THE STORY OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY
India is valued around the world for her many assets. Three things that distinctly underline her greatness are -The Taj Mahal, the 17th century magnificent Mughal splendour built in white marble, Mahatama Gandhi, the apostle of peace and non-violence and India’s electoral democracy. It is difficult not to be impressed by the process and resilience of Indian democracy and its gargantuan election system that involves more than 300 parties and thousands of candidates campaigning and contesting fiercely, as millions of voters cast their ballot to elect 543 representatives to Lok Sabha- the Lower House of the Indian Parliament. The dance of democracy conducted at the end of every five years, is representative of India’s incredible
diversity in terms of its languages, religions, castes, creed, regions, urban and rural disparities. It is also the world’s most daunting election exercise, as 834 million voters cast their ballot in the 2014 general election. The sheer size of the Indian electorate is mind boggling – it is twice the size of 50 European nations, whose voters’ number is close to 492 million! And there are features unique to India. Of the 834,999 polling stations set up across the country, one was located in the village of Banej in Junagadh district, Gujarat in western India. What is unique about this polling station is that it is located in the heart of India’s lion sanctuary, where Asiatic lions roam freely. India’s commitment to democracy can be gauged from the fact that this booth was set up for a single voter! In other words, every vote is literally counted!
The dividends of democracy are unparalleled, as it accommodates diverse interests and aspirations. No wonder, Economics Noble Laureate Amartya Sen, observed that a country does not become fit for democracy, but fit through democracy. The Indian Parliament has facilitated socio-economic revolution, undertaking several welfare policies and programmes. This necessarily has to be seen in the background of how countries in Asia and Africa have evolved, alternating between democracy and dictatorship or some like China, which are under permanent one-party rule! Since India became Independent in 1947, it has held 16 general elections under a fairly independent Election Commission of India, a constitutional body that has maintained the sanctity of holding free polls. Borrowing heavily from a dozen constitutions, mainly western democracies and from Japan, framers of the Indian Constitution were able to establish a strong and vibrant constitution,
adopting features best suited to the Indian context. Indian democracy is parliamentary, based predominantly on the British system. The Head of Government in India is the Prime Minister, who can hold office only so long as he commands the confidence of the Lok Sabha. Confidence of the House is reflected in existence/continuance of majority support – whether of a single party or of a coalition of parties. Under Article 75 of the Constitution, the President of India appoints the Prime Minister and other Ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers, including the Prime Minister, is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.