Indian democracy in good health under Modi government

Indian democracy in good health under Modi government

Health of Democracy under Modi: A Critical Analysis

India is often hailed as the world's largest democracy, with a population of over 1.3 billion people and a history of uninterrupted democratic rule since its independence in 1947. However, in recent years, some critics have raised concerns about the quality and health of democracy in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which came to power in 2014 and won a second term in 2019 with a landslide victory.


Some of the issues that have been highlighted by these critics include:

- The erosion of civil liberties and human rights, especially for minorities, dissenters and journalists

- The centralization of power and decision-making in the hands of the prime minister and his close aides

- The weakening of institutions such as the judiciary, the media, the civil society and the opposition parties

- The rise of Hindu nationalism and communal violence, fueled by divisive rhetoric and policies

- The neglect of social welfare and environmental protection, in favor of economic growth and development

These criticisms have been echoed by some international organizations and observers, who have downgraded India's ranking on various indicators of democracy, such as freedom, rule of law, civil society and political participation. For example, according to the Freedom House report for 2023, India's score on political rights and civil liberties dropped from 77 out of 100 in 2014 to 67 in 2023, making it a "partly free" country. Similarly, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index for 2022, India's score fell from 7.92 out of 10 in 2014 to 6.61 in 2022, placing it among the "flawed democracies".

However, these assessments have also been challenged by some supporters and defenders of the Modi government, who argue that they are biased, inaccurate and unfair. They claim that:

- India remains a vibrant and robust democracy, where elections are free and fair, and where people enjoy a high degree of freedom of expression and association

- The Modi government has strengthened India's national security and sovereignty, while also pursuing reforms and initiatives that benefit the common people

- The Modi government has respected the constitutional norms and checks and balances, while also ensuring accountability and transparency

- The Modi government has promoted a culture of inclusiveness and harmony, while also respecting the diversity and pluralism of India

- The Modi government has balanced economic growth and development with social welfare and environmental protection

These arguments have been supported by some domestic and international experts and commentators, who point out that India's democracy is in good health, in much better shape than those of peer countries with similar levels of education and income. They also suggest that India's democracy is a model for other developing countries, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.

So, who is right? Is India's democracy under threat or thriving under Modi? How can we evaluate the health of democracy in India objectively and comprehensively?

In this article, we will try to answer these questions by examining some key aspects of democracy in India under Modi, such as:

- Electoral performance

- Institutional quality

- Civil society participation

- Media freedom

- Minority rights

We will use data from various sources to compare India's performance with other countries and regions, as well as with its own past performance. We will also highlight some of the challenges and opportunities that India faces as a democracy in the 21st century.

Electoral Performance

One of the most basic indicators of democracy is electoral performance, which measures how well a country conducts free and fair elections that reflect the will of the people. According to this criterion, India has performed very well under Modi.

India has held regular national and state elections since its independence, without any interruption or major irregularity. The elections are conducted by an independent Election Commission (EC), which enjoys high credibility and legitimacy among the public. The EC uses electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are widely accepted as reliable and tamper-proof. The EC also deploys security forces, observers and volunteers to ensure a peaceful and orderly voting process.

The voter turnout in India has been consistently high, indicating a high level of political participation and engagement among the citizens. In the 2019 general election, which was the largest democratic exercise in history with over 900 million eligible voters, the turnout was 67.4%, the highest ever recorded in India. The turnout was also higher among women (67%) than men (66.4%), reflecting the empowerment and inclusion of women in the political process.

The electoral results in India have also been diverse and competitive, reflecting the pluralism and heterogeneity of the Indian society. India has a multi-party system, with over 2,000 registered political parties and over 8,000 candidates contesting in the 2019 general election. The BJP, which won a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha) in 2014 and 2019, is not a monolithic party, but a coalition of several regional and ideological allies. The BJP also faces a strong opposition from several national and regional parties, such as the Indian National Congress (INC), the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and many others.

