Book review: Anil Kumar Vaddiraju, Urban Governance and Local Democracy in South India

Published date01 September 2022
Date01 September 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
512 Book Reviews
and the treaty-making in India is of recent vintage, starting with the fragmentation
of India’s party system and the rise of minority coalition governments at the
Union level. Apart from the period of P.V. Narasimha Rao (1991–1996), and
Manmohan Singh (2004–2014), such para-diplomatic role of the States was
recorded in several cases. Since the period of Modi as the Prime Minister in 2014,
the Look East Policy of the earlier regimes was continued with renewed vigour.
Modi re-christened it ‘Act East Policy’ to give it a new vigour. Although Modi
was originally (when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat) in favour of States’
involvement in certain foreign policymaking endeavours of the Union government,
there is, however, little endeavour now on his part to involve the Chief Ministers
and other leaders of the Northeast in his Act East Policy when the region was
considered the land bridge to the South-East and beyond. This aspect has escaped
the attention of Singh. On a closer look and analysis, it has been found that a new
centralisation has taken place in respect of the region by forming a Ministry of
Development of the North Eastern Region (MDoNER), formed in 2004 when the
NDA led by the BJP was in power at the Union level led by late Atal Bihari
Vajpayee under a minister with a Cabinet rank but who was not from the region.
All subsequent ministers of the MDoNER have also been from other parts of India
rather than the Northeast. The existing inter-state advisory body, that is, the North
Eastern Council, has been brought under the control of this ministry. Singh has
offered details of various judicial verdicts on the issue of para-diplomacy but has
not raised the question if this para-diplomacy in India will survive in the days of
one-party majority rule at the centre again.
The only major problem with the book is that it contains a lot of avoidable
information on other federal countries in the world when the book’s title would
suggest otherwise. Finally, the book does not seem to have any research
question(s), or the central issue that the book is preoccupied with. Also, the book
has had too many subjects on the plate which has stood in the way of any internal
coherence in the text. Organisationally, some chapters would have better been
placed in the earlier part of the book. For example, parts of Chapter 6 (last chapter)
should have been placed somewhere in the beginning since here Singh introduced
his conceptual distinctions. All in all, it a very useful addition to the growing
literature on federalism in India.
Harihar Bhattacharyya
Department of Political Science,
University of Burdwan,
West Bengal, India
Anil Kumar Vaddiraju, Urban Governance and Local Democracy in
South India. Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2021, xvii+93 pp., `695.00.
DOI: 10.1177/00195561221105050
The book under review is timely for two important reasons: (a) three decades
of constitutionalisation of urban local government (74th Amendment Act) and

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