Prof. Manjari Katju, Department of Political Science, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad (UoH) authored a book titled “Electoral Practice and the Election Commission of India: Politics, Institutions and Democracy” by Cambridge University Press in June 2023.
About the Book:
The book discusses electoral practice in India and the role of the Election Commission (henceforth, the EC) in operating the colossal electoral machinery. It covers a time-period between 1990 (the year just before the 10th parliamentary elections of 1991) and 2019 (the year of the 17th parliamentary election). It analyses the EC’s interactions with the Indian Parliament, Supreme Court (which, like the EC are constitutional institutions in India), political parties and civil society, to streamline democratic procedures. Through its various chapters, the book primarily puts forth the argument that besides the citizen-voter, political parties and civil society among others, the EC plays a crucial role in steering democracy through its work of supervising and conducting elections in India.
The book is located in the realm of institutional studies or neo-institutionalism. Specifically, it comes within ‘normative institutionalism’ that foregrounds the need to look afresh at the relationship between formal institutions and political behaviour as it contends that institutional design plays a crucial role in shaping political preferences. Institutions ‘behave’ in certain ways, influence politics and their decisions have long-term implications for political culture.
In this theoretical frame, this work on the EC highlights that institutions are repositories of political experience, conventions and power play, and they not only influence but constitute individual/group behaviour in significant ways. The book argues that by giving the EC the responsibility of conducting elections, the makers of the Constitution of India tried to ensure equality of participation and a deeper involvement of citizens as political selves.