William Gould – Eating the king’s revenue’ and Bestowing the Bounty of the State: The Neta – Babu Nexus in Uttar Pradesh, 1945-1951





Royal Holloway University of London Department of History
and The University of Leeds School of History

Event Date: 9 and 10 September 2010 
Royal Asiatic Society 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1

William GouldEating the king’s revenue’ and Bestowing the Bounty of the State: The Neta – Babu Nexus in Uttar Pradesh, 1945-1951

This paper will examine the changing relationship of compliance, profit and political leverage between bureaucrats and politicians in UP between the period of the 1945-6 elections and the first General Elections of 1951-2. Those working on the development of political corruption and bureaucratic transfers in India, have argued that the most significant changes in the development of patronage networks between politicians and bureaucrats in UP, took place from the late 1960s. According to Stanley Kochanek, this was the point at which ‘briefcase politics’ pushed the ‘permit-license quota raj’ into full swing, as elections became more expensive and the system of state controls allowed particular business houses to exchange political favours for financial support. Wade’s work on Irrigation department corruption in the 1980s, suggested deeply hierarchical networks of systematic corruption, whereby the financial and infrastructural benefits of development funds were passed up to political leaders. However, this paper will argue that such networks between politicians and bureaucrats had much deeper temporal roots and were the product of the peculiar circumstances of political transition to independence over the late 1930s and 1940s. This paper builds its arguments around original research interviews, carried out by the authors, and the UP Congress files around the first General Elections, using the former to interrogate the latter. Paul Brass’s work on the origins of ‘Permit-License-Quota-Raj’ situates the crucial framework of politician-bureaucrat interaction in the state structures of early democratic India. In contrast this paper will argue that long standing professional cultures of the civil service on the one hand, and the peculiar circumstances of the Second World War on the other, were the key instigators of a politically compliant civil service. This compliance, however, was to be most clearly and unambiguously found at levels below the ICS and gazetted services –a pattern which owed a great deal to the customs of social interaction within the colonial civil services: Here the nexus of authority and opportunities for profit at quotidian levels were locally contingent and deliberately atomised by a weakened state from the mid 1940s.


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