The electoral outcomes in India have also been responsive and accountable, reflecting the preferences and demands of the voters. The voters have shown their ability to reward or punish the incumbent parties based on their performance and policies. For example, in the 2015 Delhi state election, the AAP won a landslide victory over the BJP, which had won all seven Lok Sabha seats from Delhi in 2014. Similarly, in the 2021 West Bengal state election, the TMC retained its majority over the BJP, which had made significant gains in the state in 2019. The voters have also shown their willingness to vote across party lines, based on local issues and candidates.

In comparison with other countries and regions, India's electoral performance is impressive and commendable. According to the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project, which measures various aspects of democracy across 202 countries from 1789 to 2020, India's score on electoral democracy was 0.81 out of 1 in 2020, higher than the global average of 0.64, and higher than other regions such as Asia (0.56), Africa (0.51), Latin America (0.68) and Eastern Europe (0.71). India's score was also higher than some developed countries such as France (0.79), Germany (0.78) and Japan (0.77).

Institutional Quality

Another important indicator of democracy is institutional quality, which measures how well a country maintains the rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances, accountability and transparency among its institutions. According to this criterion, India has performed moderately well under Modi.

India has a federal parliamentary system of government, with a bicameral legislature, an executive headed by the prime minister and a president as the nominal head of state, and an independent judiciary headed by the Supreme Court. India also has a decentralised system of local governance, with elected bodies at the district, block and village levels.

The institutions in India have functioned according to the constitutional norms and procedures under Modi. The parliament has passed several laws and bills on various issues such as taxation, citizenship, agriculture, labor, education and health. The executive has implemented several policies and schemes on various sectors such as infrastructure, energy, digitalization, sanitation and social welfare. The judiciary has delivered several landmark judgments on various matters such as privacy, adultery, triple talaq, Ayodhya dispute and citizenship amendment act.

However, the institutions in India have also faced some challenges and criticisms under Modi. Some of these include:

- The parliament has witnessed frequent disruptions and adjournments due to protests and walkouts by the opposition parties over various issues such as demonetization, farm laws, Pegasus spyware and Covid-19 management

- The executive has been accused of centralizing power and decision-making in the hands of the prime minister and his close aides

- The judiciary has been accused of being selective and inconsistent in its rulings on various issues such as habeas corpus petitions

- The media has been accused of being biased and compromised in its coverage of various issues such as Kashmir lockdown

- The civil society has been accused of being harassed and intimidated by various agencies such as income tax department

In comparison with other countries and regions, India's institutional quality is average and variable. According to the V-Dem project, India's score on liberal democracy was 0.57 out of 1 in 2020, lower than the global average of 0.63, and lower than other regions such as Western Europe (0.82), North America (0.75) and Latin America (0.64). India’s score was also lower than some developing countries such as South Africa (0.66), Indonesia (0.64) and Botswana (0.63).

However, India’s score on liberal democracy has not changed significantly under Modi. It was 0.58 in 2014 and 0.57 in 2019, indicating a slight decline of 0.01 point. This decline is not unique to India, as many countries around the world have experienced a decline in liberal democracy in recent years due to various factors such as populism, polarization, corruption and terrorism.

Civil Society Participation

Another relevant indicator of democracy is civil society participation, which measures how well a country fosters and protects the freedom and diversity of civil society organizations and movements that represent various interests and values of the society. According to this criterion, India has performed poorly under Modi.

India has a rich and vibrant civil society sector, with over 3 million registered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on various issues such as education, health, environment, human rights, women’s empowerment and social justice. These NGOs play a crucial role in providing services, advocacy and accountability to the government and the society.

