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History, ideology and negotiation: the politics of policy transition in West Bengal, India

Das, Ritanjan (2013) History, ideology and negotiation: the politics of policy transition in West Bengal, India. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The thesis offers an examination of a distinct chapter in the era of economic reforms in India - the case of the state of West Bengal - and narrates the politics of an economic policy transition spearheaded by the Left Front coalition government that ruled the state from 1977 to 2011. In 1991, the Government of India began to pursue a far more liberal policy of economic development, with emphasis being placed on non-agricultural growth, the role of the private sector, and the merits of foreign direct investment (FDI). This caused serious political challenges for the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPIM), the main party in the Left Front. Historically, the CPIM was committed to pro-poor policies focused on the countryside and had spoken out strongly against privatisation and FDI; however it could not ignore the stagnating industrial economy of the state, and was thus compelled to court private investment and take advantage of the liberalised policy environment. The nature of this dichotomy – one that characterised the political economy of West Bengal over the last two decades – is studied in this research as a set of why-how questions. Firstly, why did the CPIM/Left Front take upon itself the task of engineering a transition from an erstwhile landreform and agriculture based growth model to a pro-market development agenda post-1991? And secondly, how was such a choice justified to/negotiated with the various stakeholders (the rank and file of the CPIM itself, other coalition member parties, trade unions, the industrial class, etc.) while sustaining the party’s traditional rhetoric and partisan character? In examining the second part, the thesis also ventures into the recent cases of huge opposition to land acquisition for industrial plants at Singur and Nandigram, and demonstrates how the mandate of the top brass of party leadership in Calcutta was being implemented, translated or contested at the local levels. On the whole, this thesis attempts a reappraisal of the politicaleconomic history of the Left Front regime and particularly that of its majority partner, the CPIM, over the last two decades. It also places the case in a broader Indian context and contributes to wider debates on the changing nature of federalism in India and the politics of economic reforms

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Ritanjan Das
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Corbridge, Stuart

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