Independent India's first General Elections of 1952 were termed and described by foreign commentators as the great gamble in the history of the world.They argued that a communally divided,poor,emaciated and diverse country like India, will never be able to sustain the practice of free and fair election.Obituaries were being written for Indian democracy.Widespread apprehensions existed that India would ever be able to survive as a Nation.
Ever since Independence, the world has witnessed the disintegration of the powerful USSR, the flip-flop of theocratic countries from military coup to democracy and vice –versa , religious clashes between the two factions of same religion in the Middle East, the rise of the American-styled democracy and the increasing clout of an anti-democratic China on the World order. However, being the most diverse region in the entire world,India never showed any large or powerful signs of disintegration. Free from the clutches of the colonial chains of political,social and economic slavery of the British, today we are into the 70th year of India's independence.
Even though today's independent India has continued to thrive and progress as a democratic, cultural and economic giant,there still exists many loopholes that threaten it's democratic set-up and continue to exhort critics to criticize and question it's imagination of an ideal democracy.
There are 3 major factors which contributed to India's growing democracy and provided the glue to let the people of the land stick together in difficult circumstances.
First is the robust Constitution of India:-
Indian constitution takes care of each section of the people irrespective of their caste, religion or minority. It has been time and again proved to be flexible that it can be changed according to the needs of time and society.Even the adversaries of India agree that the Constitution played the largest role in the success of India as a democratic nation.It has been highlighted as the key which is interlocking a diverse nation known as India.
Second is the successful integration of all the Princely states:-
Integration of 546 princely states was not a mean task. However,Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel along with Foreign secretary VK Menon played an instrumental role in shaping the geography of the modern India by annexing all the princely states into the Union of India. Though an immensely difficult task, both of them persuaded boastful and egotistic kings of small provinces to merge with India. Most of them wished to remain independent, however, Sardar Patel rightly asserted that it was higjly unlikely that they will be able to survive independently.
Thus, India remained to be a Union of states unlike an agreement of states in the USA.
The third factor was Mr.Nehru's able leadership:-
Indian nation after Independence was like a child. Without the Congress, the future looked bleak and dark.Survival of the Congress was dependent on Nehru. Nehru kept the government and people together. Whether winning the elections continuously for three times or re-structuring of states upon linguistic lines, from Non-Alignment movement to adopting socialist economic policies, he was able to steer India out of every chaos.Exceptions exist but they can be argued and contested as one cannot ponder upon yesterday’s decision without taking into account the scenarios which lead to the decision. The inaugural 15 years after Independence were very crucial for democratic India and Nehru was at command.Even his adversaries and critics agree that he did his job perfectly well that’s why India still remains to be a democratic nation.
However, no political system is utopian.All the political systems have to work in the environment conditioned by social and economic factors of that society. Indian democracy is no exception to this universal law.
Some prominent aspects which affect Indian democracy and challenge it's legitimacy and spirit are
Social inequalities caused due to caste system and economic imbalances:-
Casteism is the major contributor to social inequality in India. As they say, in India, people do not cast their vote in the election but they vote their caste. This practice undermines the democratic spirit of political system and threatens the shared vision of the national leaders and freedom fighters. Economic disparity is huge. Poor people do not think of elections as their political right because they are worried about their present and future. As the rich and elite class unleashes the gifts to the poor during elections the poor tend to forget the true purpose of elections in a democracy and instead vote inefficient candidates.
Violence has been rooted in the political system of Indian democracy.Inter-communal violence,election violence,political violence,and all other forms of violence has been engulfing the political sphere.
Freedom of speech, association, and press:-
There have been many instances where the constitutional rights of Indian citizens were compromised in the past and the practice still continue till date rather in other subtle manners.
Freedom to speak one's mind is the panacea for an independent nation.Without this, the nation is reduced to a showpiece of democracy with no real democratic spirit. Therefore, Indian democracy has been strengthened by common welfare,rule of law,stable government, the spirit of patriotism,etc. On the other hand, it definitely consists of weaknesses and challenges which seem formidable such as inefficient political leaders,lack of political literacy among the general populace,rigid social system,etc.
While concluding, it is imperative to the note that the future of Indian democracy hangs in the balance.It stands on the cross roads, leading to people's democracy. The fact cannot be denied that the political democracy as it has been in the existence in most of the capitalistic states of the world today, suffers from various shortcomings.However, it can be perfectly argued that democracy itself is not at fault. The defect has to be laid on the socio-economic system in which it has been made to fit. It will take a long time to completely abolish and vitiate all the challenges in the Indian democracy. The new generation, now, shoulders the responsibility laid upon them by the makers of the constitution to make this experiment a huge success. The world is keenly observing India's experiment with democracy.