In an earlier post, I discussed the financial pinch of electoral competition, noting that aggregate campaign spending has risen from one election cycle to the next. This trend poses a pair questions pertinent to my research: why does expenditure continue to rise and how does this impact the democratic participation of minority parties such as […]

In July 2016, I spoke with N. Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner of India (2006-2009), at his residence nestled amidst a quiet street in central Chennai. For the greater part of an hour, we discussed why election spending in his home state of Tamil Nadu rises sharply from one election cycle to the next. Gopalaswami […]

In India’s southernmost state of Tamil Nadu, the relationship between cinema and politics is well established. Shortly after Independence, a handful of youth in the Tamil film industry founded the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), an ethnic party that advanced a unique brand of Tamil cultural nationalism. Led by a motley assortment of screenwriters, actors, actresses, […]

Electoral politics involves a steep learning curve: first learn the rules, then learn to bend them and ‘work around’ them. The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), or Liberation Panthers Party, Tamil Nadu’s largest Dalit (formerly Untouchable) political party provides a case study for how straining and, at times, embarrassing this process can be. Upon entering the […]

Two months have already flown by and only two weeks remain! I know it’s cliché, but I am surprised at how quickly this summer is winding down. I have spent the past several weeks in Pondicherry, a seaside town in the northern districts of Tamil. T…

What was initially intended to be a casual dinner with a General Secretary of the Liberation Panthers, the state’s largest Dalit political party, quickly evolved into an extended affair. I arrived at Sinthanai Selvan’s Villupuram post prepared to …

Last Saturday was a long day. A fellow student-traveller staying in my hostel and I decided to walk from Coonoor, a hill town close to Ooty, to an adjacent town situated at a slightly higher altitude. Instead of trekking alongside the main road we…