"The Backstage of Democracy" exploring the professionalisation of politics in India

My thesis analyses the on-going ‘professionalisation of politics’ in India as witnessed by the growing role of specialised campaign managers, political consultants, ‘spin-doctors’, and media experts in the domain of electoral and party politics. Based on a 12-month period of fieldwork and data-collection in New Delhi, this thesis provides an empirically grounded exploration of the causal determinants, manifestations, and implications of the professionalisation of Indian politics.

This thesis is divided into two parts – the external and the internal aspects of professionalization. In the first part of the thesis, I analyze the emergence and growth of political consultancy firms in India. In an era of professionalisation, tasks that were once performed within political parties have gradually become outsourced to external political consultants who are hired on a contractual basis. In the second part of the thesis, I analyse the internal reconfigurations taking place within India’s political parties. Through a study of two national-level parties – the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – I analyse the different historical trajectories taken by political parties to professionalise themselves, and discuss the various challenges and opportunities that come in its wake.

This thesis demonstrates that professionalisation of politics is more than just the introduction of new technological innovations and specialised division of labour. Implicated in the process are emergent normative vocabularies, new social imaginaries and competing political cultures that seek to reshape the meaning and practice of democratic politics. Understanding the professionalisation of politics, thus, provides a broader analytical window to understand the process of democratic deepening in the world’s largest democracy.