Accepted paper:

'You've got to be a hustler here': the emergent profession of political consulting in India


Amogh Dhar Sharma (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Political consulting has become an increasingly popular profession for middle-class citizens in India. This paper analyses how citizens use this profession to channel their participation in politics, the social imaginaries in this profession, and how this work shapes their political subjectivities.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years, India has witnessed the emergence and rapid expansion of political consulting firms working in the domain of electoral and party politics. At the same time, working for these firms has become a 'new' legitimate profession, and in particular, young, urban middle-class citizens have come to constitute the bulk of the workforce in this industry. This paper analyses how and why this emergent profession has caught the imagination of the middle-class and how it provides them new ways of practicing, thinking about, and relating to politics. Based on interviews conducted with employees of political consulting firms based in New Delhi, this paper seeks to provide an empirically grounded account of the motivations that individuals have to join this profession, the patterns of recruitment, training, and management of the workforce, and the quotidian experiences that working in such firm entails. I argue that India's middle-class citizens have come to use this profession as a means to channel their political participation. In a context where conventional party politics is seen to be suffused with venality and crimininalization, working in a political consulting firm is seen to offer a new possibility of re-engaging with the realm of politics. Consequently, this profession has allowed citizens to fashion themselves as ethical political subjects who are invested in promoting a 'cleaner', managerial, and technocratic brand of conducting politics. I also show how the experience of working in political consulting firms re-shapes the political subjectivities of these employees leading to some unexpected consequences.

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