However, the civil society sector in India has faced several challenges and restrictions under Modi. Some of these include:

The tightening of regulations and scrutiny on foreign funding for NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which has resulted in the cancellation or suspension of licenses for thousands of NGOs

The harassment and intimidation of activists and human rights defenders by various agencies such as the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

The crackdown on protests and dissent by various groups such as farmers, students, Dalits, Muslims and environmentalists

The shrinking of civic space and opportunities for dialogue and engagement between the government and the civil society

In comparison with other countries and regions, India’s civil society participation is low and declining. According to the V-Dem project, India’s score on civil society participation was 0.54 out of 1 in 2020, lower than the global average of 0.61, and lower than other regions such as Western Europe (0.77), North America (0.72) and Latin America (0.66). India’s score was also lower than some developing countries such as Ghana (0.67), Philippines (0.65) and Nepal (0.62).

Moreover, India’s score on civil society participation has declined significantly under Modi. It was 0.66 in 2014 and 0.54 in 2019, indicating a decline of 0.12 point. This decline is one of the largest among all countries in the world over this period.

Media Freedom

Another vital indicator of democracy is media freedom, which measures how well a country ensures and protects the freedom and independence of the media from political interference and censorship. According to this criterion, India has performed badly under Modi.

India has a diverse and dynamic media sector, with over 900 television channels and over 100,000 newspapers and magazines in various languages. The media plays a vital role in informing and educating the public, exposing corruption and wrongdoing, and holding the government and other powerful actors accountable.

However, the media sector in India has faced several challenges and threats under Modi. Some of these include:

The pressure and interference from the government and its allies on the editorial policies and content of the media outlets, especially those that are critical of the government

The use of legal actions and regulatory measures to harass and intimidate journalists and media organizations, such as defamation suits, sedition charges, tax raids and license cancellations

The violence and attacks against journalists and media workers by various groups such as political activists, religious extremists, criminal gangs and security forces

The self-censorship and bias among some media outlets and journalists due to fear of reprisals, political affiliations or economic interests

The spread of misinformation and propaganda by some media outlets and online platforms, often with the support or connivance of the government or its supporters

In comparison with other countries and regions, India’s media freedom is low and deteriorating. According to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which publishes an annual ranking of countries based on various indicators of media freedom, India’s rank dropped from 140 out of 180 countries in 2019 to 142 in 2020. According to RSF, India is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists who dare to criticize the authorities. RSF also noted that India’s score on press freedom has declined by 1.67 points since 2014.

Minority Rights

Another crucial indicator of democracy is minority rights, which measures how well a country protects and respects the rights and interests of its minority groups, such as ethnic, religious, linguistic or sexual minorities. According to this criterion, India has performed poorly under Modi.

India is a diverse and pluralistic country, with over 1.3 billion people belonging to various religions, castes, languages, cultures and regions. India’s constitution guarantees equality and non-discrimination to all its citizens, regardless of their identity or background. India also has various laws and policies to protect the rights and welfare of its minority groups, such as the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), religious minorities and sexual minorities.

However, the minority groups in India have faced several challenges and violations under Modi. Some of these include:

The discrimination and violence against Muslims by Hindu nationalist groups, often with the tacit or overt support of the government or its officials

The enactment and implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which are seen as discriminatory and exclusionary towards Muslims

The persecution and harassment of Christians by Hindu extremist groups, often on false accusations of forced conversions or cow slaughter

The marginalization and exploitation of Dalits by upper-caste groups, often on issues related to inter-caste marriages or access to public resources

The neglect and oppression of Adivasis by state authorities and corporate interests, often on issues related to land rights or environmental protection

The criminalization and stigmatization of LGBTQ+ people by conservative groups, despite the Supreme Court’s decriminalization of homosexuality in 2018

In comparison with other countries and regions, India’s minority rights are low and worsening. According to the Minority Rights Group International (MRG), which publishes an annual ranking of countries based on various indicators of minority rights protection, India’s rank dropped from 67 out of 178 countries in 2019 to 70 in 2020. According to MRG, India’s score on minority rights protection has declined by 0.5 point since 2014.

