American readers will find many unfamiliar names in this piece on the complicated politics of Chhattisgarh in India’s Caravan magazine. The story conveys how competition between different interest groups breeds corruption, and how hard it is for both BJP and Congress at the national level to manage all the intricate political details in the country’s 28 states.In state after state, local groups with strong identities are demanding more autonomy, and more and more parties are winning seats in both state and national elections. Coalitions are getting larger and looser, and it is getting harder for any government of either party to push a coherent program through.Here’s a sample:
The Maoist conflict and the mining juggernaut dominate the national view of the state, but in the assembly polls in November, both will actually be cast in minor roles, geographically limited as they are to the forests and hills in the north and south. The real political theatre is playing out in the central plains—over caste, community, candidates, the inner intrigues of political parties and their public campaigns focused on governance. On that last count, the ruling BJP, with its umbrella of welfare schemes, has an edge.
It was in Chhattisgarh’s southern forests that Maoist rebels ambushed and slaughtered 28 politicians this year. One of the dead was Nand Kumar Patel, a Congress leader and former state president with a reputation for making allies across political battle lines. He succeeded in bringing warring Congress leaders together before his untimely death, and that rare unity perished with him.For much of modern Indian history, both foreign governments and business interests have focused their energies primarily on the national government in Delhi. Increasingly, that won’t be enough. Power in India is becoming more diffuse and less centralized; those who want to understand India and work with it will have to be much more engaged in and knowledgeable about the politics, economics and culture of India’s many regions and states.