This book looks at a series of citizen-led campaigns to provide information about and energise the institutions of local self-governance in India following the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts. Staggering in their outreach and magnitude, the campaigns, popularly known as PEVACs (Pre-election Voters' Awareness Campaigns), reached out to huge swathes of the population, particularly in rural India, through a unique network that incorporated civil-society organisations across the country, the media and the State Election Commission itself. The book journeys through the heat and dust of these extraordinary campaigns, drawing from a repertoire of field reports and interviews to reflect on the significance of this `experiment' on deepening democracy in India. In particular, it analyses the methodology of the campaigns and posits that this itself became an extraordinary exercise in democratic practice, indicating the shape that deliberation and dialogic practices could actually take on the field. As the campaigns moved from district to district, through their street plays, posters, pamphlets, jagrut yatras, candidate-voter dialogues, rehearsals of voting procedures, setting up of information booths, and participatory workshops for newly elected representatives, a new dialogical experiment was born and shaped. By examining these campaigns, this book emphasises the idea that governance is not just the business of central (federal) governments but also of citizens outside the formal institutions of governance, without whose active participation democracy cannot be deepened.
Citizen Initiatives and Democratic Engagement