Satta and Sangathan – Political Power, Organizational Politics, and the Race for Party Tickets in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
1 February 2021 – 31 July 2021
My research examines the scramble for party tickets in the competitive world of Indian elections and the race for becoming a party representative in Delhi’s urban politics. The project focuses on the intertwining space of contemporary electoral and party politics where the discrete operations of routine politics and local political economies meet and looks at the growth of the BJP party machine at the local level. I interrogate the nature of power and political representation in party politics, and use an inter-disciplinary and ethnographic approach to examine the practical and invisible steps that enable ambitious party members to skilfully negotiate their way to local political office. The research tries to answer the question: What explains the increasing competition in urban party politics, and what are its supporting institutions and ancillary requirements? What kind of capital and resources, and political ties are necessary requirements for claiming political power, and what are the routes political actors take for embarking on the same? How gendered is the process and how do women party members negotiate a successful attempt to become the party’s representative in local municipal polls? I also examine the kind of contradictions that have emerged in the BJP around the discourse of political power, and the attendant fears of ideological dilution in the party.
During my time at ICAS:MP, I will analyze this progression of careers in urban municipal politics, and the informal rules and principles of political competition at the local and the state level of party politics in the BJP. The research tries to understand how political representation is a complex and fragile process, and how political actors jostle for a chance at political power through decades of political lobbying at the grassroots of party organisations. It is located at the intersection of debates around the nature of urban corruption, cadre politics and the increasing preoccupation of professional politicians with Indian elections. I am equally concerned with the language of ordinary politicking, and in the uses and presentations of power, charisma and leadership in Indian politics.
Rashmi Singh is a political sociologist who researches political candidacy, electioneering and routine politics. Her master’s thesis at Ambedkar University examined the gendered nature of Indian electoral politics and looked at extra-institutional and cultural factors that determine women’s political representation. Her PhD thesis at the University of Cambridge analyzed the local party politics of the BJP in Delhi and captured the aspirations, intentions, and rebellious acts of ordinary party workers coming to terms with the insecurity of forging a successful career in the party (as well as in urban politics) in contemporary Indian politics.