In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Indian Democracy

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Databases
  • Historical Evolution
  • Democracy and Social Movements
  • Democracy and Civil Society
  • Democracy, Development, and Economic Reform
  • Violence and Democracy
  • Comparing Indian Democracy

Political Science Indian Democracy
Niraja Gopal Jayal
  • LAST REVIEWED: 04 December 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0179


Indian democracy calls into question many presumptions that theorists have held about the historical evolution and comparative development of democracy. It is, for instance, generally assumed that the historical conditions in which democracies arise include industrial development, a reasonably cohesive and homogeneous society, a strong middle class, and a civic culture. When India became independent in 1947, none of these conditions obtained. Though the Indian Constitution of 1950 made India a democratic republic with universal adult franchise, the country’s deeply unequal society based on caste hierarchy, low levels of economic development, and a large rural population mired in poverty and illiteracy suggested that this was inhospitable soil for democracy to take root. Nevertheless, over the last six decades and more, Indian democracy has proved to be resilient and enduring (unlike its neighbors, which gained independence at the same time). It has witnessed the holding of regular, free, and fair elections in which the rural and unlettered poor actively participate, as also social movements and a vibrant civil society that make demands on the political system that political parties may not. Above all, the idea of democracy has strikingly captured the popular imagination.

General Overviews

At least three types of literature provide a general overview of Indian democracy: Anthologies, Textbooks, and volumes of Edited/Authored Overviews that contain essays on selective but reasonably wide-ranging themes in Indian democracy.

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