ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Economic Development and Political Democracy-Interaction of Economics and Politics in Independent India

Interaction of Economics and Politics in Independent India Introduction THERE is a vast literature on the theme of economic development in India over the past 50 years. The literature on the subject of political democracy in India since independence is just as extensive. Both are rich in terms of range and depth. But they constitute two different worlds, divided into the disciplines of economics and political science. The intersections are few and far between. This essay makes a modest attempt to reflect on the interconnections. It situates the process of economic development in the wider context of political democracy to explore the interaction between economics and politics in independent India. Section II sets out an analytical framework. It explains why markets and democracy provide no magic wand, to suggest that the real issue is the tension between the economics of markets and the politics of democracy. The problem, it argues, is compounded because markets exclude people, particularly the poor. The paper then divides the five decades into three phases, Any such periodisation is obviously arbitrary but it serves an analytical purpose. Section III examines the first phase, 1947-66, in which the strategy of development was shaped by a political consensus and characterised by a long-term perspective. The spirit of nationalism meant that there was less need to manage conflict, but there was a conscious effort to accommodate the poor even if it was long on words and short on substance. Section IV analyses the second phase, 1967-90, which witnessed a qualitative change in the interaction of economics and politics. Economic policies and economic development were strongly influenced by the compulsions of political democracy. Those with a political voice made economic claims on the state. But the process of mediation and reconciliation had long-term economic and political consequences. Section V discusses the third phase, 1991-97, characterised by an absence of consensus and a presence of short-termism, in which the economics of liberalisation and the politics of empowerment seem to be moving the economy and the polity in opposite directions. The need for conflict resolution is greater than ever before. But the task has become more difficult And, strangely enough, the effort is much less.

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