Region: South Asia

January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

An Illiberal India?

The country’s hold on electoral democracy is firm, but its claim still to be a liberal democracy is increasingly dubious.

October 2019, Volume 30, Issue 4

Modi Consolidates Power: Leveraging Welfare Politics

To a degree that is still not widely appreciated, the BJP has replaced Congress as India’s party of welfarism. The carefully crafted political persona of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “leader of the poor” has been crucial to this shift.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

India Under Modi: Threats to Pluralism

In the world’s largest democracy, liberalism is in retreat, as evidenced by a pattern of assaults on minorities, press freedom, and the independence of key cultural and intellectual institutions.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

India Under Modi: The Establishment Overreacts

Charges that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party threaten liberal-democratic safeguards are best understood as the overheated reaction of an insular elite that is still struggling to come to terms with its democratic displacement from power.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

Pakistan: Voting Under Military Tutelage

With its recent electoral turnover of power, Pakistan seemingly passed a milestone of democratic consolidation. But beneath the surface, power remains where it long has been—with the military.

July 2018, Volume 29, Issue 3

Enrolling India

A review of How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise by Ornit Shani.

Free

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

India’s Democracy at 70: Growth, Inequality, and Nationalism

Of late, Indian democracy has been confronted with a new political economy. Strong economic growth over the last three decades has generated the world’s fourth-largest collection of dollar billionaires and the third-largest middle class, both for the first time in Indian history, while still leaving the single largest concentration of the poor behind. In a…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

India’s Democracy at 70: Toward a Hindu State?

While the Constitution of India has not been amended after the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power in 2014, BJP-ruled states have passed laws which have reflected the Hindu-nationalist ideology of this party, including those known as “beef bans.” These laws and the activities of Hindu nationalist vigilantes (in particular those protecting…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

India’s Democracy at 70: The Federalist Compromise

The institutionalized recognition of diversity within India’s federal system has been crucial for democratic consolidation. Substantial decentralization since the 1990s has made state governments central actors in shaping economic activity and national-election outcomes. However, since his rise to national office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has projected an image of strong, central leadership. He…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

India’s Democracy at 70: The Shifting Party Balance

This article reviews the state of India’s two major national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC or Congress party), seventy years after independence in 1947 and three years after the BJP won a majority in the 2014 national election. The article looks at whether these parties are top-down or…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

India’s Democracy at 70: The Impact of Instant Universal Suffrage

When the authors of India’s Constitution took the extraordinarily bold step of establishing universal suffrage, thus giving the right to vote to all adult citizens, India became the world’s first large democracy to adopt universal adult suffrage from its very inception. We call India’s move “instant universal suffrage,” and distinguish it from the more common…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

India’s Democracy at 70: The Disputed Role of the Courts

India’s Supreme Court has played the role of a countermajoritarian check but has also flirted with populism. This essay examines three aspects of India’s higher judiciary: the struggle between the judiciary and the other branches over “custody” of the Constitution; the question of judicial independence and who has the right to appoint judges (in India,…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

India’s Democracy at 70: Civil Society and Its Shadow

The relationship between democracy and civil society is not straightforward. Angry crowds can stymie the functioning of the democratic process, institutions, and governance. Drawing on recent Indian examples, this article sets out a typology of civil society movements in order to assess their impact on Indian democracy. It shows how an active civil society can…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

India’s Democracy at 70: The Troublesome Security State

Seven decades after gaining its independence from the British Empire, India retains all the hallmarks of a functioning democracy: It holds reasonably free and fair elections, has a mostly independent judiciary plus a largely free press, and enjoys a robust and growing civil society. Yet thanks to India’s colonial inheritance as well as weaknesses in…

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

A Win for Democracy in Sri Lanka

The surprising electoral defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015 was reinforced by his failed comeback in August parliamentary elections.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

India, Sri Lanka, and the Majoritarian Danger

Does the electoral victory of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party signal that the world’s largest democracy may be following Sri Lanka toward a politics where the will of the majority is exalted above minority rights?

January 2014, Volume 25, Issue 1

What Can Constitutions Do? The Afghan Case

January 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Afghanistan’s constitution. In what areas has it succeeded or failed? Judging by its achievements with respect to four midrange goals, the document has a record that is decidedly mixed.

October 2013, Volume 24, Issue 4

Separated at Birth?

A review of The Promise of Power: The Origins of Democracy in India and Autocracy in Pakistan by Maya Tudor.

July 2011, Volume 22, Issue 3

Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy: Growth and Hunger in India

Despite India’s impressive achievements in democracy, economic development, and the rule of law, it remains home to a third of the world’s poor. Although it has successfully averted famine since independence, it still struggles to prevent chronic hunger.

July 1998, Volume 9, Issue 3

India Defies the Odds: Enduring Another Election

Indians appear to love the practice of democracy so much that they are in danger of overdoing it. In February and March of 1998, the world's largest democracy held its twelfth general election since gaining its independence a half-century ago. The voting was largely fair and peaceful. New, right-of-center rulers led by the Bharatiya Janata…

July 1998, Volume 9, Issue 3

India Defies the Odds: Making Federalism Work

To understand how India’s democracy works, and how it manages demands from social groups for greater power, resources, autonomy, and respect, it is essential to understand Indian federalism. That, in turn, requires us to address two questions. First, why have relations between New Delhi and the various state governments (there are at present 25) usually…

July 1998, Volume 9, Issue 3

India Defies the Odds: Why Democracy Survives

India has long baffled theorists of democracy. Democratic theory holds that poverty, widespread illiteracy, and a deeply hierarchical social structure are inhospitable conditions for the functioning of democracy. Yet except for 18 months in 1975-77, India has maintained its democratic institutions ever since it became independent of Britain in 1947. Over those five decades, there…