Noted scholar Rajni Kothari passes away

GN Bureau | January 19, 2015



For any student of political science, name of Rajni Kothari must surely have resonance beyond time. Kothari, who institutionalised the study of politics beyond the curriculum of universities, was the founder of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). It was under Kothari that CSDS became one of the leading institutes for research in the social sciences and humanities.

With substantial amount of work that spread across the study of caste, religion and electoral politics in India, Rajni Kothari was also, perhaps, India’s first psephologist.

In an interview to Seminar magazine Kotahri said that “Intellectuals must intervene in the political process by linking critical ideas to political debate”. In every respect an anathema to an “ivory tower” intellectual, Kothari taking his idea of “intellectuals intervening in political process” associated himself with political activism. He was involved with the People’s Union of Civil Liberties.

CSDS website describes him as a scholar known for his continuing search “on intellectual, political and ethical dimensions of contemporary reality.”

Kothari who died at the age of 84 was credited with the first electoral study in India. He carried the first election study in Kerala state elections in 1965.

“In 1967 he headed first National Election Study (NES). It was conducted in collaboration with the University of Kerala and University of Michigan. There is so much to be said about him. He was indeed the country’s one of the biggest social scientists who contributed immensely to the development of the discipline” said Praveen Rai , Academic Secretary CSDS.

His analysis of the party system in India still holds most important place in the study of party politics. Analysing the predominant position of the congress party in the post independent India, he defined Indian party system as “congress system” in his book “Politics in India.”

First published in 1970, Politics in India remains the most essential reading for the students of political science. The fact that since it was first published, 45 years ago the book never went out of print, only talks about its timeless theoretical formulations, . Last year the book the book was published with an elaborate new introduction.

Other prominent works by Kothari include Caste in Indian Politics; In Search of Humane World Order (1989); Poverty: Human Consciousness and the Amnesia of Development (1995); and Communalism in Indian Politics (1998).

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