Introduction to State Politics

The Congress government was present in the Center as well as States for many elections after 1947. The Hegemony should have meant better coordination between center and states. However it meant that the governmental policies saw different execution pace at different states depending on the competence of the state government as well as the resources available to it. The social, economic, cultural, linguistic, caste have an influence on the state politics than the national polity. States also have to implement majority of the national policies related to agriculture, land, education, social equity. Central dependence on state governments is large and ability to influence decision making at the states is narrow. 

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [DMK]

Tamil Nadu state was influenced by the politics of the Pro-British Justice Party which was an anti-Brahmin agitation and the anti-caste, anti-religion Self-Respect movement called Periyar.The founder of Dravida Kazhagam party Annadurai founded the DMK which unlike Justice Party was a nationalist party. Along with Karunanidhi he succeeded in forming a popular base amongst masses for the DMK. He was supported by various actors, performers, artists who wrote plays, poems etc. Annadurai himself was a great orator and organizer. Initially DMK had a strong Anti-North, Anti-Caste and Anti-Brahmin approach. It felt the South Indian states should be protected from the Hindi Imperialism of North Indian whom they viewed as Aryans and they themselves were Dravidians.

DMK wanted an independent state of South India for the dravidians hence a seccessionist tendency. They recognised the interference of the North in their culture by introduction of Hindi in southern schools. However gradually this radicalism was abandoned. They started participating in elections and recognised the Congress party. The appointment of Kamaraj in place of C.Rajgopalachari was one reason for this. Also the indifference of other Southern states to the demand for secession-ism was another. The Nehru government also dealt with all secession demand firmly and so DMK had to amend its constitution recognizing India and fully supporting its sovereignty and unity. DMK also accomodated other Tamilian's like Brahmin's and worked for all Tamilians. Theappeal of the party increased even amongst urban and rural masses as it advocated rapid economic transformation, it even supported India during the Indo - China war and gave up secessionist tendencies.

DMK began its transformation into a regional party and expanded its social base with every elections. Due to the Anti-Hindi agitation the popularity of DMK soared and congress reduced. In the subsequent elections DMK won and formed a coalition government. The ideology of the party has changed too. Its Anti-Brahmin movement couldn't change the social order but instead led to migration to other Indian states and USA this dented its image and it lagged in terms of Science and Technology. It had to compromise on its radical plan for transforming the agrarian order as it had to recognize the opinion of rural rich and middle class. It shifted to a policy of reservations for the socially backward but this affected its popularity amongst non reserved sections and also it failed to achieve it goal of social equity.

A split led to the formation of AIADMK and soon there was a electoral battle between these two. Power has been shifting from one group to another every election. The Dravida parties have accepted the Nationalist movement and the idea of  United India. This is due to lack of public support for secessionism in the public,ability of the Union to crush any such movement, changing nature of the Indian society and Autonomy to states in the cultural and linguistic domain and so acceptance of the principle "Unity in Diversity".

Telangana vs Andhra Pradesh

Although Andhra Pradesh had a single linguistic community of Telegu speaking people but there too a movement for the formation of a separate state emerged due to disparity in development and inequality in economic inequalities. The movement for a separate state emerged right from the formation of Andhra Pradesh after the Telegu speaking areas of the Nizam's kingdom were merged. It was believed that the Coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh were being favored then the interior regions. The indicators of development like employment, roads, rural electrification also favored the coastal regions. There were claims of diversion of grants or revenues from Telegana region to the Coastal Andhra regions.

Although the Government of Andhra Pradesh denied such allegations but the voices continued.The other important reason for the discontent was Employment in State services. The Middle class unemployed youth blamed the Government for favoring Coastal regions and leading to unemployment in Telegana and Hyderabad city.

The Mulki Rules were formed during the Nizam's rule that people living in the state shall find preference for employment over others. This Mulki rules were informally continued even after independence. However Telangana leaders accused the Andhra government of violating rules related to employment in State institutions and education in the Osmania university in Hyderabad. On the other hand the Andhra government claimed that the right candidates weren't found from Telangana due to widespread educational backwardness there. The Supreme Court too ruled that the Mulki rules were unconstitutional. This soon lead to the Movement for separation which became popular with Students and government employees too. A wide strike was called and total boycott of government colleges and work.  The Movement for a separate Telangana state was also supported by dissident congress worker. The two communist parties felt that the anger against the rural landlord bourgeois was directed her. Smaller parties supported the demand but the Central government took a firm stand to not allow a separate Telangana state. The Indira Gandhi government acted as a mediator and asked the Andhra government to amicably resolve the dispute and redress the economic grievances of the Telangana region. The movement had started to ebb due to fatigue amongst agitators and the failure to attract the peasants. A compromise was worked out and the Mulki rules were continued to protect the interest of the Telangana agitators.

