How Democracies Work
Ashutosh Kumar
PATRONAGE AS POLITICS IN SOUTH ASIA by Anastasia Piliavsky Cambridge University Press, New Delhi,, 2015, 469 pp., 895
February 2015, volume 39, No 2

For any observer of politics in South Asia, there is always a question waiting to be answered. What explains the enthusiastic participation of the electorates in the ‘new’ democracies/semi-democracies of South Asia (whenever they get an opportunity!) remains a puzzle for them. Why elections are such grand spectacles bringing a festive spirit among the masses is intriguing for an impressed westerner as she assesses the ground reality. While the percentage of voters coming to polling booth keeps diminishing in the ‘old’/ ‘established’ democracies of the West, they keep rising steadily in the South Asian states, even the one like Pakistan that is being derided/certified as ‘failed/rogue’ states. Significantly, the rise is among the ones who are economically and socially marginal as revealed in the case of India. This, even when the political regimes across the board in these states have failed miserably to fulfil any of the seductive promises made at the time of Independence like fulfilment of economic necessities and bringing a modicum of equality in society.

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