This article is an ethnography portraying the processual and performative dimensions of the 2009 state assembly election in Andhra Pradesh. It shows how upper castes have persisted in power in a multicaste and increasingly democratic society through the distribution of welfare and patronage benefits to more marginalized segments of society. Conceptually, it argues for the importance of “political society” over “civil society,” when examining state-society relations in neoliberal, democratic India.

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