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India: Democracy's dance

Hundreds of millions of voters are expected to cast their ballots when India holds general elections over April and May. Ramachandra Guha explains what makes elections in the world's largest democracy special, and what is likely to happen this time.

Ramachandra Guha
The Indian elections of 2009 will be marked by colour, intensity and a mass involvement of individuals in democracy unmatched elsewhere in the world

In the first weeks of 1967, the Times of London dispatched a reporter to cover the Indian elections. Travelling around the country, he saw - or thought he saw - a mood of apathy and helplessness.

Some Indians he talked to had expressed a "readiness for the rejection of parliamentary democracy". The journalist himself was dismayed by the conflict and the corruption. He could spy "the already fraying fabric of the nation itself", with the states "already beginning to act like sub-nations".

He concluded that "the great experiment of developing India within a democratic framework has failed". Indians would thus soon vote in "the fourth - and surely last - general election".

Unfounded fears

That was not the first such gloomy prediction about India, nor would it be the last.

A supporter of Congress party with the party poster containing Sonia Gandhi's picture
More than 700 million Indians are eligible to vote

Through the 1970s and 1980s, as the country lurched from one crisis to another, fears were expressed that it might break up into many parts, or come under military rule.

Only after India celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1997 did these prophecies of doom finally go away.

The country was still marked by extremes of wealth and poverty, and by myriad social conflicts. But no one doubted any more that it would survive as a single entity. And all agreed that it was and must remain an electoral democracy.

In the summer of 2009 Indians will vote in the 15th general elections since independence.

The ruling coalition, known as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), will have as its main challenger another patchwork of multiple parties, the National Democratic Front (NDA).

Each alliance is led by one major party - the Congress in the case of the UPA, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the case of the NDA.

Both are "national" parties, with a presence in most parts of India. However, there will be dozens of lesser parties in the fray, each seeking to represent a particular state, region or caste group.

Over 700 million Indians will be eligible to vote. Perhaps 400 million will actually exercise their franchise, making this the greatest exercise of the democratic will anywhere and at any time in human history.

But what will this election be about? Who or what are the voters being asked to choose from?

Personalities and issues

At one level, the election shall be about individuals.

Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh is seen as a politician of integrity

Both major fronts have announced their candidates for prime minister in advance.

The UPA's man is the incumbent, Dr Manmohan Singh, a politician of exceptional integrity and intelligence, with a reputation however for being soft and indecisive.

The NDA has put forward LK Advani, who is best known for leading the campaign to have a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram built on the site of a mosque demolished in 1992, in the northern city of Ayodhya.

Mr Singh is a few years short of 80; Mr Advani is several years older still. So, while announcing their names, the two major parties have also indicated who would be their heirs apparent.

As and when someone has to succeed Mr Singh, the Congress will offer Rahul Gandhi, the son, grandson and great-grandson of prime ministers. A handsome young man with charming manners, he is yet to show that he has the necessary will and drive to succeed in the harsh world of Indian politics.

The BJP's man-in-waiting is the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. A capable administrator, Mr Modi is nevertheless tainted by the pogrom against Muslims that took place under his watch (and, some would say, with his encouragement) in Gujarat in 2002.

LK Advani
LK Advani is best known for his campaign to build a temple in Ayodhya

At another level, the election shall also be about issues, most notably, the economy.

The NDA fought and lost the 2004 elections on the slogan of "India Shining". It gloried in the high rates of economic growth then prevalent, to be shot down by the opposition's claim that this growth had not percolated down to the aam admi, or common man (and woman).

The UPA, wiser by the experience, will seek to showcase its waivers of crop loans and its programmes of rural employment.

The NDA will answer that, far from helping the poor, these schemes have merely promoted cronyism and corruption.

Thirdly, this election shall also be about identities.

The BJP will subtly - and sometimes not so subtly - hint that the Congress favours the Muslim minority, and that they will instead consolidate the claims and the pride of the majority Hindus.

