top of page
  • InduQin

Ram Madhav writes: Don’t cry for democracy

Fareed Zakaria argues in Future of Freedom that democracies are hardly perfect and while there are many illiberal democracies, there are some that are excessively liberal. India is no exception. Nobody can claim that its democracy has attained perfection. Like other democracies, it too has its flaws. Eternal vigilance and a constant endeavour to root them out are necessary.

Such efforts over the past several decades have resulted in creating strong political awareness. The Indian electorate can no longer be taken for granted by parties and leaders. Both the BJP and Congress have had firsthand experience of this. Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay were cocksure about victory in the 1977 elections but the electorate handed them the worst defeat in 25 years. Atal Bihari Vajpayee sought reelection six months ahead of schedule riding on the “India Shining” campaign in 2004, but the people decided to give the mandate to the Opposition coalition led by the Congress. In the last five years, while they overwhelmingly supported Narendra Modi for the national government, they also reposed trust in Opposition parties in as many as 14-15 states. That is evidence of the robustness of Indian democracy.

When Jawaharlal Nehru declared that independent India shall have “nothing but democracy”, many were sceptical. British Prime Minister Clement Attlee warned him that democracy was not suited for a country like India. “The Asiatic republics are few and of recent establishment. Their record is not very encouraging. They tend to degenerate into dictatorships or oligarchies. They offer a prize for the ambitious authoritarian individual”, he cautioned.

In the Constituent Assembly, too, some members expressed similar apprehensions about universal adult franchise. But both Prime Minister Nehru and President of the Assembly, Rajendra Prasad, reassured them about the political sagacity of the Indian masses. “They (people) are not literate and do not possess the mechanical skill of reading and writing. But I have no doubt in my mind that they are able to take measure of their own interest and also of the interests of the country at large if things are explained to them”, Prasad said in his final address to the Assembly on November 26, 1949.

Speaking in the Assembly on November 25, 1949, B R Ambedkar went one step further and said: “It is not that India did not know what democracy or parliaments or parliamentary procedure is. A study of the Buddhist Bhikshu Sanghas discloses that not only there were Parliaments — for, the sanghas were nothing but parliaments — but the sanghas knew and observed all the rules of parliamentary procedure known to modern times. Although these rules of parliamentary procedure were applied by the Buddha to the meetings of the sanghas, he must have borrowed them from the rules of the political assemblies functioning in the country in his time.”

Over the last seven decades, the Indian Constitution has helped build a vibrant democratic institutional mechanism that many countries want to emulate. India’s Election Commission has developed processes like electronic voting machines and multi-phase voting schedules that make elections transparent and efficient. The EC has signed Memoranda of Understanding and established exchange activities for extending technical help in election management with dozens of countries.

The judiciary remains independent. Judicial oversight and overreach are questioned and debated vigorously, both inside and outside Parliament, but not with any intention to curtail its independence. Parliament’s decision to streamline the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary through a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was withheld by the government when the Supreme Court rejected it. Many eminent jurists agree with the political view that the collegium system should be replaced with a more balanced one. Disagreements over its constitution continue to delay the re-introduction of NJAC, but that delay is in itself evidence of the vibrancy of India’s democracy.


0 views0 comments
bottom of page