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Professor, Social Anthropology, LSE
Professor, Public Policy & Governance, APU
Political Consultant, Gender & Civic Activist

Date & Time

Saturday Sat, 6 Apr 2024


Bangalore International Centre
7, 4th Main Road, Domlur II Stage
Bangalore, Karnataka 560071 India

In India, the question of whether voters are truly getting what they vote for remains a complex and often debated issue. While elections provide a platform for citizens to express their preferences and hold their representatives accountable, challenges such as electoral misconduct, corruption, and the influence of money and power continue to cast doubt on the efficacy of the electoral process. Moreover, the disconnect between campaign promises and actual governance outcomes further muddles the picture. Despite strides in transparency and electoral reforms, the gap between voter expectations and political realities underscores the need for sustained efforts to enhance accountability, strengthen institutions, and foster a more responsive and inclusive democracy.

Cultivating Democracy: Politics and Citizenship in Agrarian India by Mukulika Banerjee is an anthropological study of the relationship of formal political democracy and the cultivation of active citizenship in one particular rural setting in India, studied from 1998 to 2013. It draws on deep ethnographic engagement with the people and social life in two villages, both during elections and in the time in between them, to show how these two temporalities connect. The analysis shows how an agrarian village society produces the social imaginaries required for democratic and republican values. The ethnographic microscope on a single paddy growing setting allows us to examine how the various social institutions of kinship, economy, and religion are critical sites for the continual civic cultivation of cooperation, vigilance, redistribution, inviolate commitment, and hope—values that are essential for democracy.

A talk by Mukulika Banerjee will be followed by a discussion with A Narayana, moderated by Tara Krishnaswamy and a Q&A session with the audience.

This event is a part of BIC’s Election series.


Mukulika Banerjee

Professor, Social Anthropology, LSE

Mukulika Banerjee is the author of Cultivating Democracy: Politics and Citizenship in Agrarian India (2021), OUP Why India Votes? (2014), The Pathan Unarmed (2001), The Sari (2003, with Daniel Miller) and (ed) Muslim Portraits (2007).

She studied in Delhi and Oxford universities and taught at Oxford and UCL before joining LSE where is she currently based. She was the inaugural Director of the LSE South Asia Centre from 2015-2020.

A Narayana

Professor, Public Policy & Governance, APU

Dr A. Narayana, currently a professor of public policy and governance at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, has over two decades of experience in the media, academics, policy consultancy and social activism. With a master’s in economics, he started his career as a journalist with the Bangalore-based English daily, Deccan Herald, and switched to academics after obtaining his doctorate from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, United Kingdom. His PhD thesis explores the impact of the use of information and communication technology in governance on citizen-state relationship in India. Before joining Azim Premji University, he worked as Associate Professor at the School of Media Studies, Manipal University, Manipal and as Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bangalore. He was the Karnataka State Coordinator for the World Bank’s Land Governance Assessment Framework and a consultant for the Karnataka Government’s High-Power Committee on Restructuring the Bangalore City Governance. He was a member on the Election Commission of India’s technical committee on electoral literacy.  He was consultant to the Second Karnataka Administrative Reforms Commission. He is currently a member of the Karnataka State Education Policy Commission. Apart from his academic research in the areas of e-governance, local governance, and land policies in India, he also specializes and writes extensively on Karnataka politics. He writes regularly in Kannada and English newspapers, and magazines. His long-standing column titled Anuranana in the leading Kannada daily Prajavani is widely read.

Tara Krishnaswamy

Political Consultant, Gender & Civic Activist

Tara Krishnaswamy is a political consultant, gender and civic activist and a Cannes Gold winner for campaigns.

She has run election and communication campaigns for over a decade across Karnataka, Andhra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and UP.

She is co-founder of citizens collectives Political Shakti for women’s political representation and Citizens for Bengaluru for decentralised urban governance and sustainable mobility.

Her campaign team won the Cannes Social Impact Gold and 2 Silvers for the Bihar election campaign.

She is on the advisory board of Indian School of Democracy and Indus Action. She is an author in the anthology, Her Right to Equality (Penguin, India) and in national newspapers. She teaches political mobilisation and public policy and is a TEDx speaker.

She is a techie by background with two decades experience in US multinationals. She used to head the Asia Pacific partnerships for Oracle, has US patents and publications in her name.