Friday 31 July 2015

Elections and Political Parties in South Asia: A 21st Century Perspective
Organized jointly by
Department of Political Science, University of Kalyani, West Bengal, India


Research Committee 23, International Political Science Association (IPSA RC-23)
7th December 2015 – 9th December 2015
Concept Note
The very idea of South Asia as a defining region of commonness is contestable. Except for a geographical expression, the countries represented by the common nomenclature ‘South Asia’ have a trajectory of their own. This has immense significance both in term of understanding the areas of divergence as well as possible sources of convergence. Political parties and elections are pertinent areas of study deserving scholarly deliberation. In any democracy the linkage between the government and the citizen is established by the political parties and the legitimacy of the various political parties are judged through a trust renewal process called the election.

It is also a moot point that South Asia is largely signified with reference to India. Indeed for a very long time, all the different nation states now representing the region (South Asia) had reference to the broader land mass of Indian subcontinent. Moreover, in a more significant way, all of them have a historical, cultural and even political linkage with India. Over a period of time however, the term ‘South Asia’ has gradually replaced this greater Indian subcontinent as the preferred description. This happened as area studies came into prominence in different western universities. The efficacy of parliamentary democracy based on party competitiveness did not make a pattern in South Asia. Political parties and free elections are indispensible for a well functioning democracy. But parties and party systems have changed even in democracies. Just as parties are conveyors of public opinion and important instruments of popular participation, there is an equally negative connotation attached to them. This is so because parties are increasingly becoming power brokers rather than effective medium of popular articulation. In this context of heterogeneities of many of the South Asian states, parties are increasingly becoming entrenched in power in a narrow sense and ceasing to become genuine mass parties. The paradox is that, where as democracy needs parties, parties are increasingly turning away from democracy in their leadership internal structure and functioning. Electoral process in the states of South Asia would help us to underline these issues.

The eight sovereign countries of South Asia have varied political systems. Though sustained movements towards democracy remain potent in many states, the operationalization of the multi party system and institutionalization of free and fair democratic elections still pose formidable challenges for these states. The military in Pakistan, monarchy in Nepal and Bhutan, Military outfits in Bangladesh, the ethnic militancy in       Sri Lanka and the terrorist groups in Afghanistan, pose obstacles to the full growth of democratic political systems in these countries. India’s robust democratic system based on competitive elections, despite its limitations, stands strong amongst its neighbourhood. In the 21st century, as the neighbouring countries of India are striving to graduate to this path of electoral democracy, signified by the democratic election of Bhutan in 2008 leading to the victory of Peace and Prosperity Party(DPT), the lok –tantraandolan in Nepal, the end of military-ethnic clashes in Sri Lanka, the Sahbag movement in Bangladesh, the Tehriqi-square event in Pakistan, India remains an important factor in the domestic politics of these countries, even to the extent of becoming the electoral issue, while also being affected by the electoral outcome in them. Could India be in a position to draw the countries together on the strength of democracy?

In these time of changes, new political parties emerge, old political parties adopts new strategies, some radical groups asks for boycotting elections, negative voting in the form of NOTA become popular among the electorate in India, election commissions introduces stringent measures to ensure free and fair elections, difference of opinion between political parties and the election commission gets highlighted, attractive election campaigns– both in language and in advertisement- take place, issue of corporate funding of campaigns occurs, and ever vigil media makes ‘live’ streaming of elections for nearly a month through pre and post poll analysis in prime time. The Conference will highlight these seemingly new issues in the study of political parties and conducting of elections that would also throw some insight into the kind of politics in post-colonial societies that we may expect, particularly in South Asia, for some-time to come. The present conference tries to bring in the experiences of the changing nature of the functioning of parties and elections in the Indian South Asian neighbourhood, along with a focus on new parameters of Indian elections and party politics. In sum the proposed International Conference bringing in scholars and established researchers in the study of elections and political parties from across the South Asian region will try to understand the similarities and differences in the context and the manner in which political parties are functioning, the way in which elections are conducted as to record the public opinion, the vigilance of media and civil society regarding the deepening of democratic political system in the South Asian region.
The major sub-themes of the conference highlighting the South Asian regional trend are –
(a)   Parties, electoral process, electoral behavior and voting pattern in the countries of South Asia.
(b)   Political parties and elections in 21st century: Strategies, alignments and issues.
(c)    The role of Election Commission in creating conducive atmosphere for holding elections.
(d)   Changing role and functions of political parties: In search of an alternate vision of politics.
(e)    The role of Media and Civil Society: Interrogating politics and electoral discourse in South Asia.
(f)    Funding of political parties in electoral campaigns: changing language and techniques.
(g)   Electoral politics in West Bengal.

