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Succession and Division in India
WITHIN a few months India will be holding her third general elections. The latest census tentatively places the country's population at around 468 millions which makes India the largest democracy in the world. Yet in India, as in some other Asian countries where democratic forms and the apparatus of parliamentary government subsist, democracy has still to take firm roots in the people and the rulers.
Mr. Nehru has been Prime Minister for 14 years, a term longer than any of his contemporaries with the exception of Sweden's Prime Minister Tage Erlander, who has held his post since October 1946. Even in the West, however, it is doubtful if for every ten who could name India's Prime Minister, five could identify Sweden's Premier. Despite her lack of military power and her developing but still underdeveloped economy, India exercises a moral influence in world affairs out of all proportion to her material strength. Much of the credit for this must go to Mr. Nehru who has steered his way through the jungle of international politics with consummate skill and understanding. India may be politically young but Mr. Nehru is the doyen of the Commonwealth Premiers and a veteran on the world stage.
Therein lies the paradox of India and Nehru, for while externally the Indian Prime Minister's political stature is unimpaired and to a degree enhanced, the signs internally are that his domestic prestige and reputation are at an ebb. Tibet, followed by China's territorial incursions into India (some of which, as in Ladakh, had preceded China's aggression on Tibet but were not at the time disclosed to the Indian Parliament or people), stirred public opinion deeply and generated the first defined cohesive rumblings of criticism and opposition against the establishment. Many Congressmen privately shared the disquiet felt by the opposition and publicly expressed by the Socialists, Independents and other miscellaneous groups and individuals. The Communists, also in the opposition, were caught in a cleft stick, and not for the first time their ideological schizophrenia betrayed itself in the rambling confused resolutions released after each of their increasingly frequent party conclaves.