Development and Democracy in India

Development and Democracy in India

Development and Democracy in India

Development and Democracy in India

Synopsis

Examining the relationship between democratic governance and economic development in post-independence India, this book addresses the paradox of India's political economy.

Excerpt

In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality…. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life?

—B. R. Ambedkar, speech in the Constituent Assembly, 25 November 1949

In his address to the expectant nation on the eve of India's independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru eloquently noted that “the service of India means the service of the millions who suffer … it means the ending of poverty, ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. ” Echoing the hubris and triumphant certitude of the nationalist elite that had vanquished three centuries of colonial rule, Nehru pledged that the fundamental task of the new political leadership was to “build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell and prosper. ”

To the architect of the grand design, the intrinsic legitimacy and the tolerant pluralistic culture of a representative democratic polity was indispensable to building the “noble mansion. ” Nehru, the quintessential renaissance man, remained unequivocal: only a democratic state (which under Indian conditions he envisaged as an archetypal liberal democracy derived from the syncretism of the Indic civilization and Western rationalism) based on legal principles and guided by the ethos of purposive constitutional deliberation had the capacity to expunge the feudal-colonial legacies and carry out thoroughgoing national reconstruction. Moreover, only an authentic liberal democratic polity, which through its representative institutions and constitutional-legal devices prescribed accountability and imposed limits on state power, was endowed with the political-institutional wherewithal to mobilize popular acceptance of the government's development programs and to “plan” national economic development in the manner that avoided the painful vicissitudes of capitalism and socialism. Rejecting the ready-made . . .

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