Different countries face different kinds of challenges.
Foundational challenge: At least one fourth of the globe is still not under democratic government. The challenge for democracy in these parts of the world is very stark. These countries face the foundational challenge of making the transition to democracy and then instituting democratic government.
- This involves bringing down the existing non-democratic regime, keeping military away from controlling government and establishing a sovereign and functional state.
Challenge of expansion: Most of the established democracies face the challenge of expansion. This involves applying the basic principle of democratic government across all the regions, different social groups and various institutions.
Deepening of democracy: The third challenge of deepening of democracyis faced by every democracy in one form or another.This involves strengthening of the institutions and practices of democracy.
- This should happen in such a way that people can realise their expectations of democracy. But ordinary people have different expectations from democracy in different societies.
- Therefore, this challenge takes different meanings and paths in different parts of the world. In general terms, it usually means strengthening those institutions that help people’s participation and control.
Thinking about political reforms
Each of these challenges is linked to the possibility of reforms. We discuss challenges only because we think these can be overcome.
Generally all the suggestions or proposals about overcoming various challenges to democracy are called ‘democracy reform’ or ‘political reform’.
Some broad guidelines that can be kept in mind while devising ways and means for political reforms in India:
- It is very tempting to think of legal ways of reforming politics, to think of new laws to ban undesirable things. But this temptation needs to be resisted.
- Any legal change must carefully look at what results it will have on politics. Sometimes the results may be counter-productive. For example, many states have banned people who have more than two children from contesting panchayat elections. This has resulted in denial of democratic opportunity to many poor and women, which was not intended.
- Democratic reforms are to be brought about principally through political practice. Therefore, the main focus of political reforms should be on ways to strengthen democratic practice.
- Any proposal for political reforms should think not only about what is a good solution but also about who will implement it and how.
Remember that none of the options offered here is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. You can opt for a mix of more than one options, or come up with something that is not offered here.
You cannot have democracy in a real sense unless people and politicians overcome the barriers of caste and religion.”
The corruption of the politician is more visible and we get the impression that all politicians are corrupt. Some of them are and some of them are not.”
- the rulers elected by the people must take all the major decisions;
- elections must offer a choice and fair opportunity to the people to change the current rulers;
- this choice and opportunity should be available to all the people on an equal basis; and
- the exercise of this choice must lead to a government limited by basic rules of the constitution and citizens’ rights.