The Newsletter 69 Autumn 2014

Democracy on the march: dissecting India's 16th general elections

Pralay Kanungo

India, the largest democracy in the world, has achieved an enviable distinction in conducting free and fair elections regularly and making the transfer of political power a routine and smooth affair. Some may dismiss this as a mere demonstration of the success of procedural democracy, hiding its failure to achieve substantive democracy. True, Indian democracy falters on many counts – poverty, education, healthcare, employment and governance. But it is a little unfair to demonise this democratic deficit, taking into account India’s gigantic size, population, poverty and enormous diversity in terms of language, region, religion and culture. Incidentally, no democratic country does epitomise perfection and India is no exception, particularly considering its unique features; rather, India’s sanctimonious adherence to procedures needs to be seen as its solemn quest in the direction of perfection.