Since 1947, India's journey towards ensuring democracy has been long and arduous, and riddled with a variety of quandaries. This year, as India turns 65, Gateway House has prepared a report that assesses India's democratic system, one that is in constant swaying motion.
The promise of an egalitarian democratic system in India and abroad, has been tarnished by the entrenchment of dynastic leadership and by an inordinate concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few. It is imperative to find ways to confront the shortcomings that have crept into our cherished democracies.
Dynastic politics is as diverse as politics itself in South Asia. There may be some benefits to dynastic rule, but a political system founded on democratic principles rejects the very idea of dynasty.
India's foreign policy prowess may be growing, but it is governed by the nation's internal health - which is riddled with poverty, corruption and displacement. Such vulnerabilities can threaten the smooth functioning of our democracy, and need to be addressed promptly.
The involvement of Islamists in democratic movements is usually dismissed as a mere ruse to attain political power. However, evidence suggests that people in Muslim-majority democracies support Islamist groups which challenge a dishonest government, rather than those who seek to establish Islamic autocracy.
The ongoing environmental movement in China - like many of the country’s burgeoning social movements - and those involved in it, are using various strategies to demand one of democracy’s preconditions—the rule of law.
India seems to be treading down the path of fruitless populism that crippled many countries in the past, most notably in Latin America. But like Latin America, India too can embark on a course-correction by implementing pragmatic economic policies alongside progressive but results-driven social spending.
Participatory governance, especially at the local level, can transform a locality into an ideal community. The experience of officials working with the municipal corporation for bringing about changes in Colaba, South Mumbai, demonstrates the potential of people’s involvement in democracy on the ground.
The women of a federation of self-help groups in Mayurbhanj, Odisha, won elections to their village governance bodies in February 2012. Their success is an example of what can be achieved when ordinary citizens participate in the political process, and their story will eventually resonate throughout India.