The last decade and a half saw what we can call a historical turn in the study of India's democracy. By drawing on some of these new works and on archival materials, this article offers a new way of thinking about the rooting and workings of democracy in India and its endurance. The article explores how India and Indians produced a concrete and convincing notion of a shared functioning purpose, a common good, for their deeply plural society, while allowing a meaningful space for the conflicts and inherent contradictions that underlay their democracy. I suggest that the persistence of these conflicts was important for the resilience of India's democracy. I examine three interrelated processes that with independence contributed to this outcome: the nature of the constitution and its making; the first election and the preparation for them between 1947 and 1952; and the articulation of the principle of state resource distribution and its development projects. The conclusion reflects on the significance of the historical turn to our understanding of post-independence India.
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I am grateful to History Compass’s editor, Debjani Bhattacharyya, and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. I thank Eugenio Biagini for many conversations about the common good. I particularly thank Rohit De for his engagement with the article and valuable suggestions.
© 2022 The Authors. History Compass published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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