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14 MADURIKA RASARATNAM their respective states. It will be argued that even the occasional salience of Sri Lankan Tamil issues in Tamil Nadu politics is driven as much by the exigencies of Tamil Nadu party politics as by a shared sense of “Tamilness.”

WHY DO POLITICAL PARTIES MATTER? A number of scholars have examined the role that political parties can play in stabilizing democratic mechanisms in the ethnically diverse countries of South Asia. In a recent review of decolonisation and democratization in South Asia, Katherine Adeney and Andrew Wyatt suggest that the structural features of political parties are key to explaining the different trajectories of democratic politics in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan (Adeney 2004). They suggest that parties with stable institutional structures that are open to diverse groups and interests can play an important role in accommodating different ethnic groups and ensure a stable transition to democracy. For the purposes of this argument, the comparisons they make between India and Sri Lanka are telling. Between its formation in 1885 and independence in 1947, the Indian National Congress transformed from an elite and amorphous institution into a broadbased political party with inclusive social links. From the 1920’s onwards it was able to organize anti-colonial protests that elicited widespread participation across the country, and from 1935 Congress politicians and party activists participated in electoral campaigns and the activities of government. For Adeney and Wyatt, the experience, legitimacy and organizational infrastructure that Congress had gained during these years gave Congress leaders, particularly Nehru, the authority to establish a federal, majoritarian democracy as the “rules of the game” that could include a diversity of ethnic groups within an overarching territorial and civic conception of nationhood. In contrast, Sri Lankan political competition at the time of independence was not structured by well-institutionalized, inclusive parties. Although Sri Lanka held its first all-island elections with universal franchise as early as 1931, neither of the two largest parties – the United National Party formed in 1947 and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party formed in 1952 – developed widespread and stable institutions with robust and inclusive social links. Adeney and Wyatt argue that both were formed “to extend the ambitions of members of the already existing political elite” (Adeney 2004, 13). Without either a robust organizational infrastructure or inclusive social links, neither party was able to contain the anti-Tamil thrust of the rising tide of Sinhala Buddhist mobilization that from 1956 onwards became a dominant electoral force. Although Sri Lanka’s ethnic balance, with a small, territorially concentrated Tamil minority, made ethnic conflict more likely, Adeney and

Sagar XVII — 2007