(MainsGS2:Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.)
- The democracy that is functional around the world today was essentially a 19th century to 20th century western creation.
Universal adult franchise:
- Every civilisation claims to have had some form of democratic origin but the institution of universal adult franchise and governance through regular and multi-party elections (the universal norm today) has at the most a 100 years or less of practice behind it.
- Even in the most “advanced” democracies such as the United States, “universal franchise” of the 1920s did not include African-American citizens.
- In Britain, women obtained the right to vote in the 1930s, in France in 1944, and in Switzerland as late as 1971, over two decades after their Indian sisters.
Devolution of power:
- Basic to democracy is the devolution of power, and with it, welfare from the elite echelons to the ground level which occurs on the premise of the individual and equality.
- The near-universal abolition of autocratic monarchies and hereditary aristocracies and their replacement by governance through popular mandate (with exceptions) and the spread of economic resources, infrastructure, education, health, etc. to the masses, with all their shortcomings and lacunae, call for acknowledgment even as the demand for these grows every day, constantly, and legitimately.
Urge for equality:
- It is important to note that human history has been witness to several experiences of equality, mostly in its religious form: non-theistic Buddhism and monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam and Sikhism were proponents of social equality.
- humanity’s urge for equality has erupted over and over again in different parts of the world at different times; it was the same urge that had led to the most recent experiment of Marxian socialism in about a third of the globe and a large chunk of the population.
- However, it is equally important to note that no egalitarian ideology has ever been able to create an egalitarian society.
- The uniformity takes the form of periodic multi-party “free and fair” elections and guarantees of various kinds of freedoms, especially of the market.
- In practice again, contrary to theory, even as the voter is all alone in the polling booth voting as an untrammelled individual, her/his vote is still conditioned by numerous demands on it by family, community, religion, culture, and, above all, by the political alternatives offered by political parties.
- A loss of individuality is implicated here as the individual does not create the choices which are given by parties, very often wrapped in false propaganda and even more false promises and the individual has the “freedom” to choose one or another of these.
- Jawaharlal Nehru had hoped that education and the experience of democracy would force a retreat on these operative categories and generate a more “modern” consciousness among the masses.