"I had the pleasure recently of speaking at the second annual Oxford University Press South Asia Conclave in New Delhi, built around recently released, or soon-to-be-released, books on India in the social sciences. Political scientist and commentator Ashutosh Varshney, who is the editor of the Oxford series on India, chaired and convened the event with aplomb and his accustomed intellectual flair. It brought together scholars, politicians, journalists, and other observers of the Indian scene.
I shall confine my remarks in this column to the last panel, Business and Politics in India, on which I served as a discussant along with senior journalists Shekhar Gupta and T.N. Ninan. The panel was built around a soon-to-be released eponymous book, edited by political scientists Christophe Jaffrelot, Atul Kohli and Kanta Murali.
The basic premise of the book is well summarized by the following quotation: “The struggle between the power of wealth and the power of numbers is a perennial one in all capitalist democracies.” In other words, politicians need to win votes, but they also need to negotiate a relationship with business, especially big business, both to help generate growth which will give them revenue that they may disperse, and also more directly for purposes such as campaign finance."
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