Chapter22
An Assessment

THREE aspects of modern India are of absorbing interest to-day. In the first place it is the most successful example of a Parliamentary democracy in the East; secondly it is the scene of the greatest experiment in socialism ever conducted in a freedom-loving country; while thirdly, it is the only great country wholly outside either of the international blocs. Each of these aspects must find its place in our assessment of modern India.

Although adult suffrage has long been an essential part of Congress policy, after the transfer of power many of the party leaders were frankly apprehensive of the first General Election in independent India, when 175 million electors, the majority of whom were illiterate, would have to elect members of Parliament from a bewildering medley of twenty-two effective parties. The apprehensions proved to be groundless. The elections were as orderly as those in the United Kingdom. The uneducated public was not swept off its feet by the extremists, either of the right or the left; and a Parliament truly representative of the thought and feeling of ordinary Indians came into being. That Parliament, as we have seen, works somewhat differently from its counterparts in other parts of the world, but it satisfies the three most important tests of a democratic legislature. It is highly sensitive to public opinion; it is the viligant guardian of the rule of law; and it commands general respect. Contrary to the expectations of many friendly observers before the Transfer of Power, the Parliamentary system seems firmly entrenched in Indian political life.

The democratic character of the Indian Government is sometimes obscured by the astonishing personal ascendancy of the Prime Minister and by the readiness of all his colleagues to subordinate their views to his. This situation is apt to give the casual Western observer the impression of dictatorship in the making. In reality, however, Nehru's power springs largely

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