Politics is at the heart of the Indian experience. Further to that, the rapid change and integration into a world market means India has become one of the most intensely engaged societies in the world. Through politics Indians try to make sense of the past and to fashion their futures.
Sunil Khilnani deftly traces the establishment of democratic structures, norms and conventions in the early years of independence, despite the urgent crises facing the new state in, The Idea of India. He sees the last two decades, as a time of political ”decline,” when the activities of Indira Gandhi and the subsequent emasculation of the Congress Party damaged the dense structures of democracy and led political activists away from serious reflection on the nature of the polity and their role within it. The nation’s fabric has been weakened because ”democracy” has been simplified to mean only winning elections in order to get access to the resources controlled by an increasingly centralized state, he writes.
My research examines the political economy that emerged in this space. In particular, the governance patterns and locations of economic activity after market reforms in the 80s and beyond. I consider the conditions for the continuing development of an Indian political economy and of the way the lives of Indians have been shaped by reforms.
Three themes are explored: Governance, Market Reforms, Public Policy & the Environment.
I begin with the growth in market power and the vast range of challenges in the political economy, and its link to economic development. After all, transforming India’s economy and creating a strong base was central to Nehru’s vision of a new India: for him it was the key to national integrity and to the amelioration of widespread poverty. Therefore, patterns of economic change and policy making is the central theme here.
The other theme loosely explored is the influence of the Indian diaspora. Indian institutions recognize the importance of the diaspora communities and their material resources. Being ”Indian” is now an international cultural identity, unlinked from physical presence in the subcontinent.