Inequity challenge to Indian democracy: LSE professor
With a population of around 1.25 billion, India is by far the world’s largest democracy. Drawing on his vast fieldwork and experience of this diverse democracy, Sumantra Bose, a professor of International and Comparative Politics at LSE (London School of Economics), tells the story of its evolution since 1950 and the challenges it faces today through his book Transforming India: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy, which was launched by noted journalist MJ Akbar at an interactive gathering in the city last week.
Over the years post India’s independence, the country has transformed from being dominated by a single nationwide party into a large multiparty federal union. Based on this evolution process, Bose’s work details how regional parties and leaders have flourished in most of the country’s 28 states.
‘How does instability because of economic deprivation and social inequity affect the functioning of the nation? That is a major challenge before India,’ said Bose who joined LSE in 1999 as Ralf Dahrendorf Fellow before becoming a reader in 2003. Since 2006, Bose has held a Chair in International and Comparative Politics.
Explaining further, Bose said: ‘India needs a federal reconstitution of the centre as regionalism is becoming stronger. And instead of challenging Indian identity, this regionalism will only strengthen it if the federal principle could work at the centre effecting centre-state relations.’
Talking of democracy, Bose said it must be construed not just as a contest between political parties, but as the daily turmoil in the lives of citizens. ‘The nation state is being created not by the leadership, but by popular imagination,’ he said.
The book deals with the years since independence, the growth of regionalism and also issues like Maoist insurgency which, according to Bose, is an an ideological challenge to India’s democracy. It also deals with the Kashmir question, which is key to peace between India and Pakistan.
Commenting on the book, Akbar said ‘it reflected the India we live in, and not the India we remember.’ Replying to a query from Akbar, who asked if Indian Muslims, despite their spread across India, could be rightly regarded as a singular electoral block, Bose said that wouldn’t be right, just like a similar yardstick would not apply to Indian Hindus.
Bose’s other recent books are Contested Lands: Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, Bosnia, Cyprus, and Sri Lanka (Harvard University Press, 2007), Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace (Harvard University Press, 2003) and Bosnia after Dayton: Nationalist Partition and International Intervention (Oxford University Press, 2002). Contested Lands has also been published in an edition for India by Harper Collins. Transforming India: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy has been published in India by Picador India.