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THE CHALLENGES TO INDIAN DEMOCRACY

Introduction:
India adopted a British form of parliamentary democracy inspired by the Westminster system
that functioned so effectively in that country. Democracy meant different to different people.
Literally, the Greek word demos meant the people and Kartos meant Government or
Rule. Democracy, therefore, meant government by the people as against monarchy or
dictatorship which were autocratic rule of one person, oligarchy or aristocracy being rule by the
few. Its basic postulates are that the sovereign power resides in the people, that irrespective of
religion, caste, creed, colour, or sex and irrespective of the level of economic, educational or
professional background, all are equal in the eyes of law. In democracy the people are supposed
to be their own masters. They have an inalienable right to rule themselves, or to be ruled in the
way they like and by the people they choose.
The preamble of the Indian constitution deals with the type of government which is sovereign,
socialist, secular and democratic. The word democratic republic denotes in the first instance, that
India is a democracy which implies free and fair periodic elections of peoples represenatatives on
the basis of universal adult franchise by an impartial electoral machine and the government is
responsible to the elected representatives of the people. 1 This democratic republic stands for the
good of all the people is embodied in the concept of welfare state which inspires the directive
principals of the state policy.

Dr. B.L. fadia, Indian Government and Politics , 4th edition, Agra, sahitya bhavan publications.

Democracy:
Democracy has been understood in different ways in different periods of history. To some it is a
form of government, to others a way of social life. Democracy is not same in all countries.
Democracy as a form of government is different in different countries depending upon the
situations of respective country. Democracy is a process not a static situation. Accordingly
democracy means the participation of all the people in a process of how to run the government.
Direct democracy direct democracy, practically may not possible today as the direct participation
cannot be fulfilled within the political structure of modern state, both because of specialized size
of their population and because of specialized knowledge needed to govern them. Modern
democracy is therefore is based on representation; it presupposes not direct exercise of power but
delegation of power.
Among many kinds of governments, democracy is considered as the best as it enunciate a system
in which decisions are made with the participation of the people and the interest of the people are
protected by their own involvement. 2 The importance of democracy lies in the fact that in
democratic polity, political power is exercised with the support of the people and the ruler seek
justification of their action on the basis of the willing acceptance of the ruled. Thus democracy
presupposes less friction between the ruler and the ruled.
In democracy dissent is recognized as a accepted fact and opposite opinion are allowed to exist
and flourish simultaneously. It tries to assimilate the diverse point of view and accommodates
the demand of different groups by bringing a reapproachment between the majority and
minorities. It lessens the negative impact of dissent and give an opportunity to the masses to
change their representative in due time.
According to Gandhi true democracy cannot be worked by twenty men sitting at the center. It
has to be evolved from below by the people of every village.
2

Indian democracy problems and perspectives, New Delhi , Anthem publications.

Democracy is not all about periodic election from panchayat to parliament, a free media,
independent judiciary or an existence of various human rights commission. But it is about fair
and effective governance through the institutions of the state. Everybody is focused on free and
fair elections in our parliamentary democracy. But a few are bothered about fair governance
honestly and efficiently carried out.3
Indian constitution promises not only political but also social democracy as explained by Dr.
B.R. Ambedkar, political democracy cannot last unless their lies at the base of it social
democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty,
equality, and fraternity which are not to be treated as separate item in the trinity. They form a
union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of
democracy.
The Indian polity: Parliamentary democracy
Indian polity can best be described as the representative parliamentary democracy. The
parliamentary refers specifically to the kind of democratic polity where the supreme power vests
in the body of people representative called parliament. Under the constitution of India, the union
legislature called parliament is a pivot on which the political system of the country revolves. He
parliament of India consist of the president and the two houses the Rajya Sabha and Lok
Sabha.
Evolution of democracy in India:
The concept of democracy is not new in India as a substance of self government lies imbedded in
our past history. This system came into being because the village and the people were too
distinct from centers of political power. This democratic institution started to decline with the
passage of time and the republican form disappeared with the advent of British rule.
Partly from traditional source and partly from western experience India has evolved a modern
democracy. Constitution framers consider the problems of democracy from ethical rather than

Reddy G Ramchandhra; The challenges of governance in Indian democracy; New Delhi A.P.H. publishing
corporation

political point of view. They accepted the ideas of liberal democracy like popular sovereign
representative government, party system, freedom of thought and expression.
The establishment of democracy in India as Indian society is characterized by myriad diversity in
language, religion, ethnicity and economic interest was both difficult and risky enterprise. It
covers not merely a nation state but a civilization state. Indian constitution converted this
large, heterogeneous mass of people from subjects of the empire to citizens of independent India
and enfranchised them. The constitution of India sets into motion this process of political and
legal equality.
Unlike in the west, in India, political democracy did not evolve out of social democracy. It was a
political system superimposed on an egalitarian society by a visionary leadership inspired by the
western tradition of liberalism. The democratic state was conceived as a means to ensure
political equality that would gradually bring about social justice and equality.

