Indian Democracy at Crossroad

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Avinash Shankar MAD12015
Politics Essay: 2

Topic

Can post-colonial India's political experience be characterized as moving towards becoming more democratic

Democracy, the form of government where supreme power is directly or indirectly vested in people, has become a global discourse that can be gauged from the fact that many post-colonial countries have adopted it with remarkable success. The dramatic global expansion of democracy in the last few decades in post-colonial countries speak volume of this most popular form of representative government. The ever fluctuating political dynamics coupled with changing socio-economic patterns since Independence has given new meanings to Indian democracy at each stage of its progression. India inherited a colonial state and kept much of its functioning architecture intact. Much of state practice, despite its massive quantitative expansion, is heavily governed by legislation passed somewhere between 1860 and 1947. During the 65-years of long journey, India as a nation has witnessed moments wherein democracy looked to find its true meaning, while moments like national emergency during Indira Gandhi’s regime qualify as the abysmal low that India touched as democratic nation. Adoption of socialist pattern, the middle path between capitalism and communism, at the early stage of our independence and a series of economic reforms that began in 1980s were primarily targeted at delivering the true essence of democracy in social, economic, and political spheres. This paper is an attempt to answer how Abraham Lincoln’s notion of democracy as a government of the people, by the people and for the people has been put to test in India on different social, political, and economic parameters at different stages of its progression since independence and whether ever changing political, social and economic dynamics have brought India closer to true democratic model. India retained a deep commitment to principles of parliamentary government during the three decades after independence. Indian leaders described their approach planning under a democratic pattern of socialism as a new model for Asian and African development. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who set the direction of India’s development during the first fifteen years of freedom, pointed to his country as an area of agreement between opposing ideologies of capitalism on the hand and the communism on the other. Under his leadership, the commitment to democratic social transformation was an integral part of India’s development strategy. Nehru also tried to incorporate Gandhian ideals of social reforms in his development programs. Nehru spoke of this mode of development as a third way which takes best from all existing systems—the Russian, the American, and sought to create something suited to one’s own history and philosophy. In the nascent stage of Independence, the Nehruvian socialist model of development seemed to have worked well within the social and economic framework of India. But Nehru too had to face many challenges in the implementation of his development model. Nehru’s attempt to bring serious bourgeois land reforms was thwarted through a combination of feudal resistance, judicial conservatism, and connivance of state Congress leaderships. Although Congress was content to accept the continuance of semi-feudal rural power, it adopted massive plans for capitalist movement. Consistent with this general objective, the ruling elite adopted a plan for heavy industrialization and institutional control of capital goods industries through the state sector, a largely untried experiment at the time in the underdeveloped countries. Indira Gandhi who became Prime Minister after Nehru’s demise gave a new populist dimension to Indian politics. The shift of the Congress to populist politics quickly set up...
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