Democracy is the rule with the consent of the majority. According to Abraham Lincoln, democracy is “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Soon after the attainment of independence, India opted for such a government. In Pakistan, democracy has been thrown overboard, and the status of the minority is yet undefined. But in India the introduction of adult franchises undoubtedly a bold step.
Now an eighteen-year-old, irrespective of male or female, is a voter in India, Yet critics are prompt in finding out its faults. However, having a broad look on it, we may feel proud as we have crossed many hurdles to celebrate the coveted completion of Golden Jubilee of Independence through several parliamentary and assembly elections.
India is the biggest democratic country of the world having a population of 130 billion (130 crores) people of different religion and culture. She possesses a written Constitution and lays down the guiding principles to be followed by the government as well as by the citizens. Whenever an election is announced, the office of the Election Commission assumes the charge of conducting it independently. Even a Prime Minister or a Chief Minister is compelled to bow out if he or she fails to win in the election. We are proud of being the people of such a democratic country.
But our democracy is not without its faults. Vote-politics and filthy political gain have demoralised the concept of democracy in India. The increase of caste and communal feelings has recently been the driving factors in vote-politics. And so various political parties clamour for job-reservation and even promotion for some classes as they are considered to be their vote bank.
As the vast population of our masses are still illiterate, they cannot exercise voting in the right spirit. Sometimes, the Indian election becomes virtually a game of money and muscle. Some people say that Indian democracy is now the rule of ‘Buy people’ instead of by the people, Rigging, booth-jam, pre and ppt electoral violence, criminalisation of parties and so on are the real threats to our democracy. Moreover, though we have declared India to be a secular democratic country, certain laws of the land do not apply to all.
All these anomalies must be removed if our democracy is to survive in future. Elections must be free and fair. It is suggested that the cost of running for election should be borne by the government for All-India party candidates. And the ministry or cabinet should have to be fully answerable to the parliament or the legislature. The proceedings of the parliament must be open to the public and must be duly published.
Of course, no electoral system can be ‘foolproof ‘ and perfect democracy can be found only in the Utopia. We must be satisfied with the nearest approximation to it. We must admit that democracy is an evolutionary process, dependent on constant modification and change in the light of experience. And in that light Indian democracy should be judged.
Democracy is somewhat meaningless to the people who are still below the poverty line. Therefore the inequality between the haves and have-nots should be lessened. The electorate must also be educated in order to have a maturity in the concept of democracy.
The power of money and muscle and the reign of terror should be minimised during the election, failing which no free and fair franchise can be done through the ballot box or the electronic vote-machine. And for that either the present parliamentary system should be replaced by the Presidential system of the American type, or an apolitical caretaker government should be formed from the date of announcement of the election up to the formation of the new government as in Bangladesh.
However, to protect our democracy, our judiciary and press are still working like watch-dogs. Indeed, these are the two great pillars on which we can reasonably depend on having a bright future of our democracy. Above all, we must say: Till the country is economically and educationally advanced, it will be idle to think that the electorate will use their franchise to the best interests of themselves and the country.