Sri Lanka is one of the few new Commonwealth countries to have had a strong democratic tradition and a vibrant electoral life since Independence. In this book Dilesh Jayanntha examines the basis for Sri Lankan electoral allegiance since 1947. He challenges the prevalent notion that caste is the basis for electoral allegiance and convincingly argues that the patron-client relationship is its primary determinant. Following an introduction outlining recent Sri Lankan political history, Dilesh Jayanntha then examines electoral allegiance in three contrasting constituencies. Two of these are rural constituencies, the other an urban one. They differ from each other in various ecological, economic and social respects and they have a different history up until 1947. Yet, as the author demonstrates throughout, patronage networks based initially on private wealth and later on access to and control of state institutions determined electoral allegiance. Often the patronage network was congruent with caste. But as Jayanntha shows, where the patron-client tie cut across the caste tie it was the former which proved decisive in deciding electoral allegiance.
This is the first detailed comparative analysis of electorates in Sri Lanka. It addresses issues that are relevant not only to South Asia but to the developing world in general and will therefore be of interest to specialists and students of South Asia, comparative politics, sociology and anthropology.