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Decline of Participative Democracy



  • GS Paper Mains paper 2
  • Optionals- Public Administration, Political Science
  • Polity and Governance: Participative Democracy, Recent Trends in Election, Reflections on Karnataka elections

Why in news?

  • The latest drama in Karnataka manifests well all the problems that are related with the type of democracy we have.
  • The role of elections in a democracy has come under scrutiny this time.

Where does the significance of Democracy lie?

  • The significance of democracy lies in how power is exercised by those elected to power.
  • The defining principle of democracy is the principle of One Person One Vote.

How over emphasis on the principle of One Person One Vote has affected Democracy?

  • It has reduced the idea of democracy to a ritual of casting votes.
  • The act of participation in a democracy was conceived as a dynamic and continuous process. But in a few years it has been reduced to merely an act of voting.
  • The society thus formed is fundamentally undemocratic in character.
  • The parties which speak for democracy have little democratic ethos within them.
  • Political parties are dominated by families or friends or business partners.
  • Nepotism and exclusion are the basic working principles of our political parties.
  • Today, voting has become a business transaction where the voters are ‘compensated’ for their votes.

What is the significance of voting?

  • Voting makes sure that those who have power are accountable in some way and that they exercise that power in a democratic manner.
  • Elections are only a means towards the goal of controlling those who wield power, but instead they have become the end in themselves.
  • In India, the mere exercise of voting or choosing a representative is being equated with democracy. This results in the election of people who govern undemocratically.

The Principle of trusteeship, Elections, Elected Representatives and Other Institutions:-

  • It was advocated by Gandhiji and industrialists like J.R.D Tata.
  • All of us have an equal claim to the public goods in the society we belong to.
  • Elections help us implement the principle of trusteeship.
  • Through elections we choose a person to take care of the ‘public wealth’ that belongs equally to all of us.
  • The elected representatives are merely trustees on our behalf and it is a primary duty of the trustee to make sure that they do not destroy what they are trustees of.
  • This principle of trusteeship has been completely destroyed by merely viewing democracy as an act of voting.
  • Good governance implies that these “trustees” take decisions and implement them so as to protect the common public goods.
  • Instead of protecting the common goods, the elected representatives take our share of the public wealth for their personal gain.
  • Other institutions are affected due to this watered down notion of democracy:
  • Very few institutions inculcate democratic values in their functioning.
  • Private institutions have little commitment to democracy. In an overall set up where democracy is not respected, they lose their little sense of trusteeship.
  • Political alienation happens because people are a part of the political process only for the few minutes when they cast their votes.
  • Political alienation leads to cultural alienation which in turn leads to right wing movements.
  • In order to get rid of most of the problems plaguing India, not only choice, but even power has to be democratised.


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