Why Do We Need Election Studies in Political Science Classrooms?

Date01 December 2019
Published date01 December 2019
AuthorRajeshwari Deshpande
Subject MatterTeaching–Learning Politics in India
11INP874915_rev1.indd Teaching–Learning Politics in India
Why Do We Need
Studies in Indian Politics
7(2) 262–266, 2019
Election Studies in Political
© 2019 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Science Classrooms?
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2321023019874915
Rajeshwari Deshpande1
Although they are largely about procedural aspects of democracy, elections signify a lot more of the
substantial democratic aspirations, particularly in democracies of the South. Among these democracies,
the Indian democracy stands out for its scale and also for its uninterrupted electoral routine that in itself
is seen as a symbol of its success. And yet, there exists some kind of a disconnect between election
studies and the studies of democracy in India. Election studies are often reduced to opinion polls and
psephology, while democracy studies try and distance themselves from the mundane routine of electoral
politics as far as possible. More importantly, a robust understanding of linkages between elections as
‘events’, routine political processes unfolding in between the elections and theorizations of democracy,
is largely missing so far.
The frequency of elections in India since the 1990s, the rapid rise of people’s participation in elections
and the essentially contentious nature of political mobilizations over the last few decades have helped
bridge this gap to a certain extent. The onslaught of mass media on politics, proliferation of commercial
agencies conducting exit and opinion polls and the rise of potential job market in this field must also
have contributed to an increased attraction election studies have among the students of Indian politics.
And yet, election studies are not seen as an ‘honourable’ field of research within the mainstream discipline
of Political Science in India. Over the years, Indian citizens have invested a lot in the exercise of elections,
making it a ‘meaningful democratic activity’ (Palshikar, 2013) that deserves serious scholarly attention
and decoding. However, so far, these linkages between elections and democracy have not been adequately
addressed in the mainstream research agenda of Indian political science; as a result, the discussion on
linkages between elections and democracy was also not integrated into the Political Science syllabi.
Palshikar (2013) laments how despite the centrality of elections in Indian democratic politics, none of
the major Political Science departments in the country invested in institutionalizing election studies
research. The same is the case with Political Science syllabi. Despite elections being a core and routine
political activity, hardly any Indian university conducted courses on election studies as part of its teaching
of political science.
The ‘Lokniti’ programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) is the most
important, but perhaps the only institutionalized research initiative on election studies in Indian academia.
Note: This section is coordinated by Rajeshwari Deshpande.
1 Professor of Politics, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India.
Corresponding author:
Rajeshwari Deshpande, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune 411007, India.
E-mail: rajeshwari.deshpande@gmail.com

CSDS began its studies way back in the late 1960s, much before Lokniti came into being in the mid-
1990s. At that time, political science scholars from various Indian universities were also engaged in
similar, though isolated exercises (Shah,...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT