The Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia organized a one-day symposium on the topic, “Making Sense of 2014 Indian Election: Who Wins, Who Loses,” on Tuesday, 4th February 2014. The symposium was held at Dayar-e-Mir Taqi Mir, JMI
The inaugural session was chaired by Prof Badrul Alam, Head, Department of Political Science, JMI, with Prof S. M. Sajid, Vice Chancellor, JMI presenting the inaugural remarks, while Prof Sudha Pai, Rector Jawaharlal Nehru University delivered the keynote address. In his remarks, Prof S. M. Sajid spoke of the timeliness of such a symposium and the risk involved with predictions. “When you look at the dimensions, the complications, the complexities, you find it a mad house. So to really make sense of the 2014 elections is a very challenging task. It is a risky business to be predicting the results of any elections, particularly that of the Indian elections. We have recently seen the fallout of those predictions which were made in Delhi elections.” He went on to talk of the struggles in Indian democracy, the problem of giving primacy to civil and political rights over educational and cultural rights, the failure of national parties to fulfill regional aspirations and the mushrooming of regional parties.
Political Competition in the Heartland 2014
In her keynote address on “Political Competition in the Heartland 2014: Emerging Patterns in Uttar Pradesh”, Prof Sudha Pai spoke of the current political patterns in the Hindi Heartland, particularly Uttar Pradesh from which we could draw certain patterns for national elections. Speaking of the highly contested electoral campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with contradictory issues being often debated side by side, Prof. Pai said: “On the one hand, politics of identity based on caste and community, which was widely felt in recent years to have abated has once again become important. On the other hand, with liberalization, the rise of a large middle class and urbanization, issues such as new forms of governance, need for more welfare or neo-liberal reforms, corruption, inflation have been raised by movements in civil society that political parties and the electorate have to contend with.”
She went on to talk about why the study of elections can’t be merely a study of campaigns, party manifestos etc, rather the need to understand them as a reflection of social and economic changes taking place in the society from which emerging patterns could be discussed. She further highlighted the importance of 2014 elections as critical out of which transformative shifts could take place. She also talked of certain interrelated socio-political issues like revival of communal mobilization, contestation for Muslim votes and the struggle for the Dalit vote that could play a determining role in the elections. Speaking about the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party, she said, “The Aam Aadmi Party emerged out of the Anna Hazare movement ‘India against Corruption’. Though its ideological stand isn’t clear, it has obtained support in Delhi. But we have yet to see if it’ll obtain votes in a politically conservative and economically backward state of Uttar Pradesh. This is a phenomenon that needs to be studied even if it disappears.”
The symposium was spread over three working sessions- the first dealt with “Situating Indian Democracy”, the second included “Roundtable with Political Journalists” to discuss the elections, while the final session was about “Battleground 2014” with discussions around the possibility of a three way contest, coalition politics and the bottom up perspective to Indian National elections. Each session was followed by a question answer round. The symposium concluded with a vote of thanks presented by Mr. Adnan Farooqui, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science JMI.
Situating Indian Democracy
The first working session was titled, “Situating Indian Democracy,” which was chaired by Dr. Mukul Kesavan, Associate Professor Department of History JMI. The speakers included Dr. Ananya Vajpeyi, Assistant Professor, CSDS; Prof Niraja Gopal Jayal, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU; and Prof. Dipankar Gupta, Distinguished Professor and Director, Centre of Political Affairs and Critical Theory, Shiv Nadar University.
The session addressed questions on the deepening of democracy, the progress with regard to substantial and procedural democracy, the emergence of AAP and the characteristics associated with it, the need to study the factors that actually led to it, its ambiguity in defining itself and the like.
[Listen to the complete 1-hour 42-minutes long first session — Here]
Round-table with Political Journalists
The second session was titled “Roundtable with Political Journalists” which was chaired by Ms. Saba Naqvi, Political Editor of Outlook. The discussants included senior journalists Mr. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Mr. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, and senior editor of The Times of India, Mr. Shankar Raghuraman.
The session primarily discussed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the position of BJP across different states. The journalists largely believed that BJP had a stronghold in only some states and would not be able to contest for all the seats in the upcoming elections.
[Listen to the complete 1-hour 29-minutes long second session — Here]
The final session ‘Battleground 2014’ of the day-long symposium was chaired by Prof. Prakash Sarangi, Senior Academic Consultant ICSSR, New Delhi. The question of Lok Sabha elections being a three way contest was discussed by Prof. Sanjay Kumar, Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. Prof. Kumar also spoke of the upcoming election as being a referendum on Modi. The other speaker in the session was Dr. E. Sridharan, Academic Director at University of Pennsylvania Institute for the Advanced Study of India, who spoke on the issues of bipolarity, multipolarity and coalition politics in India. Also, Dr. Manisha Priyam, ICSSR Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, threw light on the bottom up perspective to Indian national elections.
[Listen to the complete 1-hour 30-minutes long third session — Here]
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