The essays in this special section make a significant intervention into debates about the evolution of democracy in South Asia by prompting us to rethink the role of constitutionalism in this process. They focus on three constitutional moments in early twentieth-century Indian history: the inauguration of dyarchy under the 1919 Government of India Act; the application of provincial autonomy under the 1935 Government of India Act; and the preparation of the draft roll for India's first general election, held shortly after the inauguration of the republican constitution in 1950. They show that, far from being the product of clear political settlement, these moments were shaped by historical contingency and, often, conflict. In so doing, the articles offer new ways of thinking about state institutions in this period, not as monolithic forces located outside society, but as complex sites of interaction that were continuously being reshaped both from within and without the official ranks of government administration. Together, they suggest that constitutionalism was a far more dynamic force in the shaping of India's transition to democracy than has been recognized hitherto.

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