Political Culture and Constitutionalism: A Comparative Approach

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

various points, favored authoritarian and personalized rule and technocratic solutions that would further polarize society. These elites have played loose and fast with the institutions of governance and put into play ideologies that are chauvinistic and divisive. Against all odds, the ballot box has survived as the great equalizer in this context, and the Indian voter has used it, time and again, to reassert the sanity of the body politic. An old cliché regarding politics avers that societies usually get the kinds of leaders they deserve. It is ironic that in India's case, the people have rarely been so fortunate.


Notes
1.
Selig Harrison, India: The Dangerous Decades ( Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1960). A quick look at the data confirms India's diversity. In terms of religion, India is home to every major religion in the world. In addition to its division into thousands of endogamous castes (called jatis), arrayed in a complex hierarchy, the country is. home to fifteen major languages spoken by millions of people ranging from the more than 250 million speakers of Hindi, through the 54 million speakers of Tamil, to the 13 million speakers of Assamese; 47 dialects whose speakers number in the thousands; and another 720 dialects each spoken by less than 100,000 people. Politically, the country is today divided into twenty-five states and seven union territories, primarily along major linguistic lines. Economic indicators, such as land ownership, occupation, and income levels, reveal a similar diversity. Even such statistics can be misleading. For example, supposedly more than 80 percent of India's population is "Hindu." But an unpacking of the category "Hindu" tells us that the scheduled castes constitute more than 15 percent of the Hindus, forward castes 16.2 percent, and other, backward castes 43.7 percent. Government of India, Report of the Backward Classes Commission ( Mandal Commission Report) ( Delhi: Government of India Press, 1982), p. 56. For more on these divisions, see n. 16, below. Important aspects of Hindu religion, the deities worshiped, the festivals celebrated, the caste hierarchy -- all reveal tremendous variations in different parts of the country and over time. For a quick summary of India's diversity, see Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr., and Stanley Kochanek, India: Government and Politics in a Developing Nation ( Fort Worth, Tex.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993); Lloyd L. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, In Pursuit of Lakshmi: The Political Economy of the Indian State ( Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1987). For a superb discussion of the way numbers within these various linguistic and religious categories are often conflated, giving some of them artificially exaggerated "majority" status and others "minority" status, see T. K. Oommen, State and Society in India: Studies in Nation-Building ( New Delhi: Sage, 1990), chap. 2.
2.
Rajni Kothari, Politics in India ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1970), p. 8. Two recent instances of such prophesying in the U.S. media merit attention. In early November 1984, after Mrs. Gandhi's assassination, the NBC Nightly News began with anchorman Tom Brokaw, against a backdrop of a map of India blowing up into smithereens, rhetorically inquiring if this was going to be the end of India as a political entity. Seven years later, after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, U.S. senator and former U.S. ambassador to India Daniel Patrick Moynihan (who really ought to know better), in response to a question regarding the "viability of a country such as India," pontificated as follows on the CNN program Crossfire: "In the aftermath of the cold war, we're going to see more of this breaking up of frequently artificial conglomerates of people who under pressure of the cold war somehow held together." Assassination in India, Crossfire, May 21, 1991. Transcript 315. New York: Cable News Network Inc., Journal Graphics Inc., 1991.

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