The Charisma of Direct Action: Power, Politics, and the Shiv Sena
by Julia M. Eckert
Delhi, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003
Year of publication
How do movements that are explicitly anti-pluralist in nature succeed in democratic societies? What qualities in their ideology and practice appeal to ordinary citizens? How do such movements establish themselves as significant political forces, and fight victorious electoral campaigns within a democratic framework - a framework that they themselves reject.
This book aims to answer these questions through an in-depth analysis of the Shiv Sena - a party that has dominated the political scene in Maharashtra (and India) these past several years. The Shiv Sena has been traditionally characterised by its culture of direct action, militant images, and its charismatic and autocratic leader, Bal Thackeray.
While examining the processes leading to the establishment of the Shiv Sena, Julia Eckert offers a refreshingly original perspective on the internal dynamics of the party, and other like-minded movements. She details its local mode of operation and its strategies of mobilization within a democratic Setup. She studies the movement's need for creating opponunities for action, the role of militant enemy images, and the integration of diverse interests and motivations in the politics of struggle. In addition, the book focuses on the spaces created for such movements within their environment by strategies of instrumentalisation and avoidance while examining the shifts in power relations created thereby.
Further, the book discusses the party posnire of protest, its culture of militancy and its ideology of action. lt examines the movement's dilemma between norm-breaking and norm and studies the Shiv Sena's role within the Hindunationalist agenda of which it has become one of the most prominent propagators.
This volume is essential for students of politics, sociology, history, as weil as journalists, policy-makers and all those interested in social and political movements in general and those within India in particular.