This talk will provide a perspective on the changing relationship between the state and markets and the evolution of democracy in India after independence by exploring economic conservatism and the rise of the Swatantra Party during the 1960s.
It explores how ideas of “free economy” in opposition to the so-called “socialist planned economy” of Nehruvian India emerged from communities in southern and western India as they embraced new forms of entrepreneurial activity. Although diverse, these articulations all connoted anticommunism, unfettered private economic activity, decentralized development, and the defense of private property.
Swatantra’s leaders promised “free economy” through their project of opposition politics, which sought to create a viable conservative alternative to the dominant Indian National Congress and push India toward a two-party system. Key to their project was the communication and mobilization of Indians around economic issues.
Scrutinizing print and visual culture, this seminar reframes the study of economic thought around politicians and publicists and provides a new history of postcolonial India. But it also speaks to the challenges of opposition activity, state-market relations, and federal politics that remain with us today.