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Of Parties and Leaders

Suhasini Haidar

By Maya Tudor
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 240, Rs. 795.00


Most comparisons of India and Pakistan are defined by which side of the border (or the Line of Control) you are standing on, and are often heavily rhetorically loaded: Pakistan as a failed army-state overrun by radicals and terrorists, India as a corrupt, unmanageable confederacy grappling with poverty and insurgencies. Yet one aspect of this rivalry is incontrovertible. Whereas India has had a practically unbroken rule by elected governments, Pakistan has only just witnessed its first civilian-to-civilian transfer of elected governments, and been ruled 33 out of 64 years by military dictators. In Bangladesh, carved out of Pakistan in 1971, 15 of the past 32 years have been under military rule.   Despite many studies, important questions remain about just what caused this divergence between the countries that were one country in 1947. Was it because the Indian freedom movement was much older than the idea of Pakistan? Did Pakistan’s ruling, landed elite prefer to control power, while India’s freedom movement was driven largely by middle class professionals? What role did the relationship between the Army and civil society play? And, was Jinnah’s decision to accept office as Governor-General, even as Gandhi abjured a position in the new government responsible for the different trajectories the two countries have taken?   Early in her book The Promise of Power: The Origins of Democracy in India and Autocracy in Pakistan, author Maya Tudor sets out the differences starkly. ‘Pakistan’s constitution-making process was from the start mired in conflict and national elections were perpetually delayed while 8 national administrations cycled through power with increasing rapidity. In contrast India rapidly ratified the world’s oldest constitution in 1950, held free and fair national elections in 1952, and installed an elected chief executive who subordinated the military and civilian bureaucracy.’ In short, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Lal Nehru’s term outlasted 11 administrations in Pakistan (the 12th ruler was General Ayub Khan, who took over in 1958 after the first military coup in Pakistan)!   Tudor begins by debunking the theory that democracy was the ‘gift of the British’ who had overseen elections in India first in 1920, asking why India and Pakistan grew so differently if indeed the British had sown the seeds for a democratic tradition. Tudor also shows the similiarities India and Pakistan had at Partition in other aspects like GDP per capita, rural/urban populations, agricultural hold on their economies, and diversity. According to her argument, Pakistan and India differed ...

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