ABSTRACT

Most decisions and deliberations regulating life in Indian village communities, whether it is distribution of scarce resources such as irrigation water, or the normative regulation of society, are taken within the villages themselves. The village scene is the first and main arena for public participation of the rural population. The contrast is evocative and reflects a wider debate on the nature of the Indian polity. A different and more common, although somewhat restricted understanding, would be to regard village politics as merely a set of social mechanisms for the daily regulation of community affairs and distribution of scarce resources. This is the approach people meet in ‘traditional’ village politics studies of the 1950s and 1960s, where concepts such as ‘dominant caste’, ‘faction’ and ‘patron-client relationship’ were developed. ‘Dominant caste’ is perhaps the least controversial of the concepts. It refers to the phenomenon that in many villages or regions certain castes are economically and politically dominant.