Politics and governance in contemporary India : the paradox of democratic deepening

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Journal article

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Journal of International and Area Studies

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Democracy, Indian politics, Civil society, Governance


On 15 Aug 1997, India celebrated 50 years as an independent nation. Except for a brief 18 months between 1975-1977, India has remained a democracy. What explains the resilience of democracy in India in the face of a low-income economy, widespread poverty, illiteracy, & immense religious & ethnic diversity? How have democratic governance shaped political & socioeconomic change? What is the future of Indian democracy? This paper argues that the "deepening of democracy" has tended to exacerbate the problems of governance. Specifically, the progressive empowerment of popular sectors has created new sets of problems. India's civil society & associational life, divided along narrow caste, ethnic, regional, & religious divisions, lack "social capital" & "civicness" necessary for the articulation & aggregation of interests, effective political collaboration, & good governance. Compounding these problems, the high levels of political mobilization in the absence of strong & responsive state institutions & political parties have served to fragment rather than unite society. Thus, instead of responding to the demands of an increasingly mobilized population, the country's weak & overburdened political institutions have reinforced, if not exacerbated, socioeconomic & political cleavage. Not surprisingly, despite India's resilient democratic institutions & relatively long experience with constitutionalism, effective governance remains a major challenge. Given these challenges, what India needs is the resuscitation of its public institutions & the renegotiation of state-society relations. This paper concludes by illustrating that India's democracy is potentially self-correcting along these lines. 34 References.

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Copyirght © 2002 Institute of International Affairs, Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University

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Recommended Citation

Sharma, S. D. (2002). Politics and governance in contemporary India: The paradox of democratic deepening. Journal of International and Area Studies, 9(1), 77-101.