The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity

Civil Registration Centre for Development, The Hague and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg

Making Democratic Citizenship in the World’s Largest Democracy: The Preparation of India’s First Electoral Roll on the Basis of Universal Adult Franchise

This paper investigates the process of devising the instructions for the preparation of India’s preliminary draft electoral roll on the basis of adult franchise. It suggests that in effect, this process became an all India administrative exercise in guided democratic political imagination, which imbibed the notion of universal franchise within the administrative machinery around the country. This exercise, I argue, resulted in instituting and operationalizing the procedural aspect of the idea of equality. It also set in motion the creation of a new national polity for India. By contrasting this process with colonial discourses on franchise and preparation of electoral rolls, focusing particularly on the enrolment of women and the attitudes towards other groups at the margins of the franchise the paper explores key changes in the bureaucratic political imagination in the transition from colonial rule to independence.

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The Hague Colloquium on the Future of Legal Identity