Post- Independence India realized very soon the need of a written constitution. Within 4 years (1951), the Indian Constitution was drafted and put into practice. Pakistan struggled in this process and even the thought of needing a constitution did not arise till as late as 1973!
It is disheartening to see the growing cynicism within India about the political class and overall state of affairs. While undeniably every generation has to deal with its own crisis and we are midst of one, I wanted to point out that there is much to be proud of as well.
Despite not having the basics required to sustain a democracy like, a literate population, politically aware electorate, a basic standard of living, we continue to thrive as the largest democracy in the world.
Undoubtedly the democracy in India has its flaws but it is a rarity to see a developing country to sustain democracy (except the two years of Emergency) without at any stage slipping into a Martial Regime, like some of our neighboring countries.
Despite ‘Deep Diversity’, a term that indicates a degree of diversity that could threaten integrity of a country, India manages to surge ahead as a united political state. It achieves this with a carefully planned:
– Special status to some states – provisioned in the constitution
– Not declaring any language as ‘National’ language
– Remaining neutral to Religion
Ending the Feudal system in India and ensuring peaceful integration of all the Princely states in the Indian Union. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel demonstrated strong leadership in defining the length, breadth and the depth of the country in a very calculated manner. It has been seen in many banana republics that Martial regime or autocratic dictatorial regime manages to survive due to strong support from the Feudal lords who have a vested interest of ensuring continuity to their royal lifestyle and power over common people. This could have been the biggest threat to a democratic setup.
India’s survival is not due to it being a ‘melting pot’ (Like US) but due to it celebrating ‘unity in diversity’. The constitution very intelligently avoids use of the word ‘Federal’ but at the same time makes provision for distribution of power between the Centre and the State. The Constituent Assembly was more than aware of the danger of concentrated power and the ills associated with it yet they were wary of federalism given the ‘deep diversities’ of India. Europe might have lesson or two to learn from India if they intend to sustain EU dream.
The first elections in independent India were held in 1952 and since then continual Electoral Reforms have aided sustenance of democracy in the country. Starting from the tenure of TN Seshan, electoral process in India has become more accountable, transparent and fair. Despite its flaws and criticism, the system has managed to get rid of many evils that plagued the electoral process viz. rigging, booth capturing, silent rigging, ballot box exchange. The master stroke of introducing Electronic Voting Machine by MS Gill further aided improving the fairness of electoral process.
Unlike some of the post-colonial developing countries India did not depend only on World Bank or IMF for its economic growth. Self Sufficiency was the motto and many industries and institutes were built and some were setup through collaboration with countries that shared common goals. We have a vibrant Private sector popularly called as India Inc that is also expanding its ambitions on foreign turf.
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It was a master stroke. Despite the economic condition it was an act of courage to decide that India would remain neutral in the emerging Bi-Polar world (USA vs USSR). It assisted India to stand on its own feet and be the master of its own destiny. It is not uncommon for a developing country to succumb to external pressure and align with one camp or the other. While there is widespread criticism, in equal amount, however the strength and courage demonstrated should be admired by one and all.
Ramachandra Guha said that India is a ‘political experiment’ never attempted before and probably never to be attempted again’. It is unique in every possible way. We have problems, we have flaws, we have shortcomings and we have a long distance to go, however I strongly think that we need to understand that India is no way a banana republic. We have strong institutions like the Supreme Court, Election Commission, and Constitution which form strong pillars of seeing us through troubled times. I am sure that a politically aware youth would continue to struggle against odds and continue to pull surprises at people like Winston Churchill who famously said ‘India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the equator.’