Other parties will break down these religious monoliths in terms of caste, class and region.

Who will win?

There are several powerful regional parties in the south, representing one or other linguistic group, each more powerful in their state than either the BJP or the Congress. In northern India caste-based parties are strong. And the Communists have a major influence in the states of Kerala and West Bengal.

With reference to the Times correspondent in 1967, one can confidently state that these elections will not be the last to be held in India. Predicting their outcome is another matter altogether.

Any one of three results is possible. The winner could be a coalition headed by the Congress, a coalition headed by the BJP or a Third Front featuring neither.

Mayawati
Mayawati could emerge at the head of a Third Front

In the last eventuality, the prime minister is likely to be Mayawati, the present chief minister of India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh. A woman from the Dalit or formerly Untouchable castes, she is admired for her courage and persistence but also feared for her vengefulness.

What we do know in advance is that the government that comes to power in the summer of 2009 will be a coalition, a weak coalition. This is not a happy augury for the interval between these elections and the next.

It is to the credit of democracy that millions of often poor and sometimes illiterate Indians vote freely and fairly. That said, the conduct of governments in India has tended to be capricious and arbitrary.

Having many parties in power at the centre is in one respect a reflection of democracy's deepening, a product of the representation of groups and regions previously excluded from government.

At the same time, the satisfaction of so many different interests leads to short-term rent-seeking rather than to rational policy. Smaller parties covet the most lucrative ministries, and the larger parties, simply to stay in power, are obliged to concede these to them.

Like the 14 others that preceded them, the Indian elections of 2009 will be marked by colour, intensity and a mass involvement of individuals in democracy unmatched elsewhere in the world.

But unless governance itself becomes more transparent and accountable, India will continue to be plagued by corruption and inefficiency of a scale unacceptable in a modern state presuming to speak for and serve the people.

Ramachandra Guha is the author of India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy. He lives in Bangalore.


This debate is closed. Here is a selection of your comments.

Thanks for such an excellent article summing up Indian democracy within few paragraphs with thoughtful insights.
Sujoy Lahiri, India, Israel

A wonderful article by Mr. Guha as always. It dwells upon the spirit of hope that sustains an ordinary Indian citizen's faith in democracy. I can only hope that a clear and decisive mandate will emerge this time. Only then can well meaning politicians take truly progressive decisions without getting themselves mired in the quagmire of populism.
Tandava Krishnan, India

The author forgot to mention who will be running in this national election. Of the 543 Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha, 123 or 24 per cent are criminals. In view of this statistic, a group of concerned citizens has started an organization to make people aware of the people who are potentially corrupt or have criminal records, or pending cases. The site is nocriminals.org
Shubhanan, India

I think one of the fallacies of democracy is to think that the process itself will lead to a society's progress. In reality, it just acts like an elastic net to contain the pushes and pulls of various streams of thoughts that would tear it apart under authoritarian rule or when it is under stress.
T Varadaraj, India

Ramachandra Guha's analysis and non-predictions are broadly correct. His ambivalence about coalition politics reflects the upper class/caste passion for 'law and order', especially the existing 'order'. This class also used to share the wishful predictions of London Times and Western intellectuals from a broad spectrum - Gunnar Myrdal (soft society) to Jean Kilpatrick ('manageable' disintegration). Congress Party was a broad coalition of interests in the pre- and post-independence era. The subsequent expulsions/defections from Congress account for most of the regional parties. This also explains the strong consensus on foreign and economic policies among the coalition partners - except for the two Communist parties. These latter two, despite their Marxist rhetoric, have a strong caste base! So, India would muddle through and probably fare better than not only the other third world countries, but also the mature Western democracies!
T Ramakrishnan, U.S.A.

