Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 23 March 2024

How we, the citizens, must see this election

Why in news:

The great dance of India’s democracy has begun. Spanning 80 days across seven phases and involving approximately 969 million voters, with over 15 million polling and security personnel, it will be the largest exercise in electoral democracy.  Much of the world’s attention, from both admirers and detractors, is focused on India’s democracy. The political class will purvey diverse narratives, some true and others false.


  • The past decade has witnessed different dimensions of India’s democracy manifesting in a myriad ways, sometimes uplifting and at other times contentious. 
  • There has been a near-complete departure from a bipartisan, consensus-based democratic process and even a near-complete breakdown of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition on important public issues, including matters of security, the economy, and constitutional values. 
    • This is unfortunate because the idea of democracy permeates every aspect of a citizen’s life, from our institutions and processes in governance to public policies and their contestations.

Challenges in front of our democracy

  • As we approach yet another general election, how must we, as voters, see this election? Rather, how must we, as citizens, see our democracy as we step out to cast our vote? 
  • However, three challenges stand out: 
    • First, whether India’s democracy has the capacity to preserve the pluralism that India has symbolised.
    • Second, why is its increasingly representative system not responsive to the need to progress towards a more equitable society.
    • Third, what is its capacity to foster a national identity based on the scientific temper to make the transition from a traditional to a modern, rational, and progressive society?
  • India has long been a diverse society, and after independence from colonial rule, it adopted a constitutional framework that recognised group-specific rights. 
    • However, there is a normative deficit in India’s constitutional framework; the concept of fraternity is not fully implanted in the minds of all Indians, and India faces the challenge of preserving pluralism while consolidating the fragile political consensus that surrounds it. 
    • Preserving our plural society requires the energies of all citizens in public life, political life, and civic bridge-building. 
  • Generating new thinking adequate for the twenty-first century will also require the best of theological reflection in every religious tradition and theological leadership that is responsive to the challenges of both secularism and religious pluralism.
  • Deprivation is especially deeply embedded in the Indian socio-economic fabric as a result of multi-layered intersectional oppression that cuts across class, caste, gender, and religion and continues to push certain groups to complete exclusion. 
    • This exclusion takes economic, political, and social forms. Even as India rapidly grows and is poised to become a major global power in the near future, it is important to remember that with power comes responsibility. 
    • The essence of that responsibility is the unwritten moral obligation that people with wealth, power, and prestige owe to those who are less fortunate. A new social contract is perhaps necessary. 
    • The state plays an intertemporal role in distributing income and managing risks in the daily lives of its citizens, laying the groundwork for solidarity so that no one is left behind.

Reality of Indian Democracy:

  • Let us first get irrelevant anxieties out of the way: India is not at risk of a slide into an authoritarian system. 
    • Those who think otherwise do not understand the fierce democratic spirit of the Indian people.

Options to resolve issues involved with indian society:

  • Many, if not all, scientists believe that education will free society from oppression and injustice. 
    • This is because knowledge re-establishes the locus of control over an individual’s life and destiny, for once s/he has identified the oppressive forces influencing their life, s/he can seek to direct or resist them. 
    • Individual and community agency grows as a result of knowledge. The expansion of knowledge is the foundation for freedom of choice.
  • True, impediments stand in the way. To begin with, unscientific patterns of thought have a pervasive and subversive impact on people’s outlook on life and its values. 
    • Consider how superstition continues to dominate the minds of a large population, regardless of education level. 
    • This is exacerbated by pseudoscience masquerading as science. Worse, as a people, Indians remain captives of savants and soothsayers, and the belief that the fault is in the stars rather than in themselves is passed down from generation to generation. 
    • When people begin to explain away oppression and inequality as a result and respond to injustice with nonchalance, they brutalize life itself.
  • Hence, there is no other path to a more equal and informed society than the path of knowledge democratization. 
    • This entails advancing the scientific temper: an open mind to new knowledge, a willingness to abandon unexamined dogmas, and a critical thinking way of life that diminishes superstition, religious bigotry, and pseudoscience. 
  • India’s democracy is still a work in progress, and we as citizens are a long way from realising a truly liberal democratic polity and an open-access society.


India’s electoral democracy does well on several variables: voter turnout, turnover of incumbents, and political contestation. The general elections give each of us the opportunity to choose carefully and diligently to secure a just and equitable political order. One that upholds the values enshrined in our constitution: justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. If all citizens were to try, each in small ways, there can be little doubt that India will remain a beacon of a progressive, plural, modern society.