India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy

India-After-Gandhi-The-History-of-the-Worlds-Largest-DemocracyAmagisterial account of the pains, the struggles, the humiliations, and the glories of the world's largest and least likely democracy, Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi is a breathtaking chronicle of the brutal conflicts that have rocked a giant nation and the extraordinary factors that have held it together.

An intricately researched and elegantly written epic history peopled with larger-than-life characters, it is the work of a major scholar at the peak of his abilities.

The author is an articulate and erudite guide, giving us a traditional chronological story through the administration of Rajiv Gandhi, and then a more or less thematic exploration of India's more recent developments. This works well as the last of Nehru's descendants to rule marks something of a watershed in Indian politics. The new system of highly fragmented regional and caste politics, leading to largely non-ideological coalition governments in Delhi, has persisted and grown since 1989. That has made Indian democracy in some ways stronger but also more cynical and corrupt. The author cites polling in which some 90% of the Indian electorate considers their political leaders corrupt, and he estimates that half or more of Indian politicians are on the take, large or small. Overall, he judges that India is "50% democratic and 80% united." (The corruption undermines the democracy; marginalized minorities resist governmental authority in remote and poorer regions of India.)

That has made Indian democracy in some ways stronger but also more cynical and corrupt. The author cites polling in which some 90% of the Indian electorate considers their political leaders corrupt, and he estimates that half or more of Indian politicians are on the take, large or small. Overall, he judges that India is "50% democratic and 80% united." (The corruption undermines the democracy; marginalized minorities resist governmental authority in remote and poorer regions of India.)

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