What is the ideal way to run a very large country?

The makers of the Indian Constitution met for the first time on 9 December 1946 (the very day on which a baby girl called Sonia Maino was born in Italy, handcuffed to history). In the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi bright new lights and electrically heated desks were in place, and leading figures in the soon to be victorious independence movement sat in tiered rows in semi-circles facing the dais.

Over the succeeding months, the Constituent Assembly framed the future shape of the independent Indian nation, for better or for worse. It would be a parliamentary democracy, rather than an executive presidency, and would use the first-past-the-post electoral system. Many leaders contributed to the discussions: Nehru drew the big picture, Patel did the heavy lifting in committee, Ambedkar thought on his feet. Although their ambitions were in the main liberal, diverse and progressive, nearly all of the delegates came from within the Congress family. Their intellectual influences combined Indian traditions and ideas with European and American principles of creative popular sovereignty. The process was full of questions…

READ MORE in India: A Portrait by Patrick French

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