5 August 2016

Cambridge University Press organizes a Panel Discussion on Democratic Dynasties, a collection of essays edited by Kanchan Chandra

~The first book-length study of dynastic politics in modern democracies~

Cambridge University Press organised a discussion session on the book - Democratic Dynasties: State, Party & Family in contemporary Indian Politics by Kanchan Chandra in New Delhi on 5th August, 2016. The discussion threw fresh insights into how dynasties shape contemporary Indian politics by bringing together original data and acute analysis. The book is a collection of essays on dynastic politics, and introduces a new theoretical perspective on dynasticism in democracies, using original data on twenty-first-century Indian parliaments.The panel discussion was moderated by Patrick French, historian and biographer, author of India: A Portrait.

The first book-length study of dynastic politics in modern democracies, the discussion revolved around the perspective on how dynasties develop and why they matter. The book argues that the roots of dynastic politics lie at least in part in modern democratic institutions - states and parties - which give political families a leg-up in the electoral process. It also proposes a rethinking of the view that dynastic politics is a violation of democracy, showing that it can also reinforce some aspects of democracy while violating others.

Speaking about the book and the panel discussion, Mr Ratnesh Kumar Jha, Managing Director, Cambridge University Press, South Asia, said “This book by Cambridge University Press is definitely  a valuable addition to the active literature on political dynasties. Each chapter of this book offers a range of fresh insights into how dynasties shape contemporary Indian politics and brings together a wealth of original data and acute analysis. The panel discussion will fuel the need for more discussions around the dynastic politics in India within a global comparative context and will further strengthen the need for richer debates.”

This is the first book to theorize about the relationship between dynasty and democracy. It based on original data on over 1200 M.P.s from India’s twenty-first century parliaments (2004, 2009 and 2014). These are the most comprehensive data currently available on individual MPs in contemporary Indian parliaments. The book places dynasticism in India in a global comparative context, showing that it is not unique.  24% of Indian MPs in the twenty-first century have a dynastic background, placing India squarely in the middle of all democracies for which we have data on dynasticism in the legislature. It argues that dynastic politics in India is produced and maintained by political parties – in particular the process by which tickets are allocated within parties – and not by an Indian cultural preference for dynastic politics, or by voters who prefer dynastic politics.  It proposes that dynastic politics in India has a mixed effect on democracy: it creates a birth-based form of exclusion, and amplifies dominance, especially among upper castes. But at the same time, it increases the representation of subaltern groups beyond the level at which that they may have been represented otherwise.

The book was introduced by the moderator and the panellists. The panellist who attended the event and spoke about the controversial and critical topic included –Niraja Gopal Jayal, Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Salman Khurshid, Former Minister of External Affairs, Indian National Congress, Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Bharatiya Janata Party, and the author herself Kanchan Chandra, Professor of Politics, New York University. The session was moderated by Patrick French, Historian & Biographer, Author –India, A Portrait.

Photographs from the event are available on our Facebook Page.

About the Author

Kanchan Chandra is Professor of Politics at New York University.She is lead author of Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics, (2012) author of Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: Patronage and Ethnic Headcounts in India (2004) and has written articles for several leading journals. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the Princeton Program on Democracy and Development, the Carnegie and Guggenheim Foundation, The National Science Foundation, The United States Institute of Peace for Advanced Studies in the Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University, the Russell Sage Foundation and the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.