As this article aptly points out, democracy in India has been an interesting experiment. With so many regional parties determining the outcome of the next government, it is unlikely that with the present democratic procedure India will have a stable government anytime in the near future. It is also quite naive to expect that an illiterate electorate will be able to understand the issues concerning the nation and be able to vote with conviction. As is always the case in India, the party with the strongest regional presence will win in a particular region of the country. It is a remarkable achievement for India to sustain a democracy successfully through 15 general elections, but I think it is also time to think about constitutional changes so that the outcome of such elections are helpful in deciding a stable one-party government that has a long term vision of the future.
Anirban Sarkar, UK

This article is nothing new, however the major difference in recent years is the electorate are getting better at voting in a more responsible manner evidenced in recent state elections where the ruling government in Delhi won the elections, but not so in other states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh where the ruling government lost. Electorate are slowly realizing that half good governance is better than no governance and voting for it. Building a country as big as India is no means an easy task given the fact that its treasury was literally empty when it got it's independence. BBC'S perception of India still has the flavour of a colonial power. Change is a slow process.
Amith, U.K.

There is no hope in the heaven for any honest politician [if he exists] to succeed in the elections. Only the corrupt, dishonest and who has additional qualification of muscle power[ read gangster] has hopes of success. Some rare exceptions to the rule, sadly are the communists!
BC Rao, India

"But no one doubted any more that it would survive as a single entity. And all agreed that it was and must remain an electoral democracy" I wish I could share Guha's optimism of survival of Indian democracy. India has become a standing monument of corruption and inefficiency. Corrupt Indians have stowed away astounding $1.5 trillion of their ill gotten gains in the vaults of Swiss banks, an amount which could wipe out US treasury deficit! More than 300 millions of Indian poor do not enjoy the rights and entitlement of other elitist Indians whom as Swami Vivekananda described for their propensity to discuss for ever whether a glass of water ought to be taken with right hand or left! How can there be any optimism at all when mere ten percent of elitist population runs the life of the rest who are beyond the margins and whom the state, judiciary, media and press have signally failed to connect?
NG Krishnan, India

It is surprising that India is claimed to be "world's largest democracy" yet its Heads of State don't necessarily have to be an elected representative of people. Manmohan Singh, the current PM is not an elected representative from the Parliament and neither the President of India has ever been a member of an electoral body of people.
HS Vachoa, USA

The trend which one can identify on the political canvas of India in the last few decades, is the fragmentation of political structure base on the regional divides and issues. This shows the clear tilt towards the federal political nature. Thus it is high time, to give a serious thought on the current political structure of our country and the need to evolve a federal system to cope with the regional and local issues in an efficient manner, otherwise in few more decades we will be left with a fragmented political system with no clear coherence and stability.
Ajani Bhavya, India

Democracy in India has more or less been a failure, speaking in general terms. Of course, a small pocket of the Indian population has experienced a rise in living standards, there's been a huge boost in foreign exchange reserves in recent years, but the overwhelming majority of the Indian voting demographic is composed of labourers, villagers and agricultural communities. Ultimately, the voting population relies on promises of development when casting the ballot, and when those voted in to power channel expenditure into building up their personal security and supporting foreign investors rather than increasing wages, mechanizing farming and construction, distributing security forces in public places and empowering indigenous industries, the only bracket of our population that will 'shine' will be the one that's less than 1/4th of India's total population.
Rahul Chak, India

It is amazing to see 700 million people exercising their right to vote. With some much diversity, Indian Democracy is a great example to the humanity. I am really amazed with the scale and size of this exercise.
John Smith, USA

This article does analyse the pre-election situation well. However, the failure of the previous parliaments to pass the Women's Reservation Bill is a huge blot on the so-called democratic Indian polity. There is no sincere effort, whatsoever, to bring in women to be part of the democratic process at the national level, basically because the present leaders look at it as power sharing.
Sreelekha Nair, India

Definitely, India is the world's largest economy, but its a well known fact that its also the largest gathering of corrupt politicians anywhere in the world. The names of the political parties just change, but most of them are the same in their deeds, voracious scavengers, amassing wealth, when there are millions who cant feed themselves once in a day. This ultra level of corruption should be publicised widely in the world, so that there will some change at least. An ordinary Indian voter doesn't have choice. Its like, which one of your hands do you want to break??
Vamsi Krishna G, Hungary

