The book under review is a significant contribution to the study of Indian elections as well as Indian politics. It brings a whiff of fresh air into the hothouse atmosphere pre¬valent in the discipline of political science in this coun¬try. Mrs. Kaushik not only identifies the limitations of the election studies conducted during the last fifteen years but also offers an alternative approach for understanding the phenomenon of elections and electoral politics. She has rendered a very useful service in demonstrating the necessity of co-relating the socio-economic factors and their relevance to the analysis of electoral politics.
It should be noted here that election studies has been an extremely popular theme for ‘research’ among Indian poli¬tical scientists. It has made substantial financial assistance and academic credibility avail¬able to them at a very easy cost. Lakhs of rupees have been spent by the Indian Council of Social Science Research and the University Grants Commission to sponsor these studies.
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The beneficiaries have been neither the voter nor the polity but the ‘resear¬chers’ themselves. The basic flaw on the part of Indian scholars has been an uncritical acceptance of the approach and methodology of the beha¬vioural political scientists of the advanced capitalist count¬ries.They have also borrow¬ed the notions of ‘democratic man’ and ‘democratic society’ propounded by the western social scientists who have been defenders of capitalism, con¬servatism and elitism.
Mrs. Kaushik has rightly sub¬jected these election studies to a critical assessment. Accor¬ding to her, they are ‘too microscopic, time-bound and territorially delimited’. They are characterized by a ‘frag¬mented’ approach, and their conclusions are ‘partial’, ‘narrow’ and ‘dated’. She further says that they have ‘ignored the contextual dimen¬sions, the preceding political history, and the future expect¬ations of the system which form the definite back drop of the political process’. Her observation on the question of methodology (methods?) is pertinent. Many academics evinced a keenness to gauge the voting behaviour of a population that was consi¬dered to be a peculiar combi¬nation of massive illiteracy, economic backwardness and social primitive- ness with a newly-won independence and the highest forms of demo¬cracy based on universal adult franchise. Very many micro-level studies appeared armed with huge amount of paper work in the form of question¬naires and data compilation and adopting in toto the much publicized methodology of be¬havioural studies. Computer¬izing mechanical background data, tabulating them and in¬terviewing the respondents, replaced human observation at close proximity. Pheno¬mena like critical qualified support, reluctant voting con¬scious, non-voting and succes¬sive non-conscious voting did not come under the purview of-such a computer-oriented methodology, which limited the scope of the studies to voters’ backgrounds and their simple mechanical behaviour pattern.
Mrs. Kaushik suggests the need for ah alternative approach. Her own work attempts to seek ’empirical evidence to test the conclusions’ and ‘relies on a social structural analysis of Indian polities’. The voter is treated as ‘a whole man subjected to com¬bined pressures of economic interest, at times unarticulated and Unorganized, and political values born out if it’.
For a meaningful understand¬ing of elections and the electo¬rate’s voting behaviour, the dynamics of political economy should not be ignored. It involves a study of the mode/ modes of production, rela¬tions of production and social stratifications, which ulti¬mately determine the nature of politics in any society. Mrs. Kaushik has presented a lucid picture of rural India as well as the urban sector. She has also described the classes and the nature of interaction among the mem¬bers of these classes, wherein lies the social basis of the different political parties. Analysing factors such as patron-client relationships and the emerging trend of ‘de-patronization’, organized pea-sants’ movements in the rural areas, the motives and aspi¬rations of big capital, and the role of money in elections, the author has advanced a new interpretation of the ‘wave’ phenomenon, ‘vote-banks’, and ‘primordial’ considerations on the part of the electorate. Against this background, she has also assessed the electoral performance of the Left parties in the country’s politics. After Charles Bettelheim’s India Independent, Ajit Roy’s Political Power in India and S.D. Gupta’s Justice and Political Order in India, Mrs. Kaushik’s work will undoubtedly go a long way towards explaining the class character of the Indian state and politics.
Moin Shakir is Professor in the Department of Political Science, Marathwada University, Aurangabad.