Abstracts are invited from teachers and research scholars working on the thematic area of the Conference as reflected in the sub-themes. Abstracts of research paper within 500 words along with five keywords and a small bio-note of the paper presenter within 100 words should be emailed to

Confirmed List of Speakers:
Professor Parakash C Sarangi, Vice-Chancellor, Ravenshaw University, Cuttack
Mr. Paranjoy Guha Thakurota, eminent journalist
Professor Sanjay Kumar, Director, CSDS, New Delhi
Dr. Sandeep Shastri, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Jain University, Bangalore
Professor Ashutosh Kumar, Punjab University, Chandigarh
Professor Dwaipayan Bhattacharya, JNU, New Delhi

Dr.Mukulika Banerjee, Director, South Asia Centre, LSE  (video-linked speech)
Professor Mahesh Senanayaka, Head, Department of Political Science, Colombo University, Sri Lanka
Professor Ganga Thapa, Department of Political Science, Tribhuban University, Nepal
Dr. Shantanu Mazumder, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Dhaka University, Bangladesh
Prof. Tashi Chophel, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Sherubtse College, Royal University of Bhutan
Samuel S. Solomon, Scholar from Georgetown University Washington, Washington

Convener- Prof. Pratip Chattopadhyay, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Kalyani ( 9836397402 (M)

Co-Convener- Professor Peter M Siavelis, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University, U.S.A. Professor Siavelis is Chair, IPSA RC 23
Important Dates:-
Last Date of Abstract Submission – 20.10.2015
Acceptance of Abstract notification – 25.10.2015
Last Date of Full Paper Submission – 25.11.2015
Registration Fees:-
Outstation Participants – INR 4000/ USD 75 (Academician) INR 2500/ USD 45(Research Scholars)
Accompanying person – INR 2000/ USD 35
(Registration fee includes accommodation on twin sharing basis in University guest house / hostel from 6th December afternoon to 10th December forenoon, participation in all sessions, conference kit, breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Local Participants – INR 1500 (Academician) INR 700 (Research Scholars)
(Registration fee includes participation in all sessions, conference kit, lunch and snacks on Conference days)
In case of joint authorship of paper, both the participants willing to join the Conference have to register separately.
Mode of Payment
 Demand Draft in favour of UNIVERSITY OF KALYANI (Sent to the Convener International Conference, Dept of Political Science University of Kalyani, Nadia, West Bengal, 741235)
2      Online Payment:
Name of Beneficiary- University of Kalyani.
Account Number- 412110210000001 
Name of the Bank- Bank of India
Name of the Branch- Kalyani University
Account Type- Savings
IFSC Code- BKID0004121
MICR Number- 700013090
(Please send the receipt of Bank transaction immediately after payment to our email-  otherwise your payment will not be recognized)

****   On the spot registration is also allowed for paper presenters and participants.

The Conference will be held in the auditorium of University of Kalyani located in the main administrative building of the University. Kalyani is located in the hinterland of Kolkata, capital of West Bengal. It is well connected with Sealdah railway station where local train takes one hour to reach nearby Kalyani station. From Howrah station and Kolkata International Airport, pre-paid taxi services are available which will take around two hours drive to reach the place.        

No T.A. / D.A. will be given to the paper presenters.