The writer seems to be inclined to Congress and has expressed his thoughts in the support of Congress.
Rajnish Gupta, India

One more election and apparently it would be one more opportunity lost. As Guha says we Indians vote freely and fairly. Some of us even do not vote! But we all wish that the conduct of governments in India which has tended to be 'capricious and arbitrary' would change. But to go by our past sixty odd years of democracy, wherein we have seen that politicians of all shades and colour have let us down badly, it is just a baseless hope. We have not addressed the issues of poverty or should I say uncontrolled population growth, the root cause of our many ills. We will never be able to tackle the evils let loose by caste and religion politics. The oft quoted ills of the now infamous finance sector 'greed and arrogance' have been there with our politicians as unregulated as any. Some of us did shine and many more will shine in India but the breed of 'slumdogs' will flourish even if some escape and become millionaires! I am just being realistic.
Doreswamy Srinidhi, India

To call India a democracy now is a joke. Go through the list of criminals occupying high places and the notion is not lost. Money, religion and caste gets votes, not democracy. Until this is sorted out democracy in India is overplayed!
H Bhogal, United Kingdom

Many voters in India don't exercise their right to choose properly. Their vote is based on factors such as caste, creed and colour. As a result, they end up sending crooks and criminals to parliament. This is a problem in every country where education has not been a priority. India should make education its top priority, set a goal of raising her literacy rate from the current 60-65% to a higher level and allocate enough money in the budget to achieve that goal.
Irfan Alvi, USA

I have been in the USA for last 12 years. Having lived in India till age of 20, one thing I must say that I am very proud to be an Indian. India has always shown remarkable courage and determination in moving forward. No matter what happens in India, she has always maintained democracy. While it is true that many of its citizens suffer from poverty and lack of education, the country is still strong and better off than many other regional countries in the South East Asia. I hope and pray that someday each and every citizen of India gets an opportunity in basic education, clean water, and basis amenities.
Anish, USA

Indian democracy and its elections have to confound anyone's perceptions simply because we talk about the perceptions and aspirations of one seventh of humanity. I do not know of elections anywhere in the democratic world where regional, racial or social prejudice is not hinted or exploited during election campaign. It is true improved governance and transparency would go a long way towards faster progress but that would apply to the issues leading to present recession and depression that is blighting the lives of billions at the expense of a few in privileged positions.
Vinod Dawda, UK

If this article was supposed to convey the meaning of these elections for the Indians to the world, I have to say, sadly and I respect Prof Guha a lot, he has failed to give proper justice to the issues. The only thing that this article alludes to, and is relevant to Indian democracy in this context, is that we have been able to maintain the democratic values in our society. This is not surprising to me as the concept of republic first took roots in the Indian sub-continent, Prof. Guha being an eminent historian would agree to this, and there has always been a healthy respect for the concept of individual liberty and rights. The elections in India are not about major policy changes and all those lofty values and ideals, they have never been. They are about how to get an LPG gas connections, how to get the road to the village paved, and, above all, getting heard. I come from the least developed state of Bihar from the eastern part in India. Anyone, who knows about India, will tell you that Bihar is synonymous with lawlessness, something like American West of old. Kidnappings were so rampant that people used to get kidnapped for a few thousand rupees (less than hundred dollars). We changed our government after 15 years of misrule a few years ago. You can see changes in every walk of life today. It used to take me 4 hrs to traverse 50 km. Now, I complete the same journey in a little over 1 hr because the roads have been repaired. New industries are cropping up leading to employment and an all round improvement in the lives of people. Kidnappings have ceased to be the menace that it used to be. At the most fundamental level, elections in India are about that. Its about the aspirations of the common man.
Parimal Samir, USA/India

