Government and Politics in South Asia

By Craig Baxter; Yogendra K. Malik et al. | Go to book overview

3
Political Institutions and Governmental Processes

ONE OF THE MAJOR PROBLEMS facing the leaders of countries of the Third World has been that of creating stable political institutions capable of governing effectively, accomplishing sociopolitical changes peacefully, and providing smooth transitions of power. Events preceding Indian independence and the widespread religious rioting that accompanied the partition of the country had convinced the leaders of the Indian National Congress, who inherited power from the British government, that India needed a powerful and effective set of political institutions at the national level to provide stability in a vast land. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, deputy prime minister and home minister, summed up their position when he said that "the first requirement of any progressive country is internal and external security. It is impossible to make progress unless you first restore order in the country." 1

The assembly that deliberated the institutional structure for the new nation and undertook the task of framing a new constitution was created by the British government. An overwhelming majority of its members were elected indirectly by the legislative bodies existing in the provinces of British India. Although elections to the provincial legislative bodies, before the creation of a constituent assembly, were not held on the basis of universal suffrage, as many as 46 million voters participated in the 1946 elections. The constituent assembly convened in December 1946 was thus a representative body of Indians. Its membership, dominated by the Indian National Congress, consisted of intellectuals, lawyers, constitutional experts, and administrators as well as ideologues. In short, it was a representative body from which emanated the different shades of opinion to be found in the India of the 1940s. 2 Three years of discussion, debate, and deliberation on the draft of the constitution were required before it was adopted in November 1949. The new constitution, which came into effect on January 26, 1950, when India became a republic, is a lengthy and com

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