The Political Institutions And Consolidation Of Democracy Politics

Essay add: 19-05-2017, 18:02   /   Views: 104

Liberty, equality, justice and fraternity are the cornerstones of democracy. The freedom of speech, expression of faith, profession, and association, etc. gives democracy its absolute meaning. The Indian Constitution offers all the Indian citizens, individually and collectively, these basic freedoms and rights. There is free, independent and separate judiciary to see that these rights are not violated and tampered with. All are equal before law. This is the very spirit and essence of our democracy. An independent, strong and incorruptible judiciary is one of the main pillars of democracy.

This paper is about the post-colonial evolution of Indian democracy, the transition of its political institutions, economic framework and social demands. The political institutions story is constructed in terms of the political processes through political actors and the consolidation of democracy. The second part relates to the economic development and the deepening of democracy in India. India has been a democracy for over six decades. In this time it has achieved some remarkable successes but also failed in significant ways. While economic growth has been rapid over recent decades, this has not translated into greater welfare for the majority of the Indian population. Despite being severely critical of its political and economic policies, the Indian democracy has consolidated and continues to prosper.

The political institutions and consolidation of democracy

India's political institutions and consolidation of democracy occurs in phases. The institutions and practices of democracy found considerable acceptance in the first phase. This phase ranging from the 1950's to the early 1960's is dominated by Nehru and his commitment to development and democracy. Nehru was committed to development and also played a key role in providing a primary architecture to laying the building blocks of the nation. Nehru believed in socialist way of allocating resources and in a capitalist method of development which led him to practice mixed economy.

Nehru tried to bring about development in what could be understood as a slow but a steady process. He created the Planning Commission to provide oversight in drafting and amending economic policies. They formed five-year plans that emphasized science and technology as ways to modernize. Nehru implemented the protectionist model of import substitution industrialization (ISI), which was intended to foster and grow national, state, and local industries. As preconditions for strong economy he tries to establish effective political institutions. During this phase, Nehru ruled the Indian National Congress and had a powerful bureaucracy under him. India benefited by the presence of these two important institutions [] . Nehru employed a form of political practice that was considerably conservative in nature and build his political networks revolving on the powerful members in the society comprising of the land owning and the upper caste by exchanging the state patronage for electoral mobilization. His strategy was to enable Congress to remain in power for duration well enough to enable practices of democracy to take root and he was successful in initiating this passive revolution towards modernization. But this is where Sudipta Kaviraj critics the passive revolution initiated by Nehru as bourgeois in nature. According to him, the government favored the class of land lords and urban bourgeois through their land reform, agrarian and industrialist policies. The powerful and dominant voice of bureaucrats in policy making is also being questioned [] .

Post Nehruvian era, which was dominated by Indira Gandhi's rule, was a period of turmoil. Economic and political deficiencies threatened the persistence of democracy itself. The lack of ideology in governance coupled with power grabbing personal politics, led to the decline of Congress's popularity during this phase. Regional political parties started emerging and started gaining prominence. The opposition grew against her anti -people policies and to counter this opposition she went on to impose a "national emergency". It was this very declaration of emergency that brought India's democracy to the brink. Pranab Bardhan in his essay "Democracy in India" questions how the interests of the people were forsaken in this very context of emergency imposition [] . But in my view what followed post emergency, where Indira lost the elections shows the character of Indian democracy. The people vehemently opposed the congress which increasingly resembled an authoritarian dynasty. In a democracy when people's interests are forsaken, they exercise the right to replace the government through the medium of election. Indian democracy stood tall in this test.

Post emergency period saw a rise in multi-party politics based on caste and regional interests. The fragmentation of party system at the state and power drifting from the centre to the regions saw an associated shift in focus towards the backward and lower castes. There was growth and prominence of backward caste and regional interests through the political developments. The clientist linkages of the political parties explain the prominence of minority representation and issues coming to the fore. As a result, the backward classes started gaining more visibility in social and political matters. The multi-party system tries to cater to all section of society than in a two party system. But on the flip side, the percentage share required to win elections reduces and the political parties tend to use this mechanism to their advantage [] .But in a multiparty system, there lies benefits of bringing in more inclusiveness and addressing issues of the neglected. Herbert Kitschelt draws an argument to multi-party system prioritising on private goods and hence delivery of public goods like education and health getting neglected [] . (Chibber and Nooruddin 2004) have shown that states in India with a large number of effective parties tend to see selective and not universal delivery of public services, as the ruling party tends to service only select social bases [] .

The economic development and deepening of democracy

On the economic front, India's democratic governments have fared well in promoting economic growth over the decades. Economic growth in the early decades was slow, but in the last few decades the growth rates have been improving. Nehru's economic policies looked inward to meet the country's needs and were tightly controlled and as a result industries led to limited growth. The protectionist nature of the Nehru's industrial policies hampered by regulations and hurdles, like the ISI and the "license raj", didn't facilitate FDI (foreign direct investments) investments, which affected India's inability to develop comparative advantages in export markets. But over a period of time economic policy reforms were undertaken by eliminating licensing requirements and opening areas reserved for the public sectors to private sectors. These reforms were crucial to foster growth and development, absence of which would have boosted unemployment and lack of opportunities. In 1991, India underwent a market liberalization, opening up of the market attracted FDI's. As a result export sectors of the economy started growing, infrastructure started improving and more job opportunities were created. The industrial scene began to be less dominated today by only a few big business houses, with the rise of medium sized and regional business group (Pranab Bardhan, 2009). Liberalization of the economy created a level playing field to compete and succeed in markets. Equal opportunity to all and the high growth rates benefitted the citizens. India made big strides on economic front starting from import substitution models to market liberalization. The economic growth is helping India gain higher stature in the world. India's economics and politics are feeding off each other-just like a covalent bond. Among all the positives attached to liberalization, the means by which liberalization policies were introduced is questioned by Atul Kohli in his essay "Democracy And Discontent: India's Growing Crisis Of Governability". He critics the use of stealth methods by government to introduce liberalization of market since there was only a narrow support in the coalition, as undemocratic. He also brings to light the internal and external reasons that led India to open up its markets [] .

The economic liberalization also brought about changes in occupation pattern with the new job opportunities in the market. The economic status of backward caste started improving. The rise in economic status led to the changes in the political and social sphere around them. The hierarchies started shifting away. Political parties started attaching to clientist linkages to the backward caste and you could see an upliftment of the backward caste both in economic as well as political status. The political and economic shifts in India have led to an overall improvement to the people. There is another school of thought that believes in India as a fragmented multi caste state. A sovereign state that is governed by elite and bureaucrats, with the interests of the people being forsaken Pranab Bardhan, 2009).

The transition of politics and the economic development through post- colonial clearly indicate India's democracy as one being a reasonably consistent progress. Her institutions have been mostly robust though they have also increasingly come under threat by personal greed and the collusion of powerful actors who seek to undermine the principles and robustness of these institutions. Yet, at the same time, in the wider society, ideas about democratic participation, and the role of the electorate India's experiments of democracy have taught the world a number of lessons: the successful workings of coalition governments, the unpredictability of voter behaviour, and above all the possibility of political sophistication among the poorest people. India has also managed to redistribute the fruits of economic growth in an inclusive manner, serving a unique model combining economic democracy with a robust political one. India's democracy at times has hit roadblocks, but her resilience has taken the institutions forward and the democracy has consolidated and continues to prosper.

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