Challenges to Indian democracy:


The republic of India, in its size population and resources is the worlds largest parliamentary
democracy. In terms of its electorate it is also the worlds most participatory political system
based on universal adult franchise, which is effectively exercised at regular periodic elections at
all levels of governance from the grass roots three tier panchayati raj and nagarpalikas to state
assemblies and parliament. India adopted a British form of parliamentary democracy inspired by
the Westminster system that functioned so effectively in that country. India has adepted
democracy as a system to build up her resources and to eradicate poverty and ignorance
safeguarding the freedom of the individual which is the basis of human development. The
preamble is the basic mantra of our democratic dharma. The preamble of Indian constitution
reflects with type of government, which is sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic.
The democratic republic stands for the good of all the people which means socio- economic
justice along with political liberty. The democratic republic denotes that India as democracy,
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where free and fair periodic elections of people representatives on the basis of adult franchise.
The government is responsible to the people. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan wrote that adult suffrage
is the most powerful instrument devised by man for breaking down social and economic
injustice and destroying the walls that imprison mens mind.

1. Decay of institution of parliament:


The continuous functioning of parliament system is one the positive aspect of the Indias post
independent evolution. However, in spite of the continued operation the system for more than 5
decades there has been tremendous erosion in respect esteem for parliamentary institutions and
legislature in general. Now a day the institution of parliament has lost its credibility because of
the presence of the tainted ministers, frequent adjournment of the houses. There is fall in the
standard of the conduct of legislators as evidenced by poor quality of debates, niggardly
attendance in the legislature, unruly behavior of member, daily walk out, uproars. Sanctity of
means has lost all value, meaning and relevance. They do not hesitate to buy stability through
corruption, bribery, distribution of spoils and yielding to the pressures and blackmail brought by
partners and supporters.
The more insidious threat to Indias democratic governance is from criminals and musclemen who
are entering into state legislative assemblies and national Parliament in sizeable numbers. A
political culture seems to be taking roots in which membership of state legislatures and Parliament
are viewed as offices for seeking private gain and for making money. Such elements have also found
place in Council of Ministers and a Prime Minister or a Chief Minister in an era of coalition politics
cannot take strong action for that might lead to the fall of the government itself. The Gandhian
values of simple living and self-less service to public causes are rapidly vanishing5.

Reddy G Ramchandhra; The challenges of governance in Indian democracy; New Delhi A.P.H. publishing
corporation
5
http://www.innovations.harvard.edu/cache/documents/1034/103461.pdf

It is true that public is not a mute spectator to this phenomenon nor is the media. The process of
judicial accountability has succeeded in sending several legislators and ministers to jail. But new
methods have also been devised to fiddle away with the processes of law. Criminals facing
prosecution get out on bail and even go scot-free. During the period of consideration of their bail
petition as well as trial, the doctor invariably finds a serious ailment that enables the accused to
escape discomforts of jail by admitting himself in a 5-star hospital.
The question staring all of us is how to close the gate of the portals of democracy for criminals. At
the behest of the Election Commission, the Indian Parliament has enacted certain laws that make it
obligatory on the candidate contesting an election for Parliament or State Assembly to declare as to
whether he is accused for any offence punishable under law for two years or more, for which
charges have been framed. Candidates would also have to disclose whether he has been convicted
for any offence in which the punishment has been awarded for one year or more for the
information of the voter.

2. Coalition politics in India:


According to the dictionary meaning coalition..It was assumed that the majority would form the
government and the majority would function as the opposition. Problem arose when no party
could secure enough majorities to form a single party government and in such circumstances the
alternative was coalition. Now coalitions have increasingly become the general pattern of the
functioning of over democracy. Often dozen and more parties come together to form the majority
in the legislature, their by claiming illegitimacy to form the government and exercise power. It is
a phenomenon of a multi party government where a no. of majority parties joined hand for the
purpose of running the government.
Just after independence the Indian national congress was the only party which commanded
popularity and respect of the people. It remained in power both in the center as well as in the
state right from 1947 67 and it had a monolithic character. India experienced its first coalition
government at the center in 1977.
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Thus fragmentation of political parties creates unhappy electoral situation in which hung
parliaments become the norm rather than an exception. Needless to say that the frequent
breakdown of coalition governments has made stable, let alone good government, virtually
impossible. Once a coalition is formed, it begins to develop cracks the downfall of one coalition
government makes it necessary forge another. If coalition government succeed in holding o to
power for some considerable time, it becomes very difficult for the government in power to
evolve appropriate policies to take forcefully steps for dealing with emergent difficult socio
economic and political problems. The reason is that owing to different ideological and
programmatic commitment, it become difficult to forge consensus or what should be the most
effective way of handling situation.
3. Corruption in politics:
Three cs i.e, corruption, criminalization and casteism are eating into our political life and
system.6 The combination of corruption and criminalization in politics is proving deadly and
posing a serious threat to our democracy. Corruption is is on rampage depriving the people of the
fair administration and thwarting the process of the development. The widespread corruption has
eroded the entire administrative apparatus and people experienced that their legitimate and
lawful work cannot be done in any governmental office without greasing the palms of the
dealing incumbents. Today corruption has not only become more acceptable as a way of life.
Corruption dominates not only political field but also the commerce and trade. The politicians
and business people believe that they can get away with it. Corruption has become a very
common feature of political system throughout the world and cause of concern for policy
makers. Corruption affects the power structure of a country. Corruption becomes the ladder to
climb the pinnacle of power. All the officers or parties think that they are above law and they can
afford to indulge in illegal activities like bribes, smuggling, etc. not only poitical leaders other
government officers are also not behind, for example Shri V. Ramaswamy, the retired judge of
supreme court had spent lacs of rupees from government treasury and that too without proper
sanction. Corruption mainly hit the poor badly.many of the developmental schemes meant for the