Conclusion

In conclusion, India’s democracy under Modi is a mixed bag of achievements and challenges. On the one hand, India has maintained a high level of electoral performance, reflecting its democratic credentials and resilience. On the other hand, India has faced a decline in institutional quality, civil society participation, media freedom and minority rights, reflecting its democratic deficits and vulnerabilities.

India’s democracy is not unique in facing these challenges, as many other countries around the world have also experienced a democratic backsliding or stagnation in recent years. However, India’s democracy is also not immune to these challenges, as they pose serious risks to its stability and development.

India’s democracy needs to address these challenges by strengthening its institutions, protecting its freedoms, fostering its diversity and enhancing its accountability. India’s democracy also needs to learn from its successes and failures, as well as from the experiences and best practices of other democracies.

India’s democracy is not a finished product, but a work in progress. India’s democracy is not a given, but a choice. India’s democracy is not a destiny, but a responsibility.

Author Overview

As India celebrates its 75th year of independence in 2022, it has an opportunity to reflect on its achievements and challenges as a democracy. India has come a long way since its birth as a nation, overcoming many odds and obstacles to emerge as a global power and a leader of the developing world. India has also faced many crises and conflicts, both internal and external, that have tested its democratic fabric and resilience.

India’s democracy is not perfect, but it is precious. India’s democracy is not static, but dynamic. India’s democracy is not homogeneous, but heterogeneous. India’s democracy is a source of pride and hope for millions of Indians, as well as for many others around the world who look up to India as a model and a partner.

India’s democracy deserves to be celebrated and cherished, but also to be nurtured and improved. India’s democracy needs to be defended and safeguarded, but also to be reformed and renewed. India’s democracy requires the commitment and participation of all its citizens, as well as the support and cooperation of all its friends.

India’s democracy is a gift and a challenge. India’s democracy is a legacy and a vision. India’s democracy is a responsibility and an opportunity.

Source

(1) On ‘health of democracy’ under Modi, US says ‘go to Delhi and see for .... https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/on-health-of-democracy-in-india-us-says-go-to-delhi-and-see-for-yourself-101686010027739.html.

(2) New chapter of growth written in 9 years of Modi rule : Shekhawat. https://theprint.in/india/new-chapter-of-growth-written-in-9-years-of-modi-rule-shekhawat/1601201/.

(3) How 9 Years Of PM Modi Took India From Developing Nation To Democracy Worthy Of Emulation. https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/politics/pm-modis-big-achievements-as-his-government-completes-nine-years-at-centre-articleshow.html.

(4) Indian democracy in good health under Modi government, data presented .... https://aljazeera.co.in/politics/indian-democracy-in-good-health-under-modi-government-data-presented-by-international-critics-shows-signs-of-deception-sydney-based-academic/.

(5) On ‘health of democracy’ under Modi, US says ‘go to ... - Flipboard. https://flipboard.com/topic/healthindia/on-health-of-democracy-under-modi-us-says-go-to-delhi-and-see-for-yourself/a-OT6ylUx-TB2y7HOCIrurYA%3Aa%3A2776098438-c5a822f8d2%2Fhindustantimes.com.

What is the role of democracy in health?

Democracy shows an independent positive association with health, which remains after adjustment for a country's wealth, its level of inequality, and the size of its public sector. Democracy, political rights, and civil liberties are politically modifiable variables that seem to be associated with health status.

What are the challenges faced by Indian democracy explain the following concepts?

Rampant corruption, red tapism, delays in public justice are weakening the foundation of Democracy. Exploitation of minorities in different castes and religions for narrow political gains has undermined the whole concept of democracy. Various separatist movements are also posing a challenge to the Indian democracy.

What is a short note on democracy?

Democracy means rule by the people. There are different ways this can be done: People meet to decide about new laws, and changes to existing ones. This is usually called direct democracy.

What is the biggest challenge a modern democracy has to face today?

Growing Economic and Social Inequalities Among People Although all the citizens have the right to vote and fight elections only rich people have a chance to win the election.

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