India*s Democracy

India: Democracy, Nationalism
and Conflict I
Harinda Vidanage PhD
• India’s relative success in comparison the
Pakistan and Nepal
• Long history of nationalist struggle
• Coherent political party
• Regional and central political leadership
committed to liberal democracy
• Distribution of political and economic power
Key advantage in the congress party
Virtual monopoly of power
Its model of interlocking governance
Accommodation of India’s diversity
It included diverging ideologies, socialists and
capitalists happily coexisted
• Extreme right and left Hindu fundamentalism
and radical communisim was brutalluy dealt
with: Ex militant RSS was banned by 1950
• The party nationalist symbols and rhetoric's converged
its power and yet was able to accommodate
particularistic agenda of its ethnic and religious parts
• In the first two decades since independence opposition
to the leadership of the congress came within the
• India’s founding leaders believed that a strong central
government with powers over the economy and
politics was necessary to build a stable country
Mahatma’s Gandhi’s favoured disciple and chosen successor. Son of
Motilal Nehru, one of the founder figures of the Congress movement.
A brilliant intellectual and gifted speaker, his Autobiography
(1930) had a profound impact on educated Indians who saw
him as the spokesman for the new India. After death of
Gandi(1948) and Vallabhai Patel (1950) he became the
founding father of the nation, known by the Brahmin name of
Panditji “Teacher, a symbol of affection and respect.
Nehru was hugely popular with the masses and first three
Elections of1953, 1957 & 1962 were massive endorsements
for Nehru & Congress, giving him more economic, social and
political power than almost any British Viceroy before him.
Republic of India. 1950.
New Constitution based on British
Parliamentary Model.
President: Formal Head of State
Prime Minister: Real Leader of Republic
Headed Majority Party in Indian Parliament.
Indian Legislature
Rajya Saba/Council of
States 250
Lok Sabha/House of People
Max 552
Political elites
Sir Isaiah Berlin. "Nehru was a great man... Nehru gave to Indians an image
of themselves that I don't think others might have succeeded in doing”
Central Planning
In keeping with the prevailing theories in
development planning after World War II, in the
1950s India opted for a centrally planned
economy with a closed trade regime, heavy
state intervention, and an industrial policy that
emphasized import substitution. This pro-state
and trade-pessimistic development model was
characterized by three sets of controls: internal,
external, and those relating to the special role of
the public sector
• In the first two decades since independence India
faced external military threats from China and
Pakistan. No internal challenge to Premier Nehru
in Parliament
Major religions
• Hindus 82.00%, Muslims12.12% Christians
2.34% Sikhs1.94% Other religions less than 1%
1984.Siege of Golden Temple.
“Let them come, we will give them battle”
Snapshot (Uttar Pradesh)
• February 2012
• Voters 126 Million
• Not dominated by Congress or BJP
• Voting for 403 state assembly constituencies in the
northern state, with a population of 200 million, is
spread over seven phases and will last until March 3.
Congress in decline
• Congress government under PM Narasimha Rao
implemented open policies of economic liberalization
• Manmohan Singh introduces the first liberal budget
• Denationalization of state institutions
• 1992 Ayodhya incident and communal violence
• Congress turns to the middle class elite from the poor
• Political corruption
• 1996 Rao resigns, Sonia refuses leadership , Congress
defeated by the BJP in the general elections, UF
government and 1998 BJP back to power
BJP regime 1998 BJP: The BJP is the successor party of the BJS, which merged itself into
the Janata Party in 1977. The BJP was formed as a separate party in
1980 after internal differences in the Janata Party resulted in the
collapse of it's government in 1979.
‘During the six decades of our independence, governance of our
country, except for a short period, was with the Congress and its
associates. It was most unfortunate that they never thought of
creating a socio-economic and political paradigm of governance
drawing from the civilizational consciousness of India. They, instead,
tried to emulate whatever was being practised in this or that Western
country. The disastrous results are before us.’ ( 2009 Election
Competing nationalisms
• Hindu and Muslim revivalism in late 19th century
• Arya Samaj/ Brahmo Samaj –based on monolithic
concepts of Hindu values and superiority over
other religions
• Creation of RSS (Rashtra Swayamsevak Sangh) a
powerful Hindu fundamentalist political
• Aligarch movement emancipation of Muslims
• Issue of cow protection
Communalisms in the late 20 Century
• Congress party failings in multiple spheres
• Hindu radicalism seen as a national alternative political force
• Rise of the BJP
• ‘Over the last eight years, two entwined and co-constitutive global
trends have been present in the Indian context. One is the
unfolding tension of a ‘war on terror’, while the other refers to a
more long-standing socio-economic and political marginalization of
Muslims’ (Kinnvall and Swensson 2010)
9/11 connection
• The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee
(BJP), in a televised address on 14 September
2001, linked India to the global fight:
• ‘My dear countrymen, as you know, terrorists
have struck yet another blow – at the United
States of America, at humanity, at the civilized
way of life. . . . Every Indian has to be a part of
this global war on terrorism. We must, and we
will, stamp out this evil from our land, and from
the world. Jai Hind [Victory to India].
1990-1992. Nationwide Campaign Spearheaded by
BJP for demolition of “Babri Masjid,” Ayodhaya
1992 Hindu-Muslim Riots.
2,000 Dead
Rise of BJP. 1990 - 1998.
BJP record
1984. 7% of Vote. 2 Seats in Lok Sabha
1991. 20% of Vote.119 Seats
1996. 20.9 % of Vote.161 out of 543 seats.
Largest party in Lok Sabha. With help of its
allies achieved combined total of 194
seats and formed short lived
• 1998. 25.59% of Vote.182 seats
• 1999 273 seats and in power till 2004
• Defeated comprehensively in 2009 general election
• Holds power in ten states in India
Prelude to Mr and Mrs Iyer
Backdrop of violence, Hindu extremists
massacre thousands of Muslims in response to
Muslim mob attack on one of the cars of a train
carrying Hindu nationalist activists (Vishva Hindu
Parshad/ VHP) that had stopped in Godhra, a
town near the Gujarati capital of Ahmedabad,
was set on fire, incinerating more than 50
passengers in February 2002
Democracy and corruption
Anna Hazare: Anti corruption Activist