03 January 2013

India's Politicians: The Rural Zamindars

Rajni Kothari ("Politics in India", 1970) on politicians – the rural zamindars:

"In order to make itself secure in office, the ruling groups in the states have increasingly relied on the rural vote, spreading its patronage far and wide controlling local authorities, educational institutions and other developmental agencies, including important voluntary organisations. Concomitantly, institutional power shifted downward and a different set of men emerged who took charge of these networks, captured positions in the party organisation, and slowly acquired considerable strength and power.

The new organisation men that emerged are to be found away from the urban centres of state power in small towns and district capitals, closer to the traditional order, and exhibiting a new style in Indian politics. They are pragmatic men, less oriented to the modernist idiom but modernisers in their own way, men who understand the subtleties and nuances of local society, powerful persons who have taken time in coming up, and who are therefore confident of their own strength. When elections come, the state leaders have to rely increasingly upon these men who happen both to occupy positions of influence in the institutions of planned change and to be in close communication with socially entrenched and economically powerful local elites. Some of them are popular leaders, others ruthless managers, but they control the vote.

Generally coming from the well-to-do class of peasant proprietors, they are men of some means, skilled in the art of managing men and running institutions, and very knowledgeable concerning local conditions.

They have to establish a rapport with the local bullies (muscle) who can intimidate and cajole the people, who normally keep faith, and who in their crude way maintain peace in the locality."

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