Democratic Developmental State in India

DOI10.1177/0019556120160202
Publication Date01 Apr 2016
AuthorNiraj Kumar
SubjectArticle
DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENTAL STATE IN INDIA
NIRAJKUMAR
The idea
of
developmental state emerged mostly
in
the late
industrialising
countries
which
were
lagging
behind
the
developed countries
of
the world. Chalmers Johnson coined
the term 'developmental
state'
in the context
_of
Japan, which
was later replicated
in
South Korea. The rise
of
East
Asian
Developmental States can
be
attributed to the proactive role
played
by the respective states
of
these countries. A variation
of
the developmental state
can
be
seen in the case
of
India.
It
combined both developmental goals
and
democratic ideals.
Jn
the process,
it
maintained a moderate growth
in
terms
of
per
capita
GDP
as
well sustained democracy with a
brief
interlude
of
the emergency regime
of
Indira Gandhi. The article tries to
evaluate India s developmental
as
well democratic credentials to
date in seeking to apply the concept of'democratic developmental
state' formulated
by
Gordon White
and
Mark
Robinson.
TIIERE HAS been a considerable debate about the nature
of
post-Independence
Indian state. But despite varying interpretations, the ideas
of
economic
and political development have been the guiding principles
of
state policy
and model
of
development in India.
At
different phases
of
Indian political
economy the policy paradigms have differed,
as
reflected in phrases like
'socialistic pattern
of
society', 'Indian socialism' the 'Indian neoliberal
tum', 'Indian business liberalism', etc. From the 1950s
to
1991, the period
was characterised as one
of
planned economic development initiated by
the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. From
1991
onwards, the period
is characterised
by
terms such as economic liberalism, privatisation and
globalisation (LPG). Notwithstanding these variations, the Indian political elite
regarded 'development' in a generic sense as a major goal oflndia's economic
policy regime. The idea
of
this development primarily focused on industrial
and agricultural development along with the growth
.of
other sectors
of
the
national economy. With the objective
of
economic development, the goal
of
public welfare was also emphasised. From this perspective, India can be and has
been described as a developmental state (Yash Ghai
et
al., 1987). Nevertheless,
Indian developmental state has never lost sight
of
democracy (Kohli, 2009).
DEMOCRATIC
DEVELOPMENTAL
STATE
IN
INDIA /
227
NIRAJKUMAR
Theory
of
developmental state
by
scholars like Gordon ·White was
also applied to China, India, and South Korea without making internal
differentiation between them even though they significantly differed
on, say, democratic
or
authoritarian, and communist or non-communist
dimensions. Another and more recent comparative study
of
the role
of
the
state in economic development edited
by
Atul Kohli makes a comparative
study
of
the state(s)
in
South Korea, Brazil, India and Nigeria.
It
reports a
fact sheet
of
Korea galloping ahead;
of
Brazil taking two steps forward, one
step backward;
of
India moving ahead slowly but steadily; and
of
Nigeria
where the developmental expectations are dashed (Kohli, 2004).
A major problem with these studies
is
that they bring together such
diversely heterogeneous states in the omnibus category
of
'developmental
state' that this concept's empirical import and theoretical fruitfulness is lost.
Any valid theorisation becomes extremely difficult.
If
we take the case
of
India, for example, it is so different from the communist states as well as
from the East Asian states on dimension
of
democracy and its sustained
practice. This conflation
of
cases studied makes a comparative study based
on them questionable and theoretically barren. On the same consideration,
clubbing together South Korea, Brazil, India and Nigeria
is
comparatively
variegated
but
confounding for theoretical precision and explanatory
mileage.
My
major argument
'in
this article is that it is more defensible
to theorise about the Indian experience by contrasting it from communist
developmental states like China, and Vietnam, on the one hand, and east
Asian 'miracle economies', on the other. Taking the cue from another
recent and conceptually and theoretically more discriminating work, Mark
Robinson and Gordon White (eds.) (1998), the authors seek to examine
whether their concept explains the character
of
the Indian state and its models
of
political and economic development better. Gordon White and Mark
Robinson ( 1998) have defined democratic developmental state as follows:
Developmental democracy is not an assured outcome
of
a simultaneous
process
of
economic and political liberalisation. But nor is it an illusory
ideal. Experience in industrialised societies suggests that there is scope
for constructing regimes which fulfil the twin desiderata
of
broad-based
and sustainable development on the one hand, and a legitimate and
inclusive democracy
on
the other. The political and institutional basis for
such regimes lies in a new form
of
developmental state, one which can
simultaneously carry forward a development project founded
on
growth
and equality, and which rests on democratic political foundations. This
is our conception
of
the democratic developmental state (Robinson and
White, eds. I 998: 4-5).

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