Battles Half Won

India’s Improbable Democracy

In this lively collection of essays, Ashutosh Varshney analyses the deepening of Indian democracy since 1947 and the challenges this has created. The overview traces the forging and consolidation of India’s improbable democracy. Other essays examine themes ranging from Hindu nationalism, caste politics and ethnic conflict to the north–south economic divergence and politics of economic reforms.

The book offers original insights on several key questions: how federalism has handled linguistic diversity thus far, and why governance and regional underdevelopment will drive the formation of new states now; how coalition making induces ideological moderation in the politics of the BJP; how the political empowerment of the Dalits has not ensured their economic transformation; how the social revolution in the south led to its overtaking the north; and how the 1991 economic reforms succeeded because they affected elite, not mass, politics.

Lucid and erudite, Battles Half Won brilliantly portrays the successes and failures of India’s experience in a new, comparative perspective, enriching our understanding of the idea of democracy.

Reviews & endorsements

“Ashutosh Varshney is a world-class scholar of Indian politics. His writings are erudite and insightful . . . This collection of his updated essays deserves to be read widely.”
—Atul Kohli, David K.E. Bruce Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

“Ashutosh Varshney draws on his best recent work [here] . . . to produce a book of enduring value. It takes us on wide ranging, theoretically sophisticated and deeply researched engagements with major topics in Indian politics . . . While India’s battles may be only “half won”, we are given good reasons to believe that battles will continue to be won and that its “improbable” democracy will persist.”
—Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne H. Rudolph, Professors of Political Science Emeritus, University of Chicago

“More than six decades after India’s Independence, its democracy’s resounding resilience is the conundrum that Ashutosh Varshney sets out to examine. In the process he has written a masterly book that combines scholarship, acute powers of analysis and great linguistic style, which makes it a pleasure to read even as it forces one to think.”
—Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank and C. Marks Professor of International Studies, Cornell University