But now the second phase of the struggle was to start this time from Andhra region which was affected by the Mulki rules as it went against them. The strike again was made by the Students and non-gazetted workers of the Coastal regions demanding withdrawal of Mulki rules. The movement also found support from the upper classes and rural landlords as certain rules went against them. The agitation was met by stiff resistance from the Center and State. The Indira government refused to accept the demand for separate statehood. The police took effective action to prevent protest from becoming violent. Finally the fatigue of the agitators led to ebbing of the movement. A compromise was created by recognizing the modified Mulki rules by which all regions of United Andhra would get preference in employment in State institutions over outsiders. A amendment to this effect was passed and this placated both sides. The other reasons for the agitation petering out was that it failed to mobilize the peasantry and people from Rayalseema [Coastal Andhra] too weren't interested in a separate Andhra state.

The reasons for the agitation being peacefully handled was the lack of secessionist nature or communal or casteist factor in the movement. The main conflict was due to economic problems and so could be resolved effectively. The conflict also shows that linguistic reasons aren't the only consideration of the people. The linguistic unity shall fail unless supported by economic growth.


Assam was another place where a widespread discontent began. The people of Assam too protested against economic reasons and not for linguistic or secessionist reasons. The State of Assam saw underdevelopment compared to the Rest of India. The economy was stagnant. The revenues from tea, plantation were taken for utilization in the rest of India. Assamese felt that they were losing their identity due to this. In their own state there was high migration from Marwaris and Bengalese and the control over business and commercial activities became theirs. The other demand was greater increase in allocation of funds for Assam from the Center. The people also demanded More Central financial assistance, Location of oil refineries, more bridges over the Brahmaputra, more industrialization by both State and Center and employment of Assamese in Government institutions.

The other reason for agitation was historical. The Bengali community had dominated Assamese institutions in the pre-colonial times. It was this domination in government services and employment that made the Assamese feel subjugated to the Bengali's and they felt that their identity and culture would be subordinated to the Bengali's due to this. The agitations began in Assam over this domination and Bengali households were targeted. The people demanded Assamese be made the sole medium of instruction in schools and the official language of the state. The state of West Bengal also saw retaliatory violent acts against the Assamese. The complexity of the situation increased as Assam wasn't just belonging to Assamese community but had other linguistic, tribal communities as well. It was these communities that felt disoriented from the main-stream by the Assamese agitations. The agitation ended by making Assamese as the sole official language except in a district where Bengalis were in majority. Assamese also became a sole medium of instruction in Educational institutes of Assam.

Assam in 1951
Fig 1: Assam in 1951

The second phase of the protests was to start now but this time against the influx of migrants from Bengal and later from Nepal and Bangladesh. The movement of Assamese identity got a distinct Anti-migrant stand. The pre-colonial time had seen an influx of migrants from Bihar for working in the Tea plantations and also from Bengal for working as peasants in the Assamese uncultivated regions. The Bengal muslims were encouraged to migrate to Assam by the Muslim communalists to get an advantage in case of partition. The Assamese landlords too welcomed them as they would get a adequate source of revenue from the newly cultivated land. Since the population of Assam was less the migration wasn't an issue as land was available. Problems began when the Bangladesh crisis started and 1 million refugees entered Assam. Although most of them left but 1 lakh stayed behind. This put pressure on the existing resources. The changing demographics created tensions amongst Assamese, tribal and other cultural communities of Assam. The siege mentality developed and they felt that they would become a minority in their own region. The Assamese people had to accommodate the diverse views of the many communities and linguistic groups of Assam like the hill tribes. This was difficult as the Central government had carved out independent states of communities like the Naga, Mizo, Arunachal tribes.

The cultural renaissance was developed in 1980's and now the agitation also a cultural flavor. The Assamese developed a sense of pride towards their language, culture, identity and felt that it should be valued above everything. The agitators now wanted the State to expel all illegal immigrants and prevent them from occupying land or getting into electoral rolls. The method of agitation was total boycott of elections and violent assaults on non-Assamese communities. The unprecedented killings started in Assam and 3000 people lost their lives. The agitation was supported by all sections of Assam's including the legal immigrants from Rest of India and so elections became ineffective. The government couldn't effectively handle the crisis as it was difficult to identify illegal migrants and mass deport them. Also the Bangladeshi border was porous and difficult to check illegal migration. The solution to these was difficult but indigenous migration seemed simpler to handle. This could be solved by increasing economic parity and ensuring safeguarding of Assamese culture. Already the Bengali and Bihari immigrants had accepted the Assamese identity and had integrated themselves in it. Central government had agreed to use legislative measures to protect the Assamese identity and also create more avenues of employment for the Assamese.