M. Manisha, Sharmila Mitra, Indian democracy problems and perspectives, New Delhi , Anthem publications.

wealer section do not benefits them at all. Rajiv Gandhi remarked that only 15 paise out of every
rupee meant for the anti poverty programmes reach the beneficiaries. 7

4. Loopholes in Panchayati Raj System :


Independent Indias local government system was to be rooted in philosophy of gram swaraj,
making the village a complete republic independent of its neighbor for its own vital want.
Though India has had a unbroken history of village panchayat and caste panchayat, they were not
true democratic bodies as privileges attached to caste and women and dalits have no voice.
Despite of the fact that village of India had a long history of the panchayats being the basic unit
of administration, the first draft of Indias constitution did not include a provision for
establishing panchayat in the republican India. But then provisions related to that are added in
part IV of constitutions (directive principles of state policy). The institutional mechanism of
panchayati raj got a new thrust and and dynamism and certainly is a great improvement over the
earlier system as the reservations for women, schedule tribe and scheduled caste is provided and
provions for the free and fair elections are added after the 73 rd amendment (1992).8
But during the voting caste violence can be seen during the panchayat elections.and it may also
be noted that the women representatives in the local bodies have not been treated with the dignity
they deserve. Atrocities against women representatives take place in several states. The illiteracy
and poverty of people prevents their coming out boldly against foul practice. And the dominant
classes kept the ordinary people in the dark. Transparency in public dealing was missing because
everything official was secrete and confidential.
The dream of mahatma Gandhis gram swaraj could be converted into reality only when the
republics worked for equality and the prosperity of the people through great dedication.

http://www.sanghparivar.org/corruption-amp-terrorism-are-the-main-challenges-before-Indian-democracy--dr-

swami-amp-govindachary
8

Reddy G Ramchandhra; The challenges of governance in Indian democracy; New Delhi A.P.H. publishing

corporation

Conclusion:
India is not only the world largest but also the most complex federal democracy. While its
democratic structure protects its political unity, its federal form guarantees the harmonious coexistence of non political diversities.
India is sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic. But then also after 6 decades of democracy
the people of India are facing many problems. Democratic polity has failed to satisfy the needs
and aspiration of our people. The interstate disputes are increasing, religion is extensively used a
ploy to promote political end, patriotism, and nationalism, are fading fast, criminals and
undesirables, have found entry into legislatures due to innumerable defects and and flaws in the
election laws. Polit ical part ies - nat ional or otherwise - and our representat ive bodies
at all levels, from Panchayat to Parliament, have become a den of criminals,
sycophants,

and

hypocrites

causing

a Character-crisis

in

our

political

leadership and morale decay of the masses. The dream of swaraj could be converted
into reality only when the republics worked for equality and the prosperity of the people through
great dedication. We had quantitative growth without quality development. Our gross national
product increased, but not gross national happiness.

References:

Dr. B.L. fadia, Indian Government and Politics , 4th edition, Agra, sahitya bhavan
publications

Reddy G Ramchandhra; The challenges of governance in Indian democracy; New Delhi


A.P.H. publishing corporation

M. Manisha, Sharmila Mitra, Indian democracy problems and perspectives, New Delhi ,
Anthem publications.

U.S.singh, Political Science, Faridabad, Allahabad law agency

M.P Jain, Indian constitutional law, (Justice Ruma Pal et al. eds., 6th edition, 2011)

Dr. Durga Das Basu, Introduction to the Constitution of India, 20 th edition, 2010

http://www.innovations.harvard.edu/cache/documents/1034/103461.pdf

http://www.sanghparivar.org/corruption-amp-terrorism-are-the-main-challenges-beforeIndian-democracy--dr-swami-amp-govindachary

http://www.inflibnet.ac.in/ojs/index.php/JARPS/article/viewFile/288/281

http://socialsciencelearning.blogspot.com/2007_09_01_archive.html

http://www.greatindiatrust.org/
http://www.greatindiatrust.org/Preface_book.html

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