Indian democracy has been quite successful and its future seems quite bright. The Indian voters have exercised their right to vote fearlessly and judiciously. Free, fair and fearless elections are one of the basic pre-conditions for the success of democracy. The Election Commission, which is a Constitutional authority, is responsible for conducting the elections. It is headed by the Chief Election Commissioner, whose independence is sought to be preserved and protected by a special Constitutional provision, to the effect that he cannot be removed from his office, except in like manner, and on like grounds, as a. judge of the Supreme Court.
Indian democracy has very deep and strong foundations. The credit for this strong democratic foundation rightly belongs to our leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Pt. Jawaharlal Lai Nehru, Lai Bahadur Shastri, and Indira Gandhi, etc. Their contributions to the success of Indian democracy have been immeasurable.
Indian democracy is based on adult franchise and a healthy and competitive party-system. There are a number of national and regional political parties, like Indian National Congress, Bharathiya Janata Party, Janata Dal, C.P.I, Bahaman Samaj Party, C.P.M., Samajvadi Party, Telugu Demas, Muslim League, Shiv Sena, Kerala Congress, National Conference, and Alkali Dal, etc. These parties play a significant role in the elections and in the smooth functioning of the democracy. These political parties are the very life-blood of Indian democracy. The political parties, in opposition to the government, exercise certain checks in the form of criticism of the government so as to ensure that it does not degenerate into dictatorship and a rule of the few. They criticize the government policies in a democratic and constructive spirit so that national integration, secularism, unity, liberty, and the rights of the people, etc. are preserved and further strengthened.
They help in the formation of public opinion as well. Thus, political parties see that there is nothing against the spirit of democracy, freedom, equality and social justice. In the absence of political parties, we cannot think of smooth and effective functioning of a democracy. Different political parties may have different ideologies but they all aim at the good of the people and the country. The party system in India has been a great factor in giving meaning and life to democracy. With the passage of time, a new and healthy relationship has developed between the ruling party and the opposition parties on the one hand and between the public and the political parties on the other. It is because of the enlightened Indian voters and political parties in opposition that the government and the party in power have been more responsive and accountable to the people and their representatives. Obviously, democracy is not a one-sided game and it needs two or more players in the form of ruling party, parties in opposition and the electorate.
Liberty, equality, justice and fraternity are the very cornerstones of democracy. They are not available under dictatorship and utilitarian forms of government. Without freedom of speech, expression of faith, profession, and association, etc. democracy is meaningless. Similarly, right to own property is one of the fundamental rights under democracy. The Indian Constitution offers all the Indian citizens, individually and collectively, these basic freedoms and rights. They are guaranteed in the Constitution in the form of six broad categories of Fundamental Rights and are justifiable. It means that each and every Indian citizen has the right to Constitutional remedies for the enforcement of these rights. There is free, independent and separate judiciary to see that these rights are not violated and tampered with. All are equal before law, right from the Prime Minister to a peon. This is the very spirit and essence of our democracy. An independent, strong and incorruptible judiciary is one of the main pillars of democracy.
The spirit of democracy in India is deep-rooted and all- pervading. It has stood the test of time all these years and faced many challenges. It is strong enough to face new challenges. India’s destiny as a nation depends on how successfully our democratic system will work in the years to come. Still there are many serious challenges before our democracy. Communalism, separatism, casteism, terrorism, monocracy, and illiteracy, etc. are some of the basic problems and challenges being faced by the Indian democracy. Ours is a secular country but, at times, communal and fundamentalist forces raise their ugly heads and cause considerable strain and threat to the spirit of democracy. Therefore, we have to be very vigilant and alert about it. Secularism means freedom to profess, practice and propagate one’s religion without interfering with that of others. There cannot be any discrimination on the basis of one’s faith and religion either. There is no state religion and all religions and sects are equal before the law. Democracy has been successful in India because -we are a tolerant people and have proper regard for the others’ point of view. Difference of opinion is not only compatible with democracy, but an essential ingredient for it.
Indian voters are mature and wise and well aware of their responsibility as citizens of a democratic country. They have never failed to rise to the occasion whenever the spirit of democracy has been in danger. For example, soon after the imposition of Emergency in June 1975, when general elections were held in March 1977, the voters decisively voted against the ruling party led by Mrs. Indira Gandhi and installed Janata Party’s government in the Centre. It was for the first time that the Indian National Congress was routed because of the imposition of Emergency, during which the spirit of democracy underwent a shocking and traumatic experience. Thus, the foundations of Indian democracy are well-laid and strong. The various challenges and threats faced by it have further strengthened its spirit. The fair and free elections, independent judiciary, enlightened voters, nationalistic political parties and fundamental rights guaranteed by Constitution ensure a bright future for Indian democracy, notwithstanding the various strains, stresses, threats and challenges posed by forces hostile to the spirit of democracy.