Home Latest News Democratic backsliding in India is every political party’s doing | India News – Times of India

Democratic backsliding in India is every political party’s doing | India News – Times of India

Democratic backsliding in India is every political party’s doing | India News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Is this the moment? Is the arrest of AAP leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in excise case, in the middle of a Lok Sabha campaign, an ultimate proof of democratic backsliding in India? Is India hurtling towards becoming an elected autocracy? Is Indian democracy staring at a bleak future?

Many international democratic watchdogs already believe that India is undergoing a democratic recession.

Freedom House has lowered India’s classification from “Free” to “Partly Free”, and the V-Dem Institute has categorised India among “electoral autocracies“. The Economist Intelligence Unit has reclassified India as a “flawed democracy”. These organizations largely blame the central government under PM Modi for decline and deterioration of institutions and democracy in India.
Is that true? If yes, how true?

  • Admittedly, the Centre has a larger say in setting the boundary for political play and discourse in the country.
  • Plus, it has more resources and tools to tilt the playing field in its favour.
  • It’s easy for the Centre to offer post-retirement incentives to keep “referees” on its side. The lure of governorship and chairpersonship of innumerable commissions may be too tempting for many.
  • Then, it has investigative agencies which are increasingly becoming the “executioner” for the executive. An overwhelming number of ED investigations are being conducted against opposition leaders.
  • Curiously, if the same opposition leader joins the ruling party, then we don’t hear much about ED investigation against that person.
  • Though, correlation does not mean causation but there is too much of corelation between ED and its probes against opposition leaders.
  • However, this is not a new phenomenon in Indian politics. As Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar wrote in his TOI column, it’s a fact that all parties, Congress included, have exploited legislation and executive privileges to intimidate adversaries and shield their allies. “True, the BJP might not be praised for inventiveness in this regard, yet it stands out for its proficiency in such practices,” Aiyar said.

What about opposition: Saviours or saboteurs?

Most of the economic activity and politics happen at the state level in India. It’s the states which are the main drivers of India’s economy. Similarly, CMs and regional players have a greater opportunity and responsibility in shaping the course and discourse of democracy in India. Even now, a significant part of territory and population is being governed by non-NDA CMs and parties.

So, despite the so-called “doctoring” of the playing field, opposition has enough space, resources and players to keep playing and winning the games. But are opposition parties, which regularly claim “India is under undeclared emergency”, acting as “saviours” or “saboteurs” in the democratic “backsliding” in India?
Can we call opposition parties more democratic than the BJP and NDA partners?
In “How democracies die”, authors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have created four key indicators to measure Donald Trump’s authoritarian behaviour. Here is an abridged version of these indicators and how Indian politicians and parties measure up against them.

Sadly, almost all of Indian political leaders and parties pass the litmus test for authoritarian behaviour.
We don’t need to name names here. You think of any important politician and party, they will tick all four boxes.

‘Democratic dynasties’

Then, most parties are either dynastic or a single person- driven enterprise.
Here is an illustrative map of dynastic parties in India. Then there are first-generation single-person parties like TMC, BSP and AAP.

All these parties are likely to ultimately distort the democratic filed in the long run. As per a write-up in Kanchan Chandra’s ‘Democratic Dynasties’, the primary objection to dynastic politics in a modern democracy is that it introduces a birth-based exclusion. “A ruling class for which birth is itself a qualification, therefore, is a prima facie illegitimate basis for democratic representation.”

Dynastic, non-democratic parties can only “cry wolf” about democratic backsliding in India. The irony is so apparent here.
If India is undergoing a democratic recession, then all key players and parties must share the blame. If there is any difference, it may of degrees only but certainly not of kinds.


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