PATH: ICPP > ICPP1980 > ICPP Bibliographic Essay, all countries, 1950-62

Bibliography on Party Politics in INDIA, 1950-1962

Daniel Flores

Scholarly literature on Indian political parties is voluminous. Its quality varies considerably, but in many cases, it is analytically sophisticated and thorough. The major party in India, the National Congress, has been the principal focus of scholars because of its commanding role in the Indian independence movement and its dominant position in Indian politics to this day. In the last decade, however, there have been several comprehensive works on other important Indian parties--the Communist Party in particular, the Praja Socialist Party, the Jan Sangh, and the Swatantra Party.

Due to the nature of the Indian political system from 1950-1962, scholars have generally studied the National Congress either in terms of its dynamic leaders, i.e., Gandhi and Jawaharal Nehru, or its organizational effectiveness in reconciling diverse political viewpoints and strategies within one institution. Consequently, other Indian parties have been studied as opposition parties and in terms of divided leaderships or other organizational dysfunctions, the purpose of which is to explain their subordinate status in the Indian party system. As might be expected, the Communist Party of India has received scholarly attention disproportionate to its influence in Indian politics, and many very small parties, particularly those categorized as "communal," also have attracted considerable attention.

As a result of two factors, (1) the widespread interest of English and American scholars in Indian politics and (2) the status of English as the language primarily used in Indian scholarly discourse, we were able to limit our bibliographic search and indexing to English language sources without feeling that we had missed many important documents. A few translated materials were used, but these were of marginal utility.

Material Processed into ICPP Information Files

Our literature search yielded 112-documents that were thought to be particularly relevant to party politics in India during our time period, 1950-1962. A total of 4,582 pages were read and indexed from these documents. The accompanying table (Table 1) contains a description of the substantive indexing codes and their frequency of use.

A cursory glance at the table shows that India is a relatively "good" literature country. From the section on frequency distributions of major categories, for example, the four most frequently used groups are "party composition," "party organization," "party goals," and "party activities." The frequency counts of the individual codes deserve closer examination. As one of the most frequently used codes, 360 (party leaders and officials) reflects the emphasis in the literature on political personalities like Jawaharal Nehru, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, C. Rajagopalachari, V. Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Jayaprakash Narayan, and Rammanohar Lohia who have dominated the Indian political scene since independence in 1947. The high frequencies of codes 370 (party factions) and 250 (party discipline) reflect the fact that powerful leaders in India have often dissented from party ranks, formed groups within a major party, or even formed new parties rather than conform to accepted party doctrine. The frequent use of these codes substantiates a point made earlier, that the National Congress party has, since its inception, attempted to embrace a wide diversity of political opinions and support. As a result of coexisting with potentially antagonistic elements, there have often been serious divisions in the National Congress over ideological principles or specific issues. Similar statements could be made of other Indian parties, however, especially the Praja Socialist Party and the Communist Party. Disputes within the Praja Socialist Party became so vitriolic that a major portion of its leadership split off in 1955 to form a new party, the Socialist Party. Also, the Communist Party has experienced substantial factionalism, primarily based upon the party's relationships with the Communist parties in other countries.

Another frequently used code, 470 (party structure), reflects two things. First, it reflects the development within the National Congress of an organization that has adapted its structures and functions toward one principle objective - the maintenance of political power. That the Congress remained in firm control of the national government and of most of the state government through the three general elections in our time period is indicative of that party's structural efficacy. Second, the frequent use of the 470 code is a result of the perceived dysfunctionality of the opposition parties. Code 560 (efficiency and effectiveness) reflects scholarly concern with the strategy and tactics of the CPI. Other codes that were frequently used show the high quality of the literature rather than the nature of Indian party politics. Examples are codes 440 (national party committee), 490 (centralization of power), 530 (issue orientation), and 540 (ideological orientation).

The 2-- codes (party activities) were used third most frequently as a major category. Code 250 (party discipline) has already been discussed. Code 240 (propagandizes its goals and activity) was used primarily in discussions of election campaigning by the parties and their various appeals to the electorate. Code 210 (conducts election campaigns) was often used with code 240, but only when electioneering included non-propagandistic activities such as providing voters with transportation to the polls or developing electoral strategies.

Finally, several points should be made in reference to the 0--- codes (the study of parties) and their usage. As is the case with the literature on political parties in all countries, empirical theories are notoriously absent in party literature in India. Nevertheless, the India file does contain a greater amount of "theoretical" discussion than is found in the party literature for most countries. It was not until the middle of the present decade that political researchers began to develop theoretical frameworks applicable to the Indian political system. We included those theoretical discussions that were of phenomena clearly within our time period, and we felt compelled to reject several that dealt with events of the post-1962 period.

Observations on the State of the Literature

Based upon an examination of the table of indexing codes, we can indicate the areas, in which the literature on Indian political parties is deficient in terms of political research. As is generally the case, the 0-- codes, those reflecting discussions of definitions, functions and theories of parties, were rarely used. The lack of theoretical discussions in the party literature is certainly a deficiency, but it is one that is being remedied. The literature, dealing with the latter part of our time period and the ensuing years, evidences the development of concepts and categories applicable to theoretical analyses of the Indian political system.

Looking at the individual codes and their frequencies, we note a deficiency in those areas where information on parties is generally most difficult to obtain by the political researcher. Examples are found in the following codes: 310 (party contributors), 260 (raises and dispenses funds), 410 (constituency party organization), and 400 (local party organization). They demonstrate the need for more field research on the lower levels of party organization.

The data quality table, which is based on 110 documents, describes the party literature indexed for India according to a set of data quality codes, using each document as the unit of analysis. Generally, the literature is of "high" quality, scholarly, and written by people who either are residents of India or have spent considerable time there. Very little included in our file was polemical or propagandistic. Many studies, focusing on an individual party, were based on primary sources such as party and government documents.

Again, the literature is usually non-quantitative and non-theoretical. Occasionally, one finds data arranged in percentage tables, but in only two cases were propositions tested with correlational analysis. In over thirty documents some sort of theoretical framework was presented, but this was usually of a descriptive nature without specific empirical referents amenable to the testing of hypotheses. By far, the lack of empirical, testable theory is the most serious shortcoming of the literature on Indian political parties and the one which most deserves scholarly attention.