Mr Guha seems to be a person biased against BJP. While anyone can analyse and state the 3 outcomes he has stated, it is the subtle slant he gives towards congress and against BJP causes concern. Why should Mr Advani be known only for Babri Masjid, why only BJP will play up religious divisions? Why don't you state Congress as known for Sikh riots? Why don't you mention that? Why don't you say Mayawatis known for crude caste politics? Why don't you state corrupt Congress with eye on minority vote bank? Why do you reserve your clever digs only for BJP? If you are an Indian, then, you are doing a great disservice to India and BBC does a great disservice to its patrons by publishing these types of pieces.
Venkat, USA

Recently I was in India, corruption is rife and politics is dominated by old men and half literate persons. India needs young dynamic and quick thinking decision makers.
Tamburo, UK

I agree with most of your comments. However, during my visits to India during last eight years, I have come across many instances where the left government in West Bengal has controlled the voting by not allowing the opposition people to vote, by manipulating the cast votes and by other methods of intimidations. I have seen very little written about this fundamental violations of democracy.
Subrata Saha, USA

The Republic has done well in terms of electoral democracy. Democracy has done a good job of representing diverse populations and political ideologies. It has also helped develop a sense of civic nationalism, instead of ethnic or religious nationalism. But India needs structural transformations in its administration, especially in the civil and police services to ensure that political empowerment of the masses leads to real gains in quality of life for the masses. Also, one more important flaw is the lack of democracy within parties, which is one of the principal reasons for the fragmentation of the Indian polity. We Indians can claim to be a true democracy only after these flaws are rectified.
Vikram, USA

This is the hardcore truth that national parties of India is loosing their capability to run the government independently. In past few years there are several regional parties have come in existence and they all have their own reason to exist but in this league somewhere India's is loosing their integrity. If we look in-depth about all of this who is responsible for it? the answer is people of India, they don't know what is right and what is wrong for them otherwise there's no reason that any regional party can survive. Whatever we do where ever we do it does affect us somewhere either it's good or bad but the fact is that the great democracy of India is going to be hypocrisy in coming years.
Ravishanker, India

This might be tough to change now, but maybe India should consider a "Presidential government" a-la the oldest democracy, the USA. Reason for this is that India's voters currently have to vote indirectly for their ultimate leader but regional politics often swamps people who want to vote for the individual like Dr Manmohan Singh. India needs a stronger mandate for parties at the centre so that they can make national policies rather than pander to regional interests.
Andy Rebeiro, Toronto, Canada

India will continue to suffer from the stress and struggle of social stigma and political play until every Indian feels the need for a change in the current climate where the culprits are the kings and the corruption is the queen.
Shwetal Bhatt, UK

A good article by Ram. However, he has failed to outline the fact that in the long run the growth of regional parties, who have not an iota of pan Indian vision, in the national polity is not something to be celebrated. Apart from this I broadly agree with his observations.
Raj, India

Irrespective of what Mr Guha says, Democracy is a curse for India. Half of Indian politicians are corrupt and other half are not corrupt because they can't get avenues of corruption. Election is purely based on caste and forces each group to increase its numbers. This explains why Indian population is not showing any signs of stabilization. India is sitting on a population bomb being manufactured to win election battles.
Himanshu, UK

Many parties at the centre of power is certainly a hindrance to a stable democratic setup. It is leading to an unstable center. Why can't we have a two-party system? Perhaps, this can be realized if we follow a pyramid structure in filtering the parties contesting at the national level. At the lowest level, say the municipal body elections, every party can contest. A criterion should be decided on which of these parties (post-election) would be eligible for assembly elections. This can further be a criterion to contest for parliament elections. The filtering system also ensures that those who win the lowest elected bodies will work their way upwards. The top two parties naturally be representing the national interest. Hope to see some such system evolving.
Ashwath, India

Congratulations are in order to Indians of all stripes and colours. India is an amazing story - a true democracy - one which not just nascent and fledgling democracies the world over would do well to emulate.
Sumant Bhalla, USA

