chapter  1
28 Pages

“We the people?”

Politics and the conundrum of framing a constitution on the eve of decolonisation
ByArvind Elangovan

Arvind Elangovan criticises two possible ways of reading the Assembly’s proceedings. The first suggests that late colonial Indian politics just prior to constitution making was unilaterally directed towards independence, giving way to a normative process of constitution making, which then led to the founding of the Indian Republic in 1950. In this view, late colonial politics had little or no relation to postcolonial politics. The second related idea suggests that the Constituent Assembly was a unique entity in its ability to rise above the politics of the times to frame a constitution for a divided society. Elangovan argues that both these ideas are too simplistic and fail to account for the nature of the political context prior to decolonisation. He argues that the Constituent Assembly, far from being a normative body, was politically predetermined from the beginning, and that its functioning cannot be explained without the politics of the late colonial period.