NEW DELHI, JAN 19:
Renowned political scientist Rajni Kothari, one of India’s most respected public intellectuals, passed away at his residence here today, sources said.
He was in his 80s. He is survived by two sons. His wife and one of his sons had passed away some time ago.
Prof Kothari, who is credited with radically changing the contours of the discipline of political science in India, was the founder of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Lokayan (Dialogue of the People).
Though he remained intellectually active till the end, Prof Kothari had withdrawn from the day-to-day affairs of CSDS in recent years due to advancing age and poor health, though he used to regularly attend various events there. He remained associated with it as a fellow.
Prof Kothari was known in India and abroad as a scholar and an activist for his continuing search on intellectual, political and ethical dimensions of contemporary reality.
His colleagues pointed out that he always spoke up on the isues of the day, especially on human and civil rights, and was one of the great political thinkers of the 20th century.
He also had a lasting infuence on the discipline of political science in India with his many books such as Caste in Indian Politics (1973), Footsteps into the Future: Diagnosis of the Present World and a Design for an Alternative (1975), Politics in India (1982), Rethinking Development: In Search of Humane Alternatives(1989), State against Democracy: In Search of Humane Governance (1989), Transformation and Survival: In Search of Humane World Order (1989), Poverty: Human Consciousness and the Amnesia of Development (1995), Communalism in Indian Politics (1998), Memoirs: Uneasy is the Life of the Mind (2002), Rethinking Democracy (2008) and Writings of Rajni Kothari (2009).
He was also involved with institutions such as the People’s Union of Civil Liberties, the Indian Council of Social Science Research and the International Foundation for Development Alternatives.
Born in the 1930s, Prof Kothari began his career as a lecturer at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, where he attracted attention in 1961 with a series of essays in the Economic and Political Weekly on “Form and Substance in Indian Politics”. He also used to write for Seminar, the journal published Romesh Thapar.
He went on to work as the Assistant Director of the National Institute of Community Development, Mussoorie. In 1963, he moved to Delhi, where using a personal grant of Rs. 70,000 given by Professor Richard L. Park, head of Asia Foundation’s India chapter, he started CSDS.
In 1970, he published Politics in India, which first theorized the Indian National Congress as a system rather than a political party.
Prof Kothari served as a Member of the Planning Commission from December 1989 to November 1990 during the tenure of then Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh.
The CSDS established the Rajni Kothari Chair with grants from the Ford Foundation in 2002 and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust in 2003. Its objectives are to facilitate research in the area of comparative democracy by a scholar of eminence, leading to significant publications and to enable her/him to interact with scholars, political activists, and civil society groups in India with a view to strengthening the ideas and institutions of democracy.
Prof Peter Ronald deSouza, one of Prof Kothari’s colleagues at CSDS, said he was also a great institution builder who also played an active role in nurturing the civil society movement in India and generated debates on the key issues of the day.
“He had tremendous faith in the people of India and its democracy,” he said.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Yogendra Yadav, an eminent political scientist in his own right, describbed Prof Kothari as the first theorist of Indian democracy and the most outstanding political scientist the country has produced.
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