Idea of India

The Indian state after 1947 was left in control of a population of incomparable differences – Hindu castes and outcastes, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Buddhists, Tribes, speakers of more than a dozen languages, thousands of dialects and myriad ethnic and cultural communities.

Where did the commonality lie? There was no common identity, unity, ideology or symbol or an emperor to rally around.

For a few decades after independence, Nehru’s conception of a tolerable, common Indianness seemed to suggest a basis for itself. It was a political conception and to sustain itself, it had to constantly persuade.Today, with Ayodhya and other related incidents, this has given way to a more exclusivist ideas of India and political community. Definitions of India were again fiercely contested by Hindu nationalists trying to create a homogenous, exclusive and Hindu states and others fighting to escape the state altogether, creating their own smaller, homogenous and equally exclusive communities.

Rise of Indian nationalism:

Indian nationalism arose in parallel and oblique currents in the late nineteenth century. It began before Nehru and before the Congress, imaginatively described in places like Maharashtra and Bengal (places exposed to the British longer) In these places, the sense of regional identity came only while defining the larger Indian community. Nationalism is therefore not only about uniting and subordinating regional identities, the sense of region and nations emerged parallelly. The way different identities were explored was neither uniform nor consistent.

We cant reduce all the projects – anti colonialism, patriotism, nationalism – happening at this time to nationalism alone. However, one intention running across all the projects was to rebut humiliation inflicted by colonial views. John Strachey declared that there never was an India nor any country of India, possessing any sort of unity – physical, political, social, religious, no nation, no people of India we hear so much about.

Three responses to this emerged:

  • Nationalist Hindus said that we can find Indian unity out of common culture derived from religion

  • Gandhi settled on religion as a source of interconnectedness among Indians but came out with his own eclectic and pluralistic morality born out of different religious traditions

  • Nehru turned away from religion and based unity on a historical past of cultural mixing and a future project of common development

How was India before?

Before the 19th century, no resident of the continent would have identified themselves as an Indian. Inhabitants of a space called ‘India’ have been of interest only to outsiders – greeks, travellers, traders, invaders and the British. It was British interest which converted India from the name of a cultural territory to one with precise geographical boundaries. But they scorned at the idea of India having ‘natural’ frontiers.Thus colonial administrative techniques brought about a unified and bounded space called India.

India is however not just pure invention. There does exist a civilisational bond – epics, myths, folk stories etc, connecting us from Persia to Indonesia. The caste system is uniformly seen, imposing itself on all new comers, excluding the British. This bestowed a certain unified coherence on the lives in the subcontinent.There was also a sort of political community which existed. Pilgrimage points, epics and sub continental empires led to the creation of this. If India was weakly united, it was also weakly divided. No politically significant religious identities were formed to either obstruct unification or direct it. So basically, moments of unification were achieved only under imperial rule.


Rewriting history:

There were attempts at summoning up common historical pasts. James Mill wrote A History of British India, an outsiders view of how India will benefit from subjugation to the British. The colonial subjects began to question this and a need was identified to write our own histories. However this ended up dividing nationalism. Three periods were identified – Hindu, Muslim and British. The starting point was in the classical Vedic period, followed by the ‘dark’ Muslim period which left us vulnerable to attack. Hindu resistance was seen as brave but floundering. They couldn’t depict Hinduism as a unifying force so it was tailored to emphasise broad cultural commonalities rather than ritual practices, caste exclusivities and particular gods as this could exclude people.


Savarkar came out with this concept in his search for a seamless Hindu past. Using the genealogical equation of hindu = Indian, he said that members were united by geographical origin, racial connection and a shared culture based on sanskritic language and common rules and laws. These formed the core majority community. Others – muslims, tribes and Christians were relegated to secondary positions. These ideals can be seen in the modern definition of Indianness as well. Hindutva has moulded India’s political history throughout the years and was an important part in the agitation for Pakistan. Direct action by Hindu organisations and the influence of hindu nationalism in the congress, led Jinnah to question democracy as proposed by the congress as not adequately representing the interests of Muslims in Muslim minority states. His fear was of a large state with an undivided electorate and one religious community holding a numerical and potentially permanent political majority. These fears have surfaced now as well.


He refused to separate religion from politics, trying to refute the charge that religion must keep India divided. He also recoiled from the vision of nationalist Hindus. He inverted their image of a khaki shod fatherland and invoked an older anguage of feminised patriotism, making himself a demonstration of the message that strength was with the victims of history.He rejected the idea of using history as a source to determine future action. He wanted to abandon the imitative history of religious nationalists. He preferred the legends and stories of popular religious traditions. SO in place of an Indian unity with a common historical bond, he substituted a religious morality with elements of folk and Bhakti traditions as well as Christian morality. He tried to create a larger Indian identity by appealing to pre-existing local beliefs and identities through the idea of swadeshi – respect for the everyday material world inhabited by most in the subcontinent.Gandhian Vision receded in the 1940s, with partition and his assassination. His idea of anarcho-communitarianism (pluralist defn of India as well as his faith in the everyday tolerances of ordinary people) was helpless in the face of communal mayhem which threatened India.


Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s intervention in the political discourse of modern India was an attempt to answer the following questions: Is India a Hindu nation? If it is not, then what are the ways in which Hinduism could be equipped to live with other faiths? Can Hinduism cope with the ever growing pressures exerted by democracy, liberal institutions and modern technology?Ambedkar was a modernist who was deeply influenced by Western ideas of personal freedom and equality. He believed that Dalits had no place within Hinduism. The very foundation of Hinduism rested on caste, a system which he evocatively formulated as one constituting an “ascending scale of reverence and a descending scale of contempt.” This was graded inequality. Emancipation therefore lay in a total rejection of Hinduism. Because of these beliefs, he remained torn between the imperatives of giving Dalits an identity and a voice independent of Hinduism on the one hand, and his fidelity to the fundamental principles of constitutionalism and citizenship.Ambedkar’s held allegiance to the idea of India as one nation often came into conflict with the place of Dalits within this nation at a practical level. As a legal idealist, Ambedkar believed that the formal devices enshrined in the Indian Constitution and strict adherence to them would take care of primordial identities and resolve all latent conflicts.


Nehru managed to persuade the country that his was the only possible definition of Indianness. He came up with a compelling and imaginative story of the Indian past told as a tale of cultural mixing and fusion, a civilisational tendency towards unification which would realise itself within the framework of the modern nation state. He was influenced by Gandhi and Tagore, however, seeing the nation state as neither one emerging out of community and common citizenship nor one of shared cultural and ethnic origin. He sees India emerging only within the territorial and institutional framework of the state.

His model committed to protecting cultural and religious difference rather than imposing a uniform India. He discovered India using history – defining his sense of political possibility and made him vigilant about the future also spurred by his insight into Indian culture. To Indians, the past was as valuable as language/religion, valuing it themselves and seeing the world through it. He introduces the language of accommodation and acceptance. India appears as a space of ceaseless cultural mixing, its history like a document on which layers after layers had been added and inscribed, yet with no succeeding layer hiding or erasing that which had previously been written. He was not trying to chronicle fact but producing ‘living history’ an enabling fiction that bound a variety of pasts of immeasurable successions of human beings into one shared history of a single political community.

However, we also needed to coexist with a modernist, self critical way of looking at our past which acknowledged its immense failures as well. He saw India as neither a society of liberal individuals nor exclusive communities but of interconnected difference. This guided his practice post 1947. Besides using the institutions of the army and civil services, he added that of economic planning as well, to impart cohesion drawing Indians into a shared project of development. Not attempt was made to impose a single uniform identity upon the new nation. (example, language)This brings out an important part of the way Indianness has been defined. It recognised atleast two other aspects – citizens as members of linguistic and cultural communities. He saw no need for internal partition into States. But to make governance easy, states were created on the basis of language. This was not for any other reason but for administrative efficiency. This showed that indianness can be revised and wasn’t static.He opted to tackle the threats of religious identity formation through democracy – universal suffrage and a single electorate not divided into communities. The focus was on winning the trust of the people. Protections were instituted for the oppressed and minorities. These were however subject to change.

Also important was to establish indianness as an international identity – a way of being in the wider world. To become a world player, the country would have to create its own opportunities and chances, which it did by speaking the language of morality and justice. Nehru created an image that was not a martyr of colonialism but a self confident actor in international politics.Nehru’s conception of India did not monopolise or simplify the definition – India, an ungainly, inelegant combination of differences, still exists as a single political unit even after sixty years. This would have been impossible without Nehru.


Politics of representation in India

There has been a historic shift in the forms and modes of political representations available to the people who seek to take up the representation of their interests and social claims. There are two significant changes with respect to this:

  1. In the early 20th century, there was an upsurge of social relations formed in workplaces, getting organized into trade unions and then linking it to political parties. Now the new politics are more focused on social movements, voluntary associations and NGOs amongst other forms. The issues which these movements take up are more local than national.

  2. There has been a change in the process of representation which is marked by a greater emphasis on descriptive representation and participation in decision making. This means that even if there is a policy which is equitable and just, it can be objected to on the grounds that it did not include minorities like women for example in its formulation. There is a focus on the entire process being democratic.

