Book Review: Tarini Bedi, The Dashing Ladies of Shiv Sena: Political Matronage in Urbanizing India

Date01 December 2017
Published date01 December 2017
AuthorGarima Dhabhai
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 287
not only has consciousness in terms of various identities like caste and religion strengthened, but also
simultaneously, the right to assertion along these lines has sharpened.
Further, the development paradigm which was once employed by the Narasimha Rao government
to save Congress and ‘de dramatize politics’ (Chapter 6) stand contested. The present times need new
government management and accommodation techniques to deal with the unrest rising with develop-
ment that has not been able to cater to all the sections of the society, one of them being land struggle
movements. It is a pity that we don’t have Manor’s analysis of those.
Nevertheless, this book provides a comprehensive understanding of the Indian polity, a journey with
a nuanced understanding of the different stations of Indian democracy, with a final chapter that brings
together the major themes of the preceding chapters.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, New Delhi, India
Tarini Bedi, The Dashing Ladies of Shiv Sena: Political Matronage in Urbanizing India. New Delhi:
Aleph Book Company. 2016. 291 pages. `699.
DOI: 10.1177/2321023017727987
The dominant image of Shiv Sena’s politics features a youthful male cadre under the watchful eyes of its
grand patriarch, Bal Thackeray, militantly campaigning in public spaces styling themselves as ‘sons of
the soil’. Tarini Bedi’s book offers a refreshing departure from these imaginations of Shiv Sena, by offer-
ing insight into the often-ignored world of its women in three urban centres of Maharashtra: Mumbai,
Pune and Nashik. The author does this through an ethnographic exploration of female party workers at
the ground level, where a lot of local battles are fought and won through informal negotiations, political
posturing and an idiom of familiarity and local knowledge. It also takes us beyond the discussions
on institutional politics and centralized party units into the murky and complex domain of everyday
political networks, building upon an existing literature on Indian politics that focuses on practices and
processes of Indian democracy to re-examine the norm itself (p. 244).
Most importantly, Bedi sets forth a gendered understanding of informal politics, governed by the
idiom of ‘matronage’, opposed to the more dominant understanding of such mediation as patronage.
Matronage as a practice enables these women to assume a more powerful position while being embedded
in the networks of kinship, care and household. In this sense, Bedi takes the gendered subject of Shiv
Sena politics away from ‘intentionality’ into the ‘sites and networks’ of political practice, where they
fashion themselves as ‘dashing’ ladies (p. 237).
‘Dashing’—a term central in Bedi’s ethnographic exploration, is undergirded by an affective charge,
heightening political presence of the otherwise marginal female subjects. It is tied to personal transfor-
mation as also engendered through control over an urban public space (p. 71). As one of Bedi’s respond-
ents puts it, ‘See daring means dashing. It means, not to be afraid […] go forward with himmat, don’t
move aside or run away […] being scared outside the house is something I have never been and I never
will’ (p. 74). Or as Durva, one of the Shiv Sena leaders from Pune says, ‘It is essential to have a loud
voice […] if I soften my voice they will get rid of me from this post’ (p. 215). In these terms, dashing is
an aggressive and performative embodiment of ‘daring’ and a spatial transgression, generating a certain
kind of mobility in the city.

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