Diversity Among States

State Politics in India

Himanshu Roy

Politics in each state has its own internal dynamics, and it is different from others multifacetedly. The variation is premised on that size of the population, territory, or on the kind of topography, economy, and on the power structure of different classes and communities (e.g., castes/ tribes/ religion in their inner/inter class/communitarian relationships, respectively). These dynamics may aggravate or soften up the distinctions of each state under different kinds of governance actuating under a process in a region. Or it may acquire further identity contours under the impact of religiosity, regional jingoism, sub-regional, and ethnic movements. Or under the impact of religious organizations, rural-urban divide, industrialization -urbanization process, it becomes violent /vituperative. The stage of social political awareness of the labour and peasantry, the power of the local elite, their historical legacies and the overall economic development of the state play an equally important role in shaping its specificity.

Yet there are commonalities across the boundaries at micro and macro levels. The common linkages are the expansion and intensification of capitalism and its social relations into the innermost peripheral areas, breakdown of the old structures and social mores, emergence of civil society, development of administrative transparency, growth of alternative party systems and the linkages of each state with the global capital. The liberalization of economy over the decades has speeded up the growth of commonalities across the states through uniform production process and consumption culture. It has brought technologies and products of universal standard in the market and workplaces that have rung in similar kind of culture across the regions among the different classes and segments.

The growth of the wage labour under the expanding capitalist production of different layers, and their subsequent mobility in the wake of liberalization, had led to or has sought for standardized taxation system, and universalization and governance particularly under the pressure of the international capital. Since the globalization has opened up the different arenas of economy and society of the states to international capital and to its culture, there is an external demand as well for the universalization of attributes of capital.

The expanding market economy has also generated social tension. Or it has led to the breakdown of the pre- capitalist / preceding forms of capitalist social formations resulting into social movements of different kinds in different regions which, in turn, had expedited the rate of rural-urban migration and the growth of the civil society. These movements, not all, are, however, disjointed or segmentary, micro in scale and localized in issues which are essentially against the dominant model of economic-social development which are initiated, actively supported or coordinated by, mostly, the voluntary organizations. A consequence of the protest movements, particularly like the militancy / terrorism / insurgency etc., has been the formulation and application of uniform legal anti-terror laws (POTA) or counter-terror measures (NIA, NCTC) and of developmental policies which reflect the centralizing tendency of the federation. It also, simultaneously, reflects the clamour for democratization of administrative structure, better development of local infrastructure and good governance which has led to institutional innovations in the federalized polity, e.g, the formation of tribal / autonomous/ administrative councils, regular panchayat elections, etc.

The changing social structure and their new civic requirements have compelled the political parties to mend their ways of governance. It has, simultaneously also, altered the regional / state party systems resulting into the demise of Congress system and has predominantly become the bi-party or bi-coalitional systems across the majority of states and union territories. The rise of the Other Backward Castes, Dalits and other marginalized sections catapulted the non-Congress parties into the power and heralded the era of political decentralization through coalition formations not only in states but also at the centre. Their aspirations (of OBCs, dalits and marginalized) for accountable, efficient and transparent functioning of the local administration across different states rung in universalized attributes of governance reflected in the new legislations (Lokayuktas, Right to Information, Right to Services) for civic efficiency.

The contemporary subaltern politics in states, thus, veers around three issues : (a) governance (b) development policies and (c) decentralization of polity. It has moved away, markedly, not wholly from the demands of linguistic states, land reforms, caste politics (under the facade of social justice), nationalization, secession and religiosity which were the dominant themes of the academic discourse on state politics since the 1960s. As the social structure, germane to politics, has substantively changed the politics of the states was inevitably to change. The changes, in terms of policy formulation and administrative application, were substantive. The prominent changes since 1967 can be delineated here with brief explanation :

1.     Caste and religious politics in the post-Nehruvian era, which were the dominant sites of politics, then socially progressive, necessitate by the requirements of social justice, are now marginalized by the new development politics of the regions/sub-regions and the market which, unlike primodial past, ate secular.

