ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Pioneering Psephologist and Scholar Extraordinaire

Ramashray Roy (1927–2020) was an eminent political scientist who had served as director of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi. Among his well-remembered works are the studies on the 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009 parliamentary elections. He was also intensely interested in Mithila culture and had set up an intellectual centre in Ranti village in Madhubani district of Bihar.

I first met professor Ramashray Roy in 1985 at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). As an Oxford University graduate student, during my field trip in Delhi, I was researching the excesses committed during the emergency of 1975–77 from a sociological and class perspective. Having read Roy’s book on the 1969 assembly elections in the four key states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab, The Uncertain Verdict, I was full of questions. If Politics in India by Roy’s colleague, Rajni Kothari, was a theoretical explanation of the one-party dominance of the Congress, Roy’s book was a careful examination of the unravelling of that dominance and the beginning of the end of Congress hegemony, especially after the organisational split of the Congress party under Indira Gandhi’s leadership. Roy had already hinted in the book about how such an organisational split would be likely to lead to the onset of authoritarian tendencies. My insistent questions, instead of annoying Roy, seemed to make him happy. He confessed to me with glee that I was the first person who had come to meet him simply because I had questions about his book.

Tall, handsome, articulate and charming, Roy looked more like a Bollywood star rather than the popular stereotype of a professor. Roy’s kindness and generosity matched his rigorous and rich intel­­lectual insights. During successive meetings, he gently nudged me towards a more empirically grounded quantitative approach, which analysed the links bet­ween democracy and development by situating elections and the party system at the centre of the analysis. He wanted me to examine the roots of the emergency from the angle of organisational atrophy and decline of the Congress electorally. “Look for political explanations of the structural and systemic crisis of the state and government, instead of rushing to economic explanations,” Roy cautioned me. He did not agree with the Marxists, that in the ultimate analysis it was the economic factors that provided the best explanations. For Roy, political and cultural factors were primary in social explanations.

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Updated On : 3rd Sep, 2020
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