These global trends provide an important context to the discussion of the politics of representation in India. Representative democracy in India is largely connected to a deepening of the concept of democracy and places a large emphasis on the role of electoral politics in providing space for the expression of rights and claims by disadvantaged groups. Some political scientists even go on to say that the electoral politics in the 1990s is the second democratic upsurge after India’s independence movement. This politics of representation has bought leaders from the grassroots and from the historically backward and lower castes to the focus. A significant percentage of the voter participation is also from the poorer classes, the uneducated and the socially underprivileged castes in India. This is in contrast to industrialized democracies where participation is biased towards better educated, wealthier and advantaged citizens.

Even though political parties are not institutionalized so as to speak, it is through them that there has been an increased participation of marginalized groups in politics. Contrary to popular belief, the needs and interests of the poorer groups are met by the political parties rather than by the NGOs and other social movements. Available evidence so far highlights a substantial increase in political participation and continuing importance of parties, both of which underline the strength and legitimacy of the political system. But this also poses a challenge with regard to political representation as it does not deal with the status of political equality and citizen’s abilities to produce change unless we accept the standard formulation that everyone’s vote should count as one vote, which implies that all are equal.

Political equality implies that there needs to be a proportionate distribution of political activity. While there is an increase in the participation through public meetings, demonstrations and rallies, this has not translated into real participation through involvement in critical decision making which happen in such events. There is no real political equality in that sense.

There are two types of political representation broadly. In the first one, a person becomes a representative of the people by virtue of a contract or mandate. In this he is expected to deliver some set targets and responsibilities. In the second one, a person is selected from the people itself. He belongs to the community or group and is selected in any way to represent the needs and issues of the community. In other words he is a part of the community which he represents.

In most cases the representative does not represent persons as such; rather the representative is charged with the responsibility of seeing that the interests of the constituents are adequately represented in decision-making, and is obliged not only to represent interests, but also to ensure that something is done about the pressing problems of the constituency, in terms of production and implementation of appropriate policies, for instance. In short, the representative is accountable to her constituency.

The political representation can be assessed in two ways. Firstly, by the process of representation and secondly by the quality of representation and responsiveness. The three groups which have been historically underrepresented in politics are: Other Backward Classes (OBCs) up till recently, women and minorities.

The major change in representation has been a switch from the ‘politics of ideas’ to the ‘politics of presence’. The politics of ideas means that a person would support an ideology he believes in. For example, a person would vote for the BJP if he believes in their ideology alone. Politics of presence implies that a person who represents the larger community or group one belongs to would be supported. For example, simplistically, a Dalit would choose to vote for a Dalit candidate no matter what the candidate’s political ideology is.

But the politics of presence is also questionable as it does not necessarily bring out a resolution for the problems of under-representation or to the larger issue that the representation of interests of the constituents, especially the most vulnerable may not be met. Having a larger number of representatives of one group does not necessarily translate to a change in policy for that group. Additionally, simply changing the social structure of a party would not change the party’s ideologies and its focus on issues for the disadvantaged or even for that group.

There are three major challenges in the politics of representation. They are:

  1. It could over-politicize group differences, thereby disrupting political stability, weaken the basis for political accountability, and undermine representation aimed at promoting the general interests and shared concerns, which might also have policy implications. Such a shift towards identity politics has exacerbated social conflicts and advanced the politicization of social cleavages. Indeed, the most overtly conflictual aspects of Indian politics have in recent years been those related to identity politics, variously, Punjab, Assam, Kashmir, Ayodhya and Mandal. It has reduced accountability and damaged responsiveness because presence becomes a value in itself at the expense of interests, principles and ideas.

  2. The second concerns proportionality in the process of representation and the varied processes of gender and minority as categories/groups in enhancing their presence in decision-making structures. The different groups cannot harness their numbers in the absence of political mobilization and readiness of political parties to give them nominations. But when we look at the problem in a larger time-frame then we can see that reservations do play the role of a catalyst in the construction of political identities. In other words, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs have become political categories through reservations.

  1. The third argument pertains to the substance of representation. While much of the justification for electoral reservation revolves around the need for marginalized groups to have a voice within the legislature which will otherwise get submerged, there is little systematic evidence to show that representatives elected from these seats have performed this role with effectiveness. Special representation in governing institutions may not benefit the whole community, and it invariably results in promoting personal empowerment of middle classes and elites and transfer of resources to them. It may just create a new elite group among the disadvantaged who participate with society’s elite.

To conclude: By its very nature representation as presence does not have a broad transforming agenda. It is a politics of positional change, not structural reform.

Significant Works and Ideas of Thinkers




Three influential ideas / concepts


1. Kautilya – 350 – 283 B.C. ancient Indian Philosopher Adviser to King Chandragupta Maurya.
  1. Monarchy as the best form of government; Absolute powers to King.
  2. Saptanga theory of elements of state.
  3. Principles of public administration.
i.role of the king=PM


iii.personnel admin- value based selection

iv.welfare state concept

2. Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) Former President of America and Political Scientist
  1. Importance of study of administration as science.
  2. Politics – administration dichotomy.
  3. Public administration as ‘Government in action’.


ii.policy implementation.

