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Social Movements, State Formation and Democracy in India: An Introduction

Chapter
Part of the Rethinking International Development series book series (RID)

Abstract

India, as Thomas Blom Hansen (1999: 5) notes, presents us with “the longest, most sustained, and most successful trajectory of democracy anywhere in the postcolonial world …”. The coming of national independence in 1947 witnessed the introduction of universal franchise and a system of electoral democracy that—with the exception of the Emergency period from 1975 to 19771—have remained stable for close to seven decades. As media pundits are quick to point out every time India gears up for general elections, this makes for a favourable comparison with other countries and regions in the global South where democratic rule has tended to rest on feeble foundations and often has given way to outright authoritarianism. “For the 64 years since independence, democracy has perhaps been India’s greatest asset,” wrote one commentator in 2012, “the magic that has kept the country’s dizzying array of linguistic, ethnic and religious groups together as a nation” (Denyer 2012). Moreover, Indian democracy is unique in the sense that the poor exercise their right to vote more eagerly and in greater proportion than India’s middle classes and elites: “In India alone, the poor form not just the overwhelming majority of the electorate, but vote in larger numbers than the better-off. Everywhere else, without exception, the ratio of electoral participation is the reverse” (Anderson 2012; see also Thachil 2014 and Banerjee 2014).

Keywords

Social Movement Democratic Rule Electoral Democracy Indian Politics Indian Democracy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BjørkestølLillesandNorway
  2. 2.OsloNorway

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