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6 - Karnataka: State Patronage, Market Opportunism, and Urban–Rural Closing Gap

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 April 2024

Sejuti Das Gupta
Affiliation:
James Madison College, Michigan State University
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Summary

This chapter aims to analyse Karnataka's political economy in the postliberalisation phase. It explores the changes in policies, particularly on the agricultural sector, and the way these have affected class formation and consolidation. It examines the relationship between proprietary classes and the state to understand how the state allocates resources, such as land, water, and credit, and infers how the political settlement operates within the state. These questions have been addressed through a thorough literature review and fieldwork conducted in the state between February and July 2012. Although Karnataka has four agricultural universities that publish vast literature, these were of little pertinence to the study. This was primarily due to the technical nature, micro-view, and quantitative approach of these publications. Nonetheless, the information has been included whenever appropriate. Karnataka is a diverse state, and patterns vary between the northern and southern districts; therefore, evidence from fieldwork is juxtaposed with existing literature to present a comprehensive and nuanced picture. The north is less irrigated, has less capitalist agriculture, and has fewer commercial crops in comparison to the south.

In line with the other field-based chapters, this chapter opens with a brief description of the state, and a discussion on the economy, particularly sector growth rates, main sources of investment, and alignment of lobbies. It presents the trajectory of certain agrarian proprietary classes and links it to dominant castes, as the literature is mostly written along the parameter of caste. To make sense of proprietary classes after 1991, the scene prior, during the 1970s and 1980s, has been briefly discussed. This is followed by a brief discussion on three key features of Karnataka – corruption, farmer suicide, and decentralisation. These are relevant for explaining the field findings. Subsequently, political settlement and agrarian class formation and consolidation are reflected upon. Accumulation through diversification by fractions of rich farmers are highlighted along with that of the political leaders and state officials who have transformed into petty bourgeoisie. Field findings suggested that regional variations within the state exist, as demonstrated. Comparative assessment of these findings with Chhattisgarh and Gujarat is attempted. Finally, it is inferred that the nature of the regional state is clientelist, playing a major role side by side the market.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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