Democracy in its broader perspective is all about respecting and recognising people’s rights and liberties, following a Constitutional framework, and broadening the idea of public space. It also takes into consideration minority rights and their welfare.
In India, democracy has been conceived short-sightedly and is confined only to holding elections and declaring electoral results.
Democracy is not something which can be physically touched or seen but is an invisible entity which can be felt, perceived and pondered upon. The measure of democracy is how the Constitutional institutions work, act and react in different situations and contexts.
Indian electoral democracy has assumed a majoritarian tendency since the last Lok Sabha election and it has resulted in passing of some lawless laws based on bigotry and hatred. Dissent is being criminalised and delegitimised. Those who do not see eye to eye with the government are charged with fake cases. There has been continuous attack on basic Constitutional features like secularism and federalism.
Yogendra Yadav in his recently published book, ‘Making Sense of Indian Democracy’, illustrates how the second successive electoral victory of BJP has replaced Constitutional values and institutional autonomy with the coercive will of the majority and submission of institutions to the diktats of the ruling party. He has also made a distinction between India as a State-Nation and India as a Nation-State. In the former, tolerance, dissent and recognition was prevailing while the latter is dominated by the imposition of a particular religious and political ideology.
Calling India a flawed democracy is not something rhetorical but a factual statement. The Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its annual democracy index for 2020 also says so. The EIU is a research and analysis wing of the London-based Economist Group. It assesses the state of democracy in countries worldwide. Its 2020 index has looked at the working of democracy in 167 countries. The index is based on five indicators – electoral process and pluralism; the functioning of government; political participation; political culture; and civil liberties. Based on the total points scored by each country, the countries are divided into four categories:
1 – Full Democracy: Countries scoring between 8-10 points.
2- Flawed Democracy: Countries that scored 6-8 points.
3- Hybrid Regime: Countries scoring 4-6 points.
4- Authoritarian Regime: Countries scoring 0-4 points.
The EIU’s 2020 Democracy Index shows that India has scored 6.61 points and is on the 53rd rung in the world, in the category of flawed democracy. In the 2019 index India scored 6.90 points and was on 51st rank. Norway with 9.81 points topped the EIU’s latest democracy index whereas North Korea with 1.08 is placed at the bottom.
India has scored low in Civil Liberties and Political Culture. Among many other factors, the conceptualisation of citizenship on the basis of religion and the way the government responded to Shaheen Bagh protests using its iron fist and arbitrary arrest of innocent people was responsible for India’s diminishing democratic graph.
Back in 2014 India was much closer to attaining the status of full democracy. India’s score fell from a peak of 7.92 with 27th rank in 2014 to 6.61 with 53rd rank in 2020. These figures basically pinpoint how the present dispensation is careless about democratic norms. If the Modi-led regime does not mend its ways, the day is not far when India, too, will find itself classed as a hybrid or authoritarian regime.
The writer has a Master’s degree in Political Science from Central University of Kashmir. [email protected]