India's election is not just about winning and losing. It is a celebration of democracy and a recognition of the fact that a multi cultural, multi racial and multi lingual society is possible. It reminds every human being on this planet that they have a big say in running a nation and that it does matter to be an active part of this process.
Amar Bedi, Germany

Guha is respected as a historian. But his reading of the contemporary situation is below par with his intellectual image. He takes no notice of the fact that Indian political system has institutionalised those very evils to combat which was the dream of our founding fathers- regionalism, casteism, fragmentation of the society etc. Idealism and ideology are conspicuous by their absence. No party can do without criminals. Corruption in the political class is spiralling. What are the achievements of Indian democracy? Except that it gives licence to loot to any one who can garner more votes.
Chander Pal Singh, India

It is true that India is the world's largest democracy. But it is also true that India is one of the poorest and illiterate country of the world. Democracy is not good for India because the illiterate people apart from voting does not know what is democracy and hence they are exploited by the politicians and bureaucrats!!! Once the voting is over the Indian democracy becomes the mockery of democracy with corruption all over. It seems corruption is authorised in the Indian constitution?!!!
Joseph, France

An interesting article. The diversity and enormity of the Indian democracy is astounding as always. The political coalitions show another precarious attempt to bring the scattered parties, castes, groups or whatever into one umbrella. This democracy needs open minds, a honest and pragmatic vision from its leaders, disciplined eradication of corruption and exploitation, effective education, sound infrastructure, advanced security and obviously a lot of time and luck, to reap the full benefits of its vast human force. After all, people make the country.
Srinivas Hechina, USA

Considering all factors; Diversity, poverty, illeteracy, corruption etc India has done well with the experiment of democracy. i doubt India would have been what it is today had democracy not been there. With equal representation nationwide nobody can say that one area is favoured to the other. THIS KEEPS INDIA TOGETHER!
Rishi K Tewari, Nigeria

Well, here we go again, the largest democratic exercise in the world. I came across a good way to track all the news about India's upcoming elections, see www.indiaelects.in for all the news in one place.
IndiaElects, India

Indian democracy is not perfect -- because there is no such thing as perfect. Democracy is about people voting their preferences - not ours. Yes there are deficiencies but I'll take this any day over any other alternatives.
G. Ananth, USA

India is a unique nation with such diversity in culture, religion, language which has held together despite the differences after Independence believe the key lies in empowering people from lower social economic strata with education and uplift them from poverty, then only will politics in India be more fairer then just being based on religion ,caste and region.
Ahmed, UK

Democracy certainly gives India a bumper carnival every four years when criminals, freebooters and corrupt politicos hand out cash and make fantastic promises. The illiterate Indian is not such an idiot. He knows what the game is. Only the elite will get the goodies. The Plebs will continue to live in poverty. Two cheers for democracy!!
Reginald Massey, UK

India today stands as a beacon of hope and democracy in an increasingly violent and troubled Asia. Most of India's neighbours like Pakistan and Bangladesh have very fragile democracies and their governments are vulnerable to takeover anytime by their Army. Having said this the Indian election represents a Hobson choice to many voters. Many would be put off by the policies of both the major fronts the UPA and the NDA. While the NDA previously kept the Ram temple issue alive the UPA government succeeded in undermining some of Indi's great educational institutions like the IIT and AIIMS. The blatant policy of reservation for the backwards castes in educational institutions has been taken to absurd lengths by the UPA. While the present Prime minister Dr Singh is certainly a fine gentleman he also has devalued the authority of the office for the first time in India's history.
Ramesh Srinivas, India

While Dr Guha has broadly and generally given the election scenario, he has not done justice to the miracle of the surviving strength of Indian democracy however much the politicians and administrators are corrupt and the nation has deep divisions on regional, religious, caste, language basis and still remains the second largest growing economy and rightfully knocking the doors of UN Security Council for a permanent membership.
KR Santhanam, India

