Getting a Fair Share: Politics and the Poor in Rural India

Author: 
Baruah, Sanjib Kumar
Year: 
1983

     The purpose of this dissertation is to have an empirical understanding of poor people's politics in rural India. The conditions necessary for efficacious participation . . . constitute the major thrust of the inquiry." There are three such conditions: "First, the poor have to perceive that their interest lies in collective efforts to get a fair share. Second, with participation, the interest of the poor has to be articulated. Third, once the interests of the poor are articulated the authorities have to respond by adopting pro-poor policies." The study considers such questions as "What are the economic agendas that the poor themselves have? What are the available constructions of the interests of the rural poor in empirical instances of political participation? How do goals of political organizations structure the pattern of interest articulation? What are the policy consequences of political participation by the rural poor?"
     In this dissertation, I . . . examine two configurations of political intermediation of the interests of the rural poor in India: one where the dominant political idioms are class and the other where the dominant political idioms are caste, factions and personality. . . . The two configurations . . . are: (a) the mobilized participation by the rural poor under the auspices of the Communist Part of India (Marxist) -- the CPM -- in the state of West Bengal; and (b) perceptions of the interests of the rural poor amongst the local political leaders in the Meerut district of western Uttar Pradesh . . . . best known as the home of Chaudhuri Charan Singh, who combines a political strategy of caste alliances with an ideology of agrarian populism." "Before investigating the modes of political intermediation, I . . . first . . . reconstruct the economic universe of the rural poor in the two areas. The purpose is to formulate certain hypotheses on the potential economic agendas of the rural poor incorporating both historical and policy perspectives. . . . Against the economic profiles of the rural poor . . . I . . . study the patterns of political intermediation of the interests of the rural poor. The study of the CPM and the rural poor is organized in terms of the interaction between the organizational goals of the CPM and the economic agendas of the people that were mobilized. . . . The study of the political intermediation of the interests of the rural poor in Meerut is centered on the perceptions of the rural poor amongst local political elites.

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