Social Scientist. v 29, no. 340-341 (Sept-Oct 2001) p. 60.

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When A Coalition of Conflicting Interests Decentralises: A Theoretical Critique of Decentralisation Politics in Kerala

The paper seeks to make a theoretical critique of the ongoing politics of democratic decentralisation in Kerala by problematising why it largely remains a constitutional reform of development administration stabilising the status quo rather than leading to alternate institutional development, rise of people-centred politics and the entailing empowerment oriented praxis triggering struggles over access to, and distribution of critical resources, and initiating structural changes in the local power relations ? It is not altogether unexpected, for anything basically different could not have happened theoretically under the contemporary socio-economic processes and power relations. Nevertheless, what is theoretically unfeasible are to be politically confronted with adequate preparations of mass mobilisation. How do we explain the lack of political will in the society for doing it ? The paper first examines the historically contingent context of expectations about the positive results of democratic decentralisation in Kerala. It then moves on to the contemporary socio-economic scenario for explaining the so-called unexpected plight of the decentralisation politics in the state. Identifying the inadequacy of the people's knowledge about the concepts of decentralisation as one of the major impediments of political development, the paper highlights the debating perspectives to show what the people should have been enabled to learn. The paper argues that lack of knowledge made popular consciousness eclectic and depoliticised. Reviewing the state's experience of the politics of decentralised planning, the paper is concluded with the argument that nothing more can be

" Director, School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala

Social Scientist, Vol. 29, Nos. 9-10, Sept - Oct 2001

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