2.    Governance, decentralization, efficient civic functioning and infrastructural development are the new social mantras which have acquired prominence in the last 20 years resulting into the conduct of regular panchayat elections, formation of new smaller states, autonomous / administrative / tribal councils, etc. The agenda is the efficient administrative functioning for the civic, municipal requirements of the citizens and their direct engagement with the polity.

3.    States are much more integrated with the centre, with each other and with the global capital today than they were in the pest. Yet, their political autonomy, vis-a-vis centre, is more functional today. The impact of the coalition politics and the assertion of the locality have markedly changed their operative relation. In fact, teleologically the coalition politics itself is the by-product of the assertion of the locality which has partly recovered their lost rights of being autonomous usurped by the centre. It also simultaneously reflects the struggle of the provinces for the readjustment of power-structure with the centre.

4.    The expansion of the civil society today has strengthened the secular public sphere and the citizenship, and has restrained the coercive application of state apparatus in its engagements with the citizens in its regular functioning resulting into larger degree of citizens' freedom.

5.    It has also resulted in the change in the party system, both in the states and in the centre. It has become more competitive and has ushered in the formation of non-Congress governments and a better federalized polity.

6.    This, in turn, has led to the making of India's foreign policy more democratic as border and littoral states attempt to assert their local politics into its making; at least, towards her immediate neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. Earlier, in the Congress system, it was absent or marginal.

7.    Finally, Capitalism has destroyed this old social structure and mores and has rung in new wage-labour formation with their spatial mobility and universal consumption culture resulting into marginali-zation of regional diversities in public and personal domains to a large extent. It has simultaneously integrated India into the nation more strongly and has ushered in global capital along with its culture into her economy and polity with its attendant ramifications.

More, most of the states or in fact, every state has witnessed different forms of social movements, some of which have continued for longer years such, for example, as Naxal movement, movement in Kashmir, tribal movements across states in the North East. These movements have imprinted their regions with varying effect with one commonality and that is the deeper penetration of bourgeois polity and economy in the region with their attendant ills and benefits. Some of these are the rural- urban migration, emergence of civil society, lessening of primordial ties in public sphere, new wage- labour formation in the regions, arrival of technological, cultural modernity and of symbols of state power. As a result, the role of religion/ caste/ ethnicity in public mobilization has been considerably reduced leading to lesser engineered/spontaneous riots or organized ethnic/caste violence over the years. In fact, the use of these primordialities by political parties for electoral/political benefits are actively being countered by the expanding civil society best reflected in UP, Bihar where religions/caste mobilizations in recent elections have failed to yield substantive results for the political parties. Marginalization of such divisive issues in different regions has integrated contemporary India more intensively than her past. Mass politics with such development has impacted the politics of the elite as well which are, despite being autonomous to an extent now relatively constrained in its nefarious functioning. As a result, recent years have witnessed better governance and development.

Also, the misuse of the role of the Governor by the centre against the 'hostile' governments in the states (e.g. Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh) despite frequent strictures of the courts continues to haunt the states. This is one area where there has been less change irrespective of the party in power at the centre. In fact, the quality of the Governors being appointed to the post has further deteriorated over the past few years and the office has become the den of corruption. Besides these, in most of the states of the North- East or in border states or in the states where Naxal movements/secessionist movements/terrorism/insurgencies, etc., have been underway, persons with the background of defence/police/intelligence are posted as governors. This has created further resentment and alienation among the local citizens as they perceive the choice of the personnel to be a reflection of the negative thinking of the Centre which, it is thought, treats the protests in such states as law and order problem. The post, thus, continues to remain a thorn in the centre-state relations.

However, despite these commona-lities, each state is still different from the others in caste structure, laws, taxation, policing, education, governance, language, infrastructure, governmentality and in many other myriad ways. Diversity is starkly visible if one crosses the borders of state which understates that capital has yet to finish its historical agenda of globalization of standard attributes of markets of production process and consumer culture, i.e. of industrialization, urbanization and proletarianization. The existence of 68 percent of rural population ,as per 2011 census, reflects it. It also ensures the existence of diversity among states for years within the Indian polity.

Vol. 49, No.13-16, Oct 2 - 29, 2016