The Rationality of Politics in Uttar Pradesh: Towards a Re-evaluation of the Concept of Factionalism

  • Sebastian Schwecke (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


In this paper, competition between political actors in Uttar Pradesh (UP) is conceptualized as defying the commonly held assumptions on political behaviour in a democratic state. The party system in UP from 1993 onwards is characterized as a highly polarized and fragmented, but at the same time surprisingly stable tri-polar multi-party system, in which no party or alliance of parties is able to establish itself as a dominant political actor, primarily due to the parties’ reliance on informal political networks. The argument aims at making a case for a re-evaluation of Brass’ concept of factionalism (Brass 1965) with special reference to the changed and changing relationship between caste and state-level politics. It is argued that the behaviour of political actors at the state level is determined to a large extent by the process of alliance formation between communities at the constituency level aimed at establishing a favourable position for that community regarding access to state resources. In this process, community-based homogenous voting behaviour of several politically important social groups is linked to the formation and maintenance of political networks of support designed to maximize benefits for the political actors involved. Under these circumstances, and given the almost complete absence of ideological compulsions, political actors display a significant amount of flexibility in switching their loyalties between factions and parties. The use of caste in politics is conceptualized as primarily strategic and based on its relevant organizational properties.


India, Uttar Pradesh, Domestic Politics, Factionalism, Elections