Two Indias

In its recent election, New Delhi avoided the perils of identity politics. But the center governs neither wisely nor well.

Issue: July-Aug 2009

From the July/August 2009 issue of The National Interest.


I LIKE to think of India as a "fifty-fifty" democracy. I owe this formulation to a Bollywood film I once saw which featured a great comic actor named Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi, whose screen name was Johnny Walker (after an alleged fondness for that brand of whiskey). In this particular film he played the sidekick of a mafia don, who used him as a sounding board. Will I be able to successfully raid the bank? asked the boss of the sidekick. Will this moll of the other gangster come over to me? To every such question Johnny Walker would rub his hands and answer, "Phiphty-phiphty, boss, phiphty-phiphty." Every project or endeavor, felt the sidekick, would have a 50 percent chance of success, 50 percent of failure.

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