was more difficult to achieve from atop the Congress Party, but Reddy succeeded to a considerable degree. The two Chief Ministers who succeeded Reddy have been unable to maintain centralised control.

  3. 3.

    These will appear soon in two forthcoming volumes. The first is Democratization in the Global South: The Importance of Transformative Politics, edited by Olle Tornquist and Kristian Stokke. The second will be edited by K.C. Suri and Hans Lofgren. The latter paper also supplements the overall analysis of state politics set out here.

  4. 4.

    Interviews with two civil servants who were present at that meeting, Hyderabad, 19 and 20 August 2001.

  5. 5.

    Free Press Bhopal Journal, 29 October 2010.

  6. 6.

    Interview, Bhopal, 4 December 2003.

  7. 7.

    Interview with a senior civil servant, Mumbai, 5 February 1999.

  8. 8.

    The main exception is the Communist Party of India-Marxist. The DMK in Tamil Nadu once had a penetrative organisation, but in recent years it has degenerated into a family enterprise. Chandrababu Naidu had some success while he was Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister (1995–2004) in making his Telugu Desam Party organisation penetrate into rural arenas. But once he left office, it lost its capacity to do so effectively.

  9. 9.

    This is an important theme in a forthcoming book on the MNREGA by Rob Jenkins and this writer.

  10. 10.

    These comments are based on an interview in New Delhi with a civil servant who played a key role in managing the MGNREGA in Bihar , and with a leading policy maker at the national level, 5 April 2012.

  11. 11.

    Raman Singh’s Chhattisgarh government (since 2003) has detained large numbers of adivasi’s who have plainly not been involved in political activity as part of its anti-Naxalite campaign. Andhra Pradesh witnessed very high numbers of deaths in police custody and extremely severe repression of Naxalites under both Chandrababu Naidu and Rajashekhar Reddy.

  12. 12.

    These comments are based on interviews by this writer with Congress politicians, a key civil servant, and analytical journalists in Bangalore in late January 1992.

  13. 13.

    Interviews with Chenna Reddy and others, Hyderabad, April 1991.

  14. 14.

    This comes from Jug Suraiya who usually writes to amuse readers, but on this occasion he showed in the Times of India (30 November 2010) that he can also produce political analyses.

  15. 15.

    Interviews with a leading analytical journalist and a senior police officer formerly posted in Rayalaseema, Hyderabad, 2 and 3 December 2012.

  16. 16.

    This writer interviewed Rama Rao , who was dressed similarly and seated in the same chair, in 1984.

  17. 17.

    I am grateful to Cho Ramaswamy for this information.

  18. 18.

    Interview with a close aide to Naidu, Hyderabad, 7 August 1996.


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Manor, J. (2015). Key Issues in the Study of State Politics in India. In: , et al. Politics in South Asia. Springer, Cham.

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