And what about the third drawer, enquired Nehru.
Military dictatorships have been a common phenomenon in the post-colonial states of Asia and Africa, and in the 1950s and 1960s, a dictatorship in India was not an impossibility. In fact, while covering the 1967 general elections,The Times correspondent, Neville Maxwell, prophesied that these might well be the last elections ever in the country. And he was not the only one who believed that sooner or later, India would fall under military rule.
So clearly this is a question one needs to look at more closely. Which is what political scientist Steven Wilkinson has done with his excellent new book, Army and Nation.
In order to understand what didn’t happen in India, it is perhaps useful to first look at what did happen in Pakistan. The military dictatorship in Pakistan has had an interesting pre-history. It begins in undivided India, where the largest single component of the army was drawn from the undivided Punjab. Hence at the time of Partition, of all the institutions that Pakistan inherited, the most substantive was its army.
Moreover, while in India the Congress Party was a highly evolved, durable organisation, in Pakistan the Muslim League was not much more than “Jinnah and his Private Secretary”. Hence, there was a dangerous structural imbalance in Pakistan, especially after Jinnah’s death in 1948.