3. Henri Fayol (1841 – 1925) French Mining Engineer and Administrative Theorist
  1. Principles of management
  2. General theory of management / management process school.
  3. Gang plan / level jumping
i.structure as element in organsation

ii.emergency communication

iv.higher level- administrative skills

4. Frederick Winslow Taylor (1865-1915) Engineer, Inventor and Consultant
  1. Principles of scientific management.
  2. One best way” of doing things.
  3. Functional foremanship.
i.effective structures

ii.scientific division of work

iii.piece rate system-NPM,salary

iv.problem in multiple head

5. Max Weber (1864 – 1920) German Sociologist and Political Scientist
  1. Form of authority.
  2. Legal rational bureaucracy.
  3. Protestant ethic.
i.critic = modern day bureaucratic problem

ii.types of authority=development objective

6. Luther Gulick (1892-1993) American Expert on Public Admnistration. Lyndall Urwick (1891-1983) British Management Consultant
  1. Structure based principles of organization.
  2. POSDCORB as functions of executive.
  3. Bases of departmentalization.
i.executive function=common to any management

ii.failure of structural design in organization

iii.creation of department

7. Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) American Political Scientist, Social Worker and Management Consultant
  1. Constructive conflict
  2. Integration
  3. Depersonalizing orders
i.conflict-multi cultural society

ii.resolution of conflict

iii.ideas about power,authority,control-modern day rights based developmental model

8. George Elton Mayo (1880-1949) Australian social Psychologist and Industrial Researcher
  1. Human relations approach to organizations.
  2. Hawthorne effect.
  3. Role of informal organizations and groups in effecting the behaviour of individuals at work.
i.informal organization-organisational improvements

ii.communication as control

iii.natural leadership-development domain

9. Chester, I. Barnard (1886-1961) American Executive and Management Thinker
  1. Acceptance theory of authority and “Zone of Indiffference”
  2. Contribution – satisfaction equilibrium
  3. Functions of the executive
i.communication for mature individuals

ii.role of a administrator

iii.personnel admin-designing incentives

10. Herbert A. Simon (1908-1970) American Psychologist and motivation Theorist
  1. Administration as decision-making
  2. Bounded rationality.
  3. Zone of acceptance.
i.decision in public administration

ii.behaviour & decision

11. Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) American Psychologist and Motivation Theorist
  1. Hierarchy of needs.
  2. Self-actualisation.
  3. Peak experiences.
i.motivation in organization incentives-perssonal administration

iii.organisational improvments

12. Douglas McGregor (1906-1964) American Social Psychologist and Management Consultant
  1. Theory “X” and Theory “Y”
  2. Management education from cosmology to reality.
  3. Transactional influence.
i.theory y= modern organization
13. Chris Argyris (July 16, 1923) American Behavioural Theorist and Management Writer
  1. Maturity – Immaturity theory.
  2. T-Group Techniques; Single loop and Double loop learning
  3. Organisatoinal learning
i.understanding HR

ii.sensitivity traning- development administration

iii.system learning

14. Frederick Herzberg (1923-2000) American Psychologist and Management Consultant
  1. Hygiene – Motivation theory.
  2. Job-enrichment.
  3. Job loading.
i.job design

ii.challenging job design for matured individuals

15. Rensis Likert (1903 – 1981) American Organisational Psychologist and Educator.
  1. Management system 1-4.
  2. Linking pin model.
  3. Interaction – influence system. of organization

ii.personnel administration,development administration

16. Fred W. Riggs (1917-2008) Chinese born American Political Scientist and Administrative Model Builder
  1. Prismatic society.
  2. Sala model of administrative
  3. Development as diffraction and integration.
i.bureaucracy –india,developing countries

ii.problems of developing countries

17. Yehezkel Dror (born in 1928) Israeli Political Scientist and Pioneer in policy studies
  1. Societal direction system as a mega-knowledge system.
  2. Optimal Model” of policy making.
  3. paradigms of policy science.
i.poicy design

ii.india & policy science

iii.models for policy design

18. Dwight Waldo (1913-2000) American Political scientist and “Defining figure” in public Administration.
  1. Public administration as political approach.
  2. Professional orientation to public administration.
  3. New Public Administration.
19. Peter Drucker (1909-2005) American Management Thinker, Professor and Consultant
  1. Management by objectives.
  2. Restructuring Government / New Public Management.
  3. Knowledge society and knowledge workers.
20. Karl Marx (1818-1883) German Revolutionary Philosopher and Political Economist
  1. Bureaucracy as an exploitative class instrument.
  2. Materialistic interpretation of history.
  3. Alienation of bureaucracy.