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The development of state politics in India as an academic discipline is a recent
phenomenon. It is from 1990’s that states in India have come to occupy a central position
in national politics.
Owing to the need for integrating the country post independence, the federal
provisions of the constitution were not exhaustively deliberated upon or implemented.
The existence of one party dominant system added to the states playing a marginal role in
early post independence period.
However the scenario has considerably changed over the time. Rise of strong
regional parties, financial freedom due to liberalization, new identity politics within states
and several other factors have led the states to occupy great importance in shaping the
politics of India.
The first systematic study on state politics in India was done by Myron Weiner
and Iqbal Narain providing a detailed history of formation of various states, their politico-
adminstrative structure, economic conditions, party systems and patterns of leadership
etc. ,all that was neglected till then.
Weiner held that states provide an important link connecting towns, villages to
national politics and that many perplexing questions about Indian poltics can be solved
through study of state politics. Their work will be discussed in detail later.
States were studied like Punjab by Baldev Nayyer, UP by Paul Brass, Madras by
Robert Hardgrave. The authors in the field tried to search for a common pattern of state
politics. Studies on Indian politics in 1990’s examine political developments in the states
in order to fully understand the future direction of the economy and polity.
The seminal position occupied by the states in national politics is a result of two
long term processes operating in the polity 1. a complex inter-play of national and
regional forces through history, 2. The closely inter-related twin processes of
democratization and regionalization of politics which began to operate when the
constitution was put to practice. These processes are still going on and owing to these the
states will continue to play a major role in overall politics in India.

Our study is focused on three critical developments in the states in 1990’s 1)

transformation of the party system from congress system to coalitions 2) assertion of
regional and ethnic identities changing the social base of parties 3) politics of economic
reforms and liberalization.
There is a lack of common theoretical framework for the study of state politics in India.
The study on this subfield of Indian politics remained neglected till mid 1960’s and the
reasons for it being the centre ‘created’ the state and formed a single constitution that
treated the country as an organic whole. Provisions of president’s rule and single party
dominant system barred the autonomous growth of state politics.
India is a ‘segmented polity’; happenings in one state do not affect another
state(Iqbal Narayan).This lack of uniformity and generalization difficult. In fact some
writers have raised the question of whether a common theoretical framework is possible
or even desirable.
However a theoretical framework provides a direction, a focus and a framework
of analysis to the increasing research in state politics. In the present study we will trace
its development since independence in three phases.
FIRST PHASE: 1950-mid 1960’s
A few pioneering works were taken which focused attention on states. The organization
of states and linguistic problems drew attention. Several election studies were conducted
under the auspices of IPSA like that of Kerala 1957 mid-term polls.
The systematic study of state elections begins from 1962. for most studies the formal
legal approach was undertaken which was the dominant methodology at that time. It
studied the formal structures of the politici-adminstrative system of these states.
However many important political changes were ignored and could not be
explained within this framework. Also no attempt was made to interrelate the political
phenomena in the states and was largely studied in isolation. Rajni Kothari had developed
his framework of ‘One party dominance’ and what he called the ‘congress system’ but it
was not applied to the states. Areas such as leadership patterns, decision making process,
economic disparities were hardly touched upon.

SECOND PHASE: 1967-1990

The second phase begins with the All India seminar on state politics in Jaipur in
December 1965 wherein papers on state politics in India were published edited by Iqbal
Myron Weiner’s work on state politics was also published around the same time.
This marks the starting point of systematic study of state politics. The history of the
formation of many states, their politico-administrative structure, economic condition,
state party systems, patterns of leadership and social stratification etc., were focused on in
detail for the first time.
Iqbal Narayan presented a three dimensional approach to study state politics---
contextual, structural and operative within a systematic perspective. It provided an
approach which researchers could follow and whereby the study of state politics would
Myron Weiner’s book grew out of the work of the committee on South Asia. But
despite many contributions in the field no common framework was used. The variables
used by Weiner were taken from political development approach.
A major characteristic of the literature during this phase is that states were still
studied as existing on the periphery and theoretical generalizations were pitched at the
central level.
Rajni Kothari’s developmental model which tried to explain the ‘shift’ within the
system of one party dominance as a part of the ongoing process of political change in
India and Iqbal Narayan’s concept of ‘polarized pluralism’ provide two excellent
examples. In both the electoral change, coalition governments, and new alignments of
forces in the states, in 1967 were fitted in as part of a larger systematic change.
Kothari explained his concept of One party dominance and Congress system in
many of his works. He visualized a single party system in which state political parties did
not exist outside but were part of it.
Congress party acted as an umbrella party marked by inner party democracy and
accommodative nature. Hence Kothari held that electoral politics, the shape of party
systems and political processes in the states could be shaped by changes at the national

Iqbal Narayan’s theme also put state party systems into the all-India party system.
Hence no “independent political space” was accorded in the 1960s to political happenings
in the state.
Number of voting behavior studies were also conducted owing to the growth of
empiricism which also coincided with major electoral change in states in 1967.
Rajni kotharis research design formed the bases of many such studies conducted
by CSDS. However these did not contribute to a general theory of state politics as most
of these studies remained isolated empirical exercise.
In 1967 elections we find general studies of state elections for the first time with
state wise surveys of the electoral process. They also give us a picture of emerging power
patterns and political participation in the states.
The defeat of the Congress party in 1967 in many states and the subsequent
political changes, led to studies on coalition governments, defections, factionalism, state
party systems etc.
Thus this was a phase when a large number of empirical studies were conducted,
but from which no general theoretical framework regarding state politics emerged. The
states were also still viewed as part of a larger system.
THIRD PHASE 1970s-1990s and after
In the third state a number of studies of individual states providing a comprehensive
history of the state, its institutional structure, political processes, elections, economic
development and even local government appeared.
Voting behavior studies with special focus on a particular social group or area were
also undertaken. A thorough study of state politics was done through electoral process.
Also several attempts were made to do comparative analysis of the states in terms of
voting and electoral outcome.
This phase saw studies of two types.- on the congress party in states and region
based non-congress parties. There was a shift in focus from the national to the state level,
which conceded to the states an independent ‘political space’ within the Indian political

Caste too was no longer viewed as acting alone, but complex interpenetration of
caste, class and power hierarchies and its differential manifestations in urban and rural
politics were studied.
The state functioning was studied in terms of being individual entities and as units
within the larger system. Such studies enabled us to see the peculiarities of each state as
well as allow comparative interpretation. Thus study of no any phenomena was no longer
compartmentalized or studied in isolation.
Also due to the triumph of post behavioralism during this period, no single method
or approach was relied upon and many different approaches were used.
Post 1990 many fundamental changes have taken place in Indian polity. There has
been a shift from the early Nehruvian consensus on socialism to a more liberalistic
economy. With the rise of strong regional parties, centre state relations since late 1980s
have shifted from consensual to conflictual mode.
Sharpening of identities has increased caste and communal conflicts in the state,
which is reflected in constantly shifting alliances and instability, that also results in weak
coalition governments at the centre.
Despite the fact that over the time studies on state politics have increased a lot but
still there are a few gaps. There is a need to study the process of liberalization in the
states from political perspective. Besides the ever more growing role of communalism in
state politics need to be studied with renewed interest. Also the secessionist movements
in states like J&K need theoretical framework for explanation that has been largely

This study material is based on following book and meant for reading only
Reference. ‘State politics : new dimensions’ by Sudha Pai