Whither the democracy of India?

Whither the democracy of India?
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Since the middle of the 2000s, the level of democracy around the world has been progressively declining following the huge growth of democracy that began in the 1980s and gathered steam after the conclusion of the Cold War. The democratic backsliding process of political change, in which nations with a particular level of democracy become significantly less democratic, is at the heart of this worldwide democratic recession.

Long-standing democracies like the US and India are also afflicted by democratic backsliding. But there has been a worrying decline in India’s democracy. India, once the biggest, most diversified, and most optimistic democracy in the world, is now formally no longer a democracy. India was degraded from free to partly free by Freedom House, the world’s leading democracy assessor, for the first time in nearly fifty years. This mark has undergone a significant alteration. India has resisted the probability that diversity and poverty will obstruct democracy for over three-quarters of a century.

According to the democracy index published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, India dropped from 27 in 2014 to 46 in 2022. India has been demoted to “electoral autocracy” by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden’s V-Dem study.

No nation serves as a better example of our current democratic crisis than India. Key democratic institutions have technically continued to exist during Modi’s leadership, but the values and practices that support democracy have significantly eroded (Tudor, 2021). However, democracy watchdogs concur that India currently occupies a liminal space between total democracy and total dictatorship. Although organizations that monitor democracies label them differently, all of them classify India’s current government as a “hybrid regime”—that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic. And it’s brand-new. With India’s democratic degradation, 1.4 billion of the 8 billion people on the planet now live in autocratic nations. The percentage of the world’s population that lives in a free country has decreased by half as a result of its decline from free to partially free.

Whatever conceptual distinctions you make between the land of democracy, the sea of autocracy, and the marshes denoting the hybrid zones, the democratic world would be significantly less populous without India. The fight for democracy around the world is being fought in India, which is currently the most populated nation on earth.

Narendra Modi, the prime minister, is a highly divisive individual. He has destroyed the nation’s secular traditions since he came to office. Modi has transformed India into a more illiberal democracy during his time as prime minister. Even normal governmental actions are occasionally characterized as being anti-democratic.

It has been evident during his tenure as prime minister, that his management philosophy represents an existential danger to the biggest democracy on earth. Modi is prepared to transform India into a “managed democracy” -one that maintains all the democratic trappings while acting as a de facto autocrat (Ibrahim, 2000). According to distinguished scholars Debashish Roy Chowdhury and John Keane, India was a democracy that was killed and changed into a dictatorship under Narendra Modi.

Due to discriminatory legislation, violence against minorities, particularly Muslims, and rising harassment of journalists and NGOs, India lost its status as a fully functioning democracy (Blank, 2021). The main causes of India’s democratic collapse, according to democracy monitors and academics, are a major degradation in civil rights, intolerance of religious minorities, and the loss of institutional autonomy. It should come as no surprise that the government of Modi’s acts and inactions as the primary causes of India’s democratic backsliding.

Another reason why India’s democracy has fallen out of favor in the modern era is the emergence of Hindu nationalism. The secular version of Indian democracy is very different from the Hindu nationalist version. Under Modi’s leadership, support for Hindu nationalist groups has contributed to the establishment of a distinctive form of ideological hegemony.

The official institutions of democracy in India are also under attack; Rahul Gandhi, one of Modi’s most prominent political adversaries, was recently disqualified from standing for office. India’s reputation as a liberal democracy has once again taken a hit as a result of this case and the ensuing court penalty.

This decline of democracy was long anticipated by astute observers of Indian politics. In academic journals, it was claimed that India was “failing in its commitment to a liberal, pluralistic, democratic order.” India’s shift towards becoming a Hindu state has been noticed in particular as the nation adopted the traits of an “ethnic democracy”.

Indian democracy is a unique variety and has never been equivalent to the Western system. A nation where controlling a private army, media, and other institutions allows you to win elections with vast sums of money is a long way from being a democracy.

Imperial Hospital Sylhet

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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