India’s Political Parties – A book review

India has been in politics mode for quite sometime now. Given the noise, one is always interested in understanding things a lot deeper than what us thrown at you from the media galleries.

Came across this really useful book – India’s Political Parties. It is part of series of books on Indian government and politics. The book has chapters on India’s key political parties by different experts. The book is edited by Peter Ronald DeSouza (0f CSDS Delhi) and E. Sridharan (India Centre at UPenn).

The book is a rare gem as it gives you great insights on history and ideology that has shaped these various political parties from Congress to Shiv Sena. For a largely politically ignorant person, it is a great start as much is unknown. Apart from political parties, there are articles on how we classify political parties based on objectives etc and how India’s political parties can be classified accordingly. It has classical articles by likes of Rajni Kothari, Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), MN Roy etc. names  which are hardly talked about in our discourse.

I really liked the article by JP titled as a plea for the reconstruction of Indian polity. It is a classic as much of it even makes sense today. Amazing to note how once upon a time, our politicians were such amazing thinkers as well.

The article’s last para is still so relevant. He is criticising general elections for its huge expenditure and does not generate any public good. So he says:

“It would have been a matter of some consolation if the huge expenditure had resulted in any public good. In fact the result is contrary. A general election…creates unnecessary passion and excitement; instead of educating and enlightening people it befogs their mind; instead of resulting in election of able and good men it tends to favour demagoguery. Serious political and economic issues and other questions of policy, it is obvious, should be considered calmly and dispassionately and not in the heat of partisan warfare. That is why I hold that the practice of general elections should be abolished. The elected houses should be continuous in nature, with a part of them being renewed periodically”.

Wonder how he would react to the enormous nuisance that is created over elections these days. He would perhaps be appalled to see how divided and acerbic the whole debate has become.

A very good book indeed (though still reading it). Along with this one should also read Public Institutions in India, to get a good understanding of India’s polity.

Will try and see if I can point to more such books. Much better to read than the half baked knowledge thrown in newspapers these days..

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