Like the agitations in other areas Assamese movement too had flaws as people resorted to unconstitutional tactics. Political parties like RSS tried to create a communal tone for the movement as most of the illegal immigrants were from Muslim communities. But this failed as the Assamese movement was dominated by non-communal forces like Communists, Congress and it had support of Bengali Muslims too. New militant groups emerged as Bodo tribes and ULFA were created due to the unrest. Assam also saw political instability as Governments were toppled, civil disobedience had paralyzed life too.

The Assamese agitations showed that in spite of linguistic unity factors like cultural identity and economic identity too were important and that these factors should be accommodated.

West Bengal

West Bengal saw a communist government operating in a democratic polity and capitalist economy albeit having a strong public sector. The popularity of the communists grew and congress plummeted during Bangladeshi crisis and regugee influx after partition. But in spite of this the government has succeeded in providing economic stability. Although it has failed on two fronts: Unemployment of urban middle class and rural landless ; Agrarian structure favoring the jotedars after zamindari was abolished.

The rise of the Communists began on the political scene in Bengal from the pre-colonial times. The communists enjoyed popularity amongst the intellectuals too. The rejection of congress after independence and resort to armed tactics led to its political isolation. But the Communists later abandoned the armed struggle and decided to fight for their objectives using constitutional means. The struggle's of trade unions and workers and peasants rights led to their increasing popularity. They also exposed the government's misdeeds in the legislature. The congress was defeated in the state elections and dissidents of the congress along with Communists formed a government. However this collapsed due to internal differences. CPM also successfully organized struggle against the Jotedar's and the Zamindar's by mobilizing the rural peasants.

The CPM victory in 1977 was due to the State repression of Naxalite movements, breakdown of State machinery due to which President's rule was imposed for 8 years and the unpopularity of the Emergency of 1975. All this led to the formation of the Left Government in Bengal which has controlled the State legislature since then. One of the reasons for the success of the CPM in Bengal was its political mobilization of Sharecroppers in Bengal and registration of their land leases and reduction in the share given by them to the Jotedars. The Jotedar's were created due to the Congress's land reforms movement which abolished Zamindari but allowed People to retain land parcels above ceiling by Benami transactions and also no security of tenure to the sharecroppers.

The CPM succeeded in this by mobilizing the peasants. At the same time it recognized that Jotedar's couldn't be ignored completely as they too were a sizeable proportion of the agrarian structure. Most of them were cultivators and some were clerks, teachers and shopkeepers and so had to be accommodated in the rural restructuring. The CPM used innovative policy of compromise between the Sharecroppers and the Jotedars by giving the tenants security and keeping the right of the Jotedar's to collect revenue safe but stopped arbitrary increases. Thus it satisfied both. This strategy gave it good political returns as the Jotedar's were capable of influencing the small and marginal peasants as well. CPM thus treated only absentee landlord's and landowners as their targets.

Other political programs of the CPM were creation of strong Panchayati Raj institutions as these would help rural landless and poor get political representation. The old Panchayati system had failed as it was controlled by the rural landed and social-economically strong sections. The local bureaucracy too couldn't fulfill expectations. Central government schemes like reducing poverty and providing food security too were implemented effectively in West Bengal better than other states. The CPM complemented measures of agriculture reform with Credit facilities through cooperative banks and credit societies. Thus share-cropper's could be protected from landlord's and moneylender's. The Tenancy reforms also helped in ushering in Green Revolution as the Jotedar's and Bargatdar's got incentive to increase production by increasing cultivation. To prevent the dissociation of rich peasants and landowner's from the Communists the CPM gradually handled the process of taking land from the rich peasants and distributing it to the poor. The Green Revolution also led to increase in rural wages.The CPM preferred mobilizing the rural agriculture workers to agitate for their rights rather than force the increase in wages.

The record of containing communal violence has been the best in the country. Despite having a sizeable population of Muslims and the influx of Hindus from Bangladesh after partition the CPM has succeeded in containing communal incidents. It had contained the tense situation in 1984 due to Indira Gandhi's assassination and also the Babri Masjid violence. The casteist and linguistic incidents too were less in Bengal. The CPM has also accommodated other splinter groups of communism like CPI, socialists and Forward Bloc. Its efforts in making the police and rural bureaucracy responsive to the people's needs have made it retain power for 30 years.