The Wonder that is India!

If AL Basham were alive today, he would have written a book with this title. In these turbulent times, when the very existence of democracy, secularism, pluralist society, peace and harmony are at stake and with no light end of the tunnel, people often ask, what will happen? What next? For all those prophets of doom and naysayers, there is nothing to get worry or agitated about. The beauty of Indian democracy lies in its course correction. Like the proverbial Phoenix, India as a democratic entity, has always raised from the dust and ashes. This is proven on many an occasions.

A cursory look at our past, from the ancient times to the modern days, show that India has the ability to correct itself and move forward with no regrets. Several eminent Britishers, its prominent leaders have predicted that India will wither away soon after it gets its freedom from the British rule. But it did not happen.

General elections were held in India between 25 October 1951 and 21 February 1952. They were the first elections to the Lok Sabha after independence in August 1947.[1][2][3] It was conducted under the provisions of the Indian Constitution, which was adopted on 26 November 1949. Elections to most of the state legislatures took place simultaneously.
A total of 1,949 candidates competed for 489 seats in the Lok Sabha. More than 173 million people out of an overall population of about 360 million were eligible to vote, making it the largest election conducted at the time. Voter turnout was 45.7%.
The Indian National Congress (INC) won a landslide victory, winning 364 of the 489 seats and 45% of the total votes polled. This was over four times as many votes as the second-largest party. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the country.
The entire world watched with keen interest how India could hold its free and fair elections? Sukumar Sen, an unsung hero of Indian democracy, the then Chief Secretary of West Bengal was given this mammoth task of the first Election Commissioner of India.
Former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi in an article gave a detailed account of the way the first elections were conducted. 

“A month after he was appointed in March 1950, the Representation of the People Act was passed in Parliament, which provided the framework for the elections, mainly the electoral rolls. A year later, the Representation of the People Act, 1951 was passed dealing with all the remaining matters about the conduct of elections. It is not clear why the two Acts were given the same name.
It was decided that the electoral process would be started as early as 1951. It was mandated that any Indian citizen 21 years or above of age residing in a particular constituency for more than 180 days would be eligible to vote from that constituency.
It is significant that poor and backward as India was, it still gave its people, men and women, an equal vote, while it took the so-called greatest democracy, the US, 144 years and the UK 100 years to give equal voting rights to women.
In a country with a massive illiteracy (84%) with key identification documents missing from lakhs of residents due to the turmoil of the Partition, this was perhaps a significant challenge. The first elections saw 53 registered political parties (including 14 national parties) competing for 489 seats for the Lower House of Parliament.
At the time of independence, there were 17 provinces of British India, which were reorganized into states, and then there were princely states, 565 of them, dotting the country. These had to be reconfigured into the existing provinces, which ultimately led to 14 new states and six union territories, which formed independent India. This reorganisation was the first challenge the Constituent Assembly Secretariat (CAS), the body in charge of preparing the electoral rolls, faced, before the Election Commission of India was created and took over the task.
The second challenge it faced was the aftermath of Partition riots, refugees and rehabilitation. The Bengal and Punjab borders were virtually porous, with refugees coming in almost every day throughout the later months of 1947 and even after. There was widespread confusion amongst both administrators and the masses regarding where exactly the international borders between India and Pakistan were. It was in the midst of this confusion that the CAS undertook the task of preparing the first electoral rolls for registering 173 million first-time voters two years before the Election Commission came into existence. This made the formidable task of Sukumar Sen easier.

Not to be missed in this exercise is the foresight of the bureaucracy of the Constituent Assembly Secretariat led by B.N. Rau, the Constitutional Adviser (CA), to start advance action. The other staff members who were directly and continuously involved in the work of the preparation of the electoral rolls, in what came to be known as the Franchise Section, were the joint secretary, S.N. Mukerjee and under secretaries, KV Padmanabhan and PS Subramaniam who joined in late 1948 and then took over from Rau. Interestingly, as Ornit Shani observes, the CAS made the Indians voters before they even became citizens.” This amply proves that India can get over any obstacle; problem and can find its own way of solving the issues and emerging out successfully.

As far as India voters, political leadership are concerned, they also have the uncanny way of standing up to the problem and finding out the right solution at the right time. After the sad demise of Pandit Nehru, one of the architects of Indian freedom movement and founding father of independent India, there was the question who can succeed Pandit Nehru and take the country forward on a progressive path? There came albeit for short term, Lal Bahadur Shastri who in his brief time had consolidated the Indian polity. 
Since there was no formidable opposition to the Congress, it was virtually ruling all the states and the Centre. In the Congress Party's parliamentary leadership election held in early 1966 (upon the death of Shastri), she defeated her rival Morarji Desai to become leader, and thus succeeded Shastri, after his death, as Prime Minister of India. Senior leaders like K Kamaraj, Nijalingappa and other supported Indira Gandhi as she was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and she had been Congress president in the past and had also been Union Minister for Information in Shastri Cabinet. The senior leaders wrongly presumed that her administrative and political inexperience would compel her to dependent on them for support and guidance. The Kamaraj plan was also part of the seniors’ strategy. But it was not be. 
During her long stint, Indira Gandhi took several good measures to put the country on the right track. She nationalized Banks, abolished the Privy Purses, and the most historical action was creation of Bangla Desh liberating it from the East Pakistan clutches. Riding high over her popularity, Indira Gandhi though she would rule the country forever and the success had gone into he head (as is happening in the case of PM Modi now). Faced with adverse Court verdict, Indira Gandhi clamped the Emergency in 1975. Under these trouble and trying times, people in India gave their verdict loud and clear in 1977 general elections. Through out the length and breadth of the country (barring united AP) voted for the Janata government. Who would have thought that leaders like Jayaprakash Narain, Morarji Desai leaders in their advance age to young fire brands like George Fernandez, Mohan Dharna, Kumaramanlam, would lead the anti Indira agitation. Who would ever imagined that extremely opponent political parties like the extrme right Jana Sangh to the extreme left parties would come under on Umbrella and raise the revolt against an Iron lady like Indira? But the course correction had taken place, thanks to people in India, though not 100 per cent literate but cent present wise.

When Janata government failed at the Centre with severe internal bickering among the leaders, the wise and clever people in India have once again lived up to the expectations and voted Indira Gandhi back to power. Soon after he tragic death, her son Rajiv Gandhi became the PM and in the next general elections, the india masses gave a astounding victory to Rajiv Gandhi by giving the Congress 404 of the 514 seats in 1984 and a further 10 in the delayed elections. In all 414 seats out of 514 seats! A record neither Pandit Nehru nor Indira Gandhi had and no one till date broke that record!

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