Changing Political Elite Network Dynamics and the Fate of Democracy Explaining the End of Emergency in India (1975–1977)

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Sourabh Singh


In this article, I adopt insights from social network analysis to document and explain changes in India’s ruling political elite’s network that led to the end of a brief period of authoritarianism, known as the Emergency period, in postcolonial India. Using data on the political elite’s interactions and point of view, and utilizing network analysis methods, I show that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s political trajectory made her expect loyalty, not clientelistic exchanges, from members of her political network. During the first year of the Emergency period, a new political elite shifted its loyalty from Mrs. Gandhi to her son Sanjay, a political novice. If the interactions among the political elite had continued, Sanjay’s clique likely would have pushed Mrs. Gandhi from the center to the periphery of political elite networks. Hence, I argue that Mrs. Gandhi called for elections and ended the Emergency to reestablish her centrality in the political elite networks. This article contributes to the cultural turn in the study of political networks by highlighting the importance of the political elite’s history of interactions within political networks, allowing us to comprehend the elite’s current strategies for reproducing or transforming its network position.

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