Postcolonial and Post-Soviet Experiences of Constitution-making

Date01 January 2014
Published date01 January 2014
Subject MatterArticles
Postcolonial and
Post-Soviet Experiences
of Constitution-making:
Comparing India
and Russia
Sudhir Kumar Suthar1
There has largely been a consensus among comparative political scientists regard-
ing the relevance of a participatory and transparent democratic constitution-
making process in democratic transition and consolidation. However, there are
fewer attempts to see any linkage between postcolonial India and post-Soviet
processes of democracy-building. Questions related to the differences or simi-
larities between the two contexts have not received much attention, especially
from the scholars of the Global South. This article attempts to explain such inter-
linkages between the Russian and Indian case. Though the process of democracy-
building started much earlier in the case of India, certain parallels or complexities
can be identified through a comparative analysis of the two cases. The study
draws on secondary literature to substantiate the arguments. It attempts to
argue that in case of India, the idea of constitution-making was largely driven by
the logic of an alternative collective rationality through deliberation and accom-
modation, whereas in case of Russia it was a symbol of implementing the already
dominant socio-economic model without following a process of deliberations
among various sociopolitical groups.
Russia, India, deliberative democracy, democratization, constitution-making
International Studies
51(1–4) 56–71
2017 Jawaharlal Nehru University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0020881717710403
1 Assistant Professor, Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU, New Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Sudhir Kumar Suthar, Assistant Professor, Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU,
New Delhi, India.
Suthar 57
Explaining the determinants and outcomes of the democratization in cases of
postcolonial and post-Soviet societies has been one of the most challenging ques-
tions for comparative political scientists. The democratic institution-building, a
transparent, participatory and fair electoral process, and above all a stable politi-
cal order are some of the critical concerns with which comparative political scien-
tists in general and democratization theorists, in particular, have been grappling
with. Emerging contradictory trends like adopting a liberal democratic constitu-
tion but continuous violation of these constitutional provisions, non-transparent
and manipulated electoral processes, a very controlled, individual-driven process
of political party making and an authoritarian process of state-building are some
of the developments which made any generalizations about the determinants,
nature and outcomes of democratization processes further complicated. Though
there are many similarities as well as differences in the two different historical
phases of democratization in postcolonial and post-Soviet societies, not much has
been written in the form of comparative analysis of these two phases. This study
is an attempt to compare two important cases from these two spatial, historical
categories of democratization: India from the postcolonial category and Russia
from the post-Soviet space. Since it is not possible to compare all aspects of
democratization in a limited space, this study primarily focuses only on the pro-
cess of constitution-building in the two countries and tries to offer some generali-
zations based on this analysis. The article is divided into five sections. The first
section seeks to highlight and explain the paradoxical nature of the democratic
processes of Russia and India. The second section deals with the theoretical
aspects of constitution-making and the relevance of democratic process in this
exercise. The third section provides a brief description of the process of constitu-
tion-making in India. In the fourth section, the Russian experience of constitution-
making is described and analyzed at length. The last part concludes by drawing
certain lessons for comparison between the postcolonial and the post-Soviet polit-
ical processes.
The Paradox
Studies on democratization, in the postcolonial as well as post-Soviet countries in
general and India and Russia in particular, have widely adopted either an institu-
tionalist or agency-centred approaches (Fish, 2005; Isakova, 2005; McFaul &
Petrov, 2004; Moser, 1998; Robinson, 2004; Troxel, 2003; Urban, 1994; White,
2006). These approaches emerged in the backdrop of the political processes of
some of the countries of Western Europe. Not much had been borrowed from the
studies of postcolonial societies due to two reasons: first, they were seen as socie-
ties still undergoing either political or economic or both kinds of transformations,
and second, the postcolonial was analyzed by putting the Western Europe models
of political systems as an ideal to be replicated or followed.1 While early theories
of democratization, like the path-dependency or leadership-centric theories did

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