Evolution of India’s Political Elite in the British Raj Era and Post-colonial Period

Kornienko Olga Yu., Radionova Ekaterina A.
PDF (Rus)Subscribers only

Abstract. The purpose of this study is to identify and analyze specific features of Indian political elites, taking into account peculiarities of Indian cultural and religious identity as well as the impact of the colonial past. Indian elites are now at the focus of academic interest mainly due to a new role of India in global environment. In fact, the changes in the role and status of Indian elites are usually traced to its colonial past when Indian princes played an important role in the political system of the region and ruled about 600 principalities. This research focuses on ways to assess the effectiveness of the British approach of indirect rule in India and to understand the way the Indian elite was integrated into the system of the British Crown. This article met these twin research aims through an extensive study of relevant literature and implementation of historical and institutional analyses, biographical analysis of India’s political elite is also engaged to understand their motives, values, and strategies.
The research produces a number of key fundings: it has confirmed the significant role of Hinduism, the caste system and the experience of the colonial past in shaping India’s modern political elite. Hinduism has retained its unifying religious and ideological influence on the identity and political role of the country. The caste system has created a distinctive style of political struggle and leadership based on dynasticism of the political elite. The colonial past has given India a new start thanks to its involvement into democratic realities of the modern world. The main conclusions drawn from the research are that modern Indian political elite has been formed on the cultural roots of Hinduism, still remains sensitive to the interests of various castes and is committed to national development based on the experiences and lessons of the colonial past.
Key words: indirect rule, British India, political elite, princely families, dynasticism, Hinduism, caste system, colonialism.