Book review: Pradeep K. Chhibber and Rahul Verma, Ideology and Identity: The Changing Party Systems of India

Date01 June 2020
Published date01 June 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
120 Book Reviews
powerful institution, how can the individual citizen ensure that the power of the electorally dominant
state is in the service of equality, fraternity and liberty?
If we consider the arguments of the republican tradition that Bhatia himself cites, this tradition pitches
for contestatory democracy against electoral democracy, with the sovereignty of the people lying not in
electoral authorization but in the contestability by the people of governmental action. For this contestation,
the individual will need the support of others, and this support can come from movements and from
Shefali Jha
Centre for Political Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi, India
Pradeep K. Chhibber and Rahul Verma, Ideology and Identity: The Changing Party Systems of India. Oxford
University Press. 2018. 320 pages. `1195.
DOI: 10.1177/2321023020918078
This solidly researched book makes a new argument. It argues against the conventional wisdom that
Indian elections and party competition are not ideological, unlike in Western democracies, but centred
around the politics of patronage, clientelism and vote-buying. It argues that Indian politics and party
systems are based on ideological differences that have a long lineage going back to pre-independence
days and have been relatively stable since then, and that Indian politics has become more ideological in
recent years. (Put very baldly, this is the argument in a nutshell.) However, the innovation is in arguing
that ideology and ideological cleavages in Indian politics are not those that define party systems in
Western democracies but are specific to India and perhaps in a more generic sense to multi-ethnic
democracies in the global South. They argue, following Lipset and Rokkan (1967), that the four major
social and political revolutions that defined ideological cleavages and party systems in the West—capital
versus labour, centre versus periphery, cities versus rural areas and church versus state—‘have had no
influence on the party system in India, or on the party system’s ideological underpinnings’ (p. 28). This
is because there has not been sufficient elite engagement with such ideas to transmit them to the electorate
and because these cleavages were not salient to the electorate.
Instead, they redefine ideology in the Indian context as being along two axes—the politics of statism,
and the politics of recognition. Statism is the ‘idea that the state should exercise substantial influence
on social and economic policy, or on at least one of these two policy domains’ (p. 29). The authors’
emphasis is whether the state should actively intervene in social norms and practices, and whether it
should redistribute wealth. Recognition, on the other hand, is ‘the state’s correction of group-based
social inequalities and its accommodation of the interests of historically marginalized social groups’
(p. 30). The authors argue that there has been deep conflict in India over the representation and
empowerment of Muslims, Dalits and OBCs from pre-independence days onwards posing the political
issues of state intervention and recognition. More importantly, both the politics of statism and the politics
of recognition satisfy the conditions necessary to the formation of an ideological conflict capable of
structuring the party system in that in both these types of politics there have been intellectual traditions
as well as social support bases both in favour of and opposed to statism and recognition. They show
using the CSDS/Lokniti National Election Survey (NES) data that these cleavages have been around for

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