About the Project

The sociology of India’s political class has traditionally been dominated by qualitative methods, notably an ethnographic approach to the study of elected representatives and political leaders, at the local, regional and national levels. This is partly an outcome of the qualitative bend of social sciences in India, but also a consequence of the lack of usable public data on the profile of elected representatives.

This project proposes to fill the empirical void of the study of India’s political class by creating a unique open source dataset of elected representatives, both at the national and at the regional level.

Repositories do exist, published in the form of Who’s Who by the Parliament and regional assemblies. But these exist mostly in print and are usually available only in vernacular languages. There are also various selective datasets, on specific segments of the political class, such as women parliamentarians (Dutoya) or Muslim elected representatives (SOURCE). Various scholars in the United States have attempted to build comprehensive datasets but their efforts were always limited in scope and in time. Most of that data lies unused, behind proprietary barriers, such as the dataset constituted at the University of Michigan in the 1960s.

Individual scholars have also compiled information on the social profile of elected representatives but their efforts did not go beyond the publication of their thesis (Mayer), articles (Blair) or books (Frankel and Rao). As a result, there are no existing comprehensive dataset profiling India’s elected representatives, both at the national and regional levels.

In the late 1990s, Christophe Jaffrelot initiated the building of a dataset of members of the Lok Sabha. This dataset covers only the ten Hindi belt states and profiles over 3500 MPs, from 1952 to 2004 (about 250 MPs per election). Data cleaning and coding was done by the CERI (UMR 7050) and the CDSP at Sciences Po, by Anne-Sophie Cousteaux and Christophe Jaffrelot, with the assistance of a number of PhD students. The dataset was made available online on the CDSP website in 2010.

From the year 2000 onwards, the need arose to expand the scope of that effort, by including non-Hindi speaking states, but also by including regional assemblies. With 543 elected representatives, the Indian Lok Sabha counts less MPs than France, for a population of 1.3 billion. Christophe Jaffrelot built a collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), to collect data on 16 states. This led to the publication in 2009 of Rise of the plebeians? The changing face of Indian legislative assemblies, New Delhi, Routledge, 2009, 494 p. (Coll. “Exploring the political in South Asia”), co-edited by Christophe Jaffrelot and Sanjay Kumar (Director Lokniti, CSDS). This book provided evidence for the rise of lower castes in elected assemblies in Northern India, and also revealed strong patterns of resilience of traditional elites in states such as West Bengal, Karnataka, Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh.

This data collection effort was continued through a research network funded by the French ANR, the UK’s Social Science Research Council and the Indian Council for Social Science Research. This project, named EECURI (Explaining Electoral Change in Urban and Rural India) last for three years, ending in 2015.

This project takes the relay of these past initiatives and aims at building comprehensive datasets covering most states. It is led by two research laboratories, the CERI at Sciences Po and the Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) at Ashoka University, in partnership with the CSDS and the University of Bordeaux, France

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