Political Culture and Constitutionalism: A Comparative Approach

By Daniel P. Franklin; Michael J. Baun | Go to book overview

8

Constitutionalism, Democracy, and
Political Culture in India

Sankaran Krishna

A long series of false prophets have predicted the impending demise of India's democracy and unity. Such predictions began with independence from the British in August 1947 and have since continued unceasingly. In 1960, Selig Harrison predicted that the increasing participation of nonelite classes in politics, the emergence of linguistic states within India, religious conflict between the Hindus and the Muslims (the problem of communalism in India's political lexicon), and sheer diversity would tear India apart. 1 In 1967, the India correspondent of the London-based Times predicted that the fourth general elections then under way would be the last elections. 2 Yet, nearly five decades after independence, India remains a unique example of a functioning democracy in the Third World, 3 albeit one with serious problems. To paraphrase Mark Twain, obituaries of Indian democracy have proven to be greatly exaggerated, and democracy in India will probably long outlive its elegists.

This chapter is an examination of the paradoxical survival of democracy and the role that political culture may have played in it. Its main arguments may be summarized as follows: (1) by most standards, India is an example of a thriving democratic polity, albeit one with serious political and economic strains on its institutions; (2) scholarly opinion on the respective roles that political culture and political institutions have played in India's democracy is divided, and rather than attempting an either-or answer, individual scholars have given a somewhat greater emphasis to one or the other factor and to their mutual relationship; (3) this survival of India's democratic institutions had little to do with extraneous factors such as the cold war; and (4) finally, the sustenance of democracy in a society as diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion, language, and the distribution of economic assets as India ought to qualify any

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