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Democracy is India's Achilles Heel

            Democracy as a form of government has been viewed through the prism of western liberal ideological thought. This has resulted in the critics of Indian democracy emphasizing the unique limitations on its operation and considering it India's weakness rather than strength. However such critiques ignore the democratic underpinnings of the Indian political system and the distinctive context of its establishment. Democracy is essential to address India's developmental challenges in view of its diversity and need for responsive government. While criticisms of casteism, communalism, criminalization of politics and corruption are warranted, they represent an incomplete process of deepening of democracy rather than failure of democracy itself. An understanding of strengths and limitations of Indian democracy requires a contextualization of its origins, which gave it distinctive characteristics. These resulted from a western democratic political system based on universal adult suffrage being formally established in a developing nation, which has made the former its own over the 68 years of operation.
             In 1947, universal suffrage became a vehicle for empowerment in an Indian society still traditional and feudal in nature. Traditional hierarchies of caste existed, with low rates of popular participation through secular interest groups based on class differentiation. High rates of illiteracy persisted and the challenge of post colonial reconstruction were obstacles to the operation of democracy. They were overcome by evolution of a new model of democratic politics. First, democratic debate in India has always been non ideological compared with the West's clear differentiation of left wing and right wing views. Indian political discourse has focused on specific policy measures and client patron relationship between social groups and political parties. This reflects an underlying consensus amongst all political parties of a secular, democratic republic.

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