14 of parliamentary candidates were agriculturists (Venkata Rao, 1968) The

In document Internal migration and political change in India : a case study of a new industrial town (Page 33-37)

trend was similar in the state of Haryana (Sinha 1968). Here for one

reason or another the urban professionals and traders continued to dominate the state legislatures though the rural agricultural elites were making sustained attempts to enter politics.

c) Rural elites at the centre


The trend at the federal level was clear though less impressive. Here from 1952 to 1967, the representation of agriculturists increased from 16 to 32 per cent, that of the lawyers decreased from 25 to 17 per cent, that of the professionals decreased from 13 to 3 per cent, and that of the 'political and social workers' increased from 12 to 21 per cent. It was customary for the agriculture-based rural political leaders to call themselves social and political workers as a status category; a majority of those so classed probably came from rural areas (Kochanek 1968:37). The proportion of Lok Sabha members with university education declined

from 82 per cent in 1952 to 75 per cent in 1967; the urban membership of Lok Sabha was no doubt declining but very slowly. In fact it may take many more elections before the rural sectors are proportionately represented in the membership of Lok Sabha.

In terms of place of birth some 45 to 50 per cent of the members come from small towns (i.e. below 100,000 population); these probably retained their political influence in rural areas through personal and group networks. If so, it is more appropriate to describe this group as link-men between the rural and urban leaderships, because they have their roots in the rural areas though they mostly live and work in urban areas.

The predominance of urban elites continued unhindered among the central ministers, the top-most political executives in the country. Here, from 1952 to 1967, about nine in ten had university education, three in ten were lawyers, one in ten were professionals, 13 to 16 per cent were social workers, and only 14 to 18 per cent were agriculturists. Data were not available for the ministries formed after 1967, but as most of the pre­ vious ministers were retained in the successive ministries one can assume

that the occupational and educational composition did not change significantly. An investigation of the soico-economic and political background of the

members of the first, second and third Lok Sabhas classified 98 per cent of 9


The conclusions that follow from the above discussion are obvious. Up to the district level the representative institu­ tions were, dominated by rural agricultural elites. At the state level, rural agricultural elites predominated; urban interests and educated sections were represented though they did not have an effective say in formulating policies or implementing them. At the federal level representatives were still drawn from edu­

cated sections mostly coming from towns and cities. But the representation of agriculturists was increasing slowly. At the central government level, most ministers had university education, were drawn from towns or cities, and belonged to the middle or

upper middle class. On the other hand state governments were controlled by the rural agricultural interests. The chances of securing a party ticket and winning a seat in the Lok Sabha depended on the support that a candidate derived from and the loyalty that he owed to the state party organization. So rural and state-based political pressure was increasingly felt at the centre after the third general election and particularly after the death of Nehru (Brecher 1968; Lakshmana Rao 1969).

Policy Conflicts of Rural and Urban Elites

It was in this context that the persistent pressure from the bureaucracy (particularly from the Planning Commission) and the Union ministry to impose agriculture, income and wealth taxes and the stiff opposition from the state governments to such

measures became meaningful (Rosen 1966:146-149). In fact to retain the support of the agriculturists and the state govern­ ments abolished land revenue and implemented the land reforms only half heartedly (Franda 1968; Brass 1968; Gray 1968; Shrader 1968). It was customary for the state governments to raise the issue of ceilings on urban income and wealth whenever the central government brought up the issues of agricultural income and wealth taxes. On such issues party differences were not significant in the behaviour of states (Weiner 1968:48-51).

The attitudes of Congress legislators on issues such as ceilings on land holdings, urban income, and cooperative farming


were, closely related to their caste, occupation, major source of income, size of personal land holding, and place of residence (Kochanek 1968). The major opposition to land ceilings came from agriculturists while support came from social sections which were completely divorced from the land and from those whose land

holdings were small. Opposition to ceilings on urban income came from urban resident and occupational groups. The rural landless labourers and tribal groups supported ceilings on both urban and agricultural incomes. It was precisely for this reason that the rural landed gentry and urban industrialists could not make common political cause in India. The central leadership was urban oriented and economic reforms such as abolition of

feudal land relations, reduction in economic inequalities, and diverting rural economic resources for industrialization were usually initiated by this leadership. These aims and goals often directly threatened the economic interests of social sections from which the state party organizations drew their support. Conse­ quently, taking the electoral, realities into consideration, the central leadership had to yield to the pressures of rural, and agriculture-oriented state leadership. The hesitation of the central government to impose agricultural wealth and income taxes and its reluctance, to strongly press for the implementation of land reforms, illustrate this situation w e l l . ^

Future Power Patterns.

But what will happen in future? Will this aggregation and consolidation of rural-based political power continue? Or will it stabilize at the state level leaving the centre open to urban leadership but imposing certain constraints on its policies?

The answer to these questions would have been considered relatively easy after the death of Nehru and before the snap

election called by Indira Gandhi in 1971. That was a period in which state leaders successfully exerted enormous pressure on

the central leadership, actively participated twice in deciding the succession (first after the death of Nehru and later after the. death of Shastri), and acquired commanding positions in the


central ministries and the party high command. In practice, though not by law, power devolved from the centre to the states

(Morris-Jones 1966; Brecher 1966) . Analysts who predicted con­ tinued Congress dominance on the eve of the 1967 election were surprised at the sudden decline of Congress power that followed, and concluded that the Indian political system had entered an era of coalitions and instability (Kothari 1967c, 1967d), The controversy over the presidential election after the death of

President Zakir Hussian and the consequent split in the Congress further confirmed the trend toward a weakening of the centre and a strengthening of the power of the states. In parliament

the government had to depend on support extended by regional parties that demanded state autonomy (Lakshmana Rao 1970).

But Indira Gandhi dramatically nationalised the banks, about one year later called for a snap election, approached the electorate with a promising socialist programme, and romped back into the parliament with increased percentage of votes and two- thirds of the seats. Indira Gandhi became as popular as her father. Many members of the new (fifth) Lok Sabha owed their success to her charisma and policies. So she had neither the need nor the desire to succumb to the pressure of state leaders. The ministry that Indira Gandhi formed while riding the new wave of popularity was much more urban and middle-class than any of its predecessors. At the state level, however, the old pattern continued.


It can be argued at length whether the rural based political interests could again challenge the centre when an opportunity arose. Irrespective of personalities, temporary political issues and electoral gains and losses, three things are quite obvious to a political demographer.


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