Indian cities seem to be in transition regardless of the various sustainability challenges they have experienced in recent years. Globalization, market economy, and technological developments have brought economic, social and infrastructural advantages. However, population growth, proliferation of urban functions, insurmountable increase in size of cities, and environmental crises because of climate change have caused the cities to experience severe spatial, infrastructural and environmental ailments. Besides, the significant rise of Information Communication Technology (ICT) industries in the cities and their socio-economic and spatial influence have brought about inequitable development. At this juncture emancipation of a political will to build smart cities in India provides a new impetus for changing the planning perspectives and warrants a politico-cultural discourse to examine the prerequisites and paradigms, which could aid in development of smart cities in India. Drawing upon the stimulating mix of past experiences and prospective approaches across the world and discussions with experts in the political science, local governance and urban development, this explorative paper provides a discourse on the concept of smart cities, opportunities, challenges and the way forward to realize the goals of smart city development in a heterogeneous but democratically unified country like India. Based on the discourse, it is argued that the current urban governance system is not congruent for development of smart cities in India. Therefore, it is advocated that a cultural theory inspired politico-cultural mechanism be explored and crafted to assemble the requisite elements of an urban governance system that should enable the dynamics and cohesion needed for developing smart cities in India.