This is a mediocre article, with no new thoughts or analysis. An average university graduate with a bit of common sense and knowledge of current affairs would have written a more balanced article. It is also an openly pro-Congress, anti-BJP article. There are usual references to the alleged maltreatment of Muslims by BJP, which pleases pseudo-secular, anti-Hindu, pro-Muslim, pseudo-liberal western (read BBC), and communist ears. Tackling terrorism and improving the safety of common man is high on the agenda of Indian voters. The Congress party is expected to suffer major losses this time for sacrificing the security of the nation for its votebank politics and making citizens of India feel weak in their own country.
V Apte, Australia

The Congress has usually focused on economic growth and the other parties on 'values' which translated to authoritarian corruption on the part of the former and communalism of the latter. The Congress was finally ousted after the Emergency and the electorate has managed an interesting path between the two forces of corruption versus communalism by alternating between the parties and increasingly denying absolute power to any. Unfortunately politicians who fight for values often have a communal base and those who steer clear become cynical in money matters. The balance failed when communal parties proved to be often more corrupt than the Congress, and the common man started becoming cynical too. It's only when common people believe in their rights and start strongly fighting for justice that this will change.
Nandini, India

Mr Guha's perception that, states are beginning to act as sub nations is absolutely correct. Though the country is vested with a powerful government at the centre, utter lawlessness and anarchy prevails in many states only because of the absence of powerful governments at the state level. The ruling coalition that comes at the centre in the upcoming election definitely will be a conglomeration of several regional parties which are headed by double headed monsters whose prime motive is to amass private property. They will evolve whatever tactics they can to stick into power. As long as the ruling coalition at the centre is backed by these corrupt regional parties, the central government will have to keep off from preventing the corrupt dealings of the state governments.
Biju Mathew, Australia

Nothing new but only truth. Though the nation is in deep crisis due to corruption,cast pleasing attitude, it is sure that the democracy will survive here.Let me explain why, because a few yrs back when i went to my village to register as a voter i had to wait in the long queue for about 11 hrs(8 am to 7 pm).That is faith in democracy the people have. None of us really bothered to wait to get register in the voters list and a good number of them were young highly educated professionals.
Unni, India

This article does not pave any thought of modern Indian politics and policies. It seems as if it has been written in mid 70's and the writer has not gone any deeper on current Indian economical aspirations and political aspects. Obviously it has got many more facets to it and there has been great steep curve since in political establishment which he has categorically refrained to analyse. This is very vapid article which might please BBC readers in general but not the intellectual elite.
Neeraj Shah, London, UK

Its always India's poor and needy who are the real impetus behind the sucessful elections as they are promised for a better life once every five years and for forgotten to the glooms once the elections are over..There is a need to change the way in which Indians elect their leaders.Thanks to the resurgent Media people are able to look into the practises of their leaders more carefully and select their prospective candidates
Samavedam Vijaysaradhi, India

The physical aspect of voter's turnover makes Indian election the largest democratic show in the world. This is because India has 1 billion population. The corruption, intimidation, hero worship, lack of election issues that affects ordinary people, apathy for citizen's concerns, treatment of politics as a life long coveted trophy to accumulate ill gotten wealth and power defeats the whole purpose of democratic exercise.
Anis, UK

Great Article. But few comments especially against "Joseph, France" corruption, illiterate and poor lives every where even in the only self claimed super power USA. As a nation that formed 100 200 years ago(we fought for independence from British as one nation) and rite from the days of freedom we have gown a lot. The USA needed almost 150 years to come to level its now. we are just 50 to 60 year old in terms of independence as nation with all wealth plundered (before independence) we have achieved so much in the field of space education medicine, agriculture etc(core areas) which we achieved through this great democratic system and these great elections and the governments formed only.
Makesh, Indian

There is no doubt corruption in politics in India exists over a larger scale than most other countries, but I remain optimistic about the guile and competency of the current Prime Minister to combat the issues facing India today.
Sachit Desa, France



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