by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor
“The decline of democratic norms in India has implications not only for India, but also for the region as a whole. It is crucial that steps are taken to strengthen India’s democracy and ensure that the country remains a stable and democratic force in the region.” ~ Open letter by 71 former civil servants of India.
Alas! The largest democracy in the world is unfortunately deteriorating at a rapid pace, with certain individuals taking advantage of the resulting chaos. In contrast to Nero, who was committed to quelling fires in ancient Rome and preventing future incidents, the contemporary political figures in power are cynically manipulating democratic systems and mocking the citizens they are meant to serve. The rise of Modicracy in India is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many, and it is only a matter of time before the consequences of these actions become clear, potentially resulting in far-reaching damage to the country.
The decline of democratic norms in India has been a matter of concern for several years now. The country’s democracy, which was once hailed as a shining example for the developing world, has been eroding under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government’s crackdown on dissent and the media has been particularly alarming, as it threatens the very foundations of democracy.
Risk of losing India’s economy and international standing
Under the Modi government, democracy has been replaced by what some have called “Modicracy.” The government has used its power to silence dissent and consolidate its grip on power. Journalists, academics, and activists who criticize the government have been targeted, arrested, and even killed, reports asserted. The government has also used the judiciary and other state institutions to its advantage, often at the expense of due process and the rule of law.
One of the most concerning aspects of the decline of democratic norms in India is the government’s control of the media. Media censorship is rampaging, and media houses are being raided based on fabricated charges. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has started its own media outlets to develop a cult around the prime minister, rather than promoting a healthy governing system. The government’s influence over the media has been particularly alarming, as it limits the free flow of information and prevents citizens from making informed decisions about their government.
The consequences of this decline in democratic norms are manifold. First and foremost, it threatens the basic rights and freedoms of Indian citizens. It undermines the ability of the media to hold the government accountable and limits the space for open debate and discussion. This is particularly concerning given India’s diversity and the need for different voices to be heard.
The decline of democratic norms also has serious implications for India’s economy and international standing. The erosion of democratic values can make it harder for India to attract foreign investment and maintain the trust of international partners. This is particularly important given the country’s aspirations to become a global economic powerhouse.
The fact is that, the decline of democratic norms in India is not a unique phenomenon, and other countries provide examples of what could happen if the trend continues. Countries like Egypt, Hungary, and the Philippines have all experienced a similar erosion of democratic values in recent years, which has resulted in a concentration of power in the hands of their leaders.
Like these other countries, India’s decline towards “Modicracy” threatens to undermine the rule of law, restrict freedom of speech and the press, and suppress dissent. The government’s tendency to label dissenters as “anti-national” or “enemies of the state” creates a culture of fear and intimidation, which makes it difficult for civil society to hold the government accountable. The situation is further compounded by media censorship and raids on media houses, which have created an atmosphere of self-censorship and fear among journalists. This will not only be beneficial for India’s democracy, but also for the country’s economy and international standing.
The Modi government’s economic policies have also come under criticism for their adverse effects on the economy, and for allowing selected cooperate tycoons to assault the country’s spinal code. The way government is handling many critical issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic has been widely criticized, with experts arguing that the focus on symbolism over substance has led to a devastating impact on the economy and public health.
To avert future national calamities, the BJP should learn from the failures of other countries that have experienced a similar erosion of democratic norms. They should prioritize building strong and independent democratic institutions, respecting the rule of law, and protecting freedom of expression and the press. The government should also ensure that it engages with civil society, provides a platform for dissent, and listens to the voices of its citizens.
The Modi government’s increasing power can be attributed to a lack of unity among the opposition parties in India. The opposition has been unable to present a united front against the ruling BJP, which has enabled the government to consolidate its power and implement its policies without much opposition.
Opposition Disunity and Genealogical Nepotistic Culture
However, it is not just the lack of unity among the opposition parties that has helped the Modi government to become so powerful. The Congress, which is the main opposition party in India, has been criticized for its genealogical nepotistic culture. The party has been accused of promoting members of the Gandhi family or its stooges, rather than promoting merit and talent. This has not only led to a lack of fresh ideas and leadership within the party, but has also made it difficult for the party to present a strong alternative to the BJP.
The Congress has also been criticized for its lack of strategy and vision. The party has failed to articulate a clear vision for the country, and has been unable to come up with a strategy to counter the Modi government’s policies. This has made it difficult for the party to attract voters and build a strong opposition against the BJP. The congress must know that walking from south to north and west to east may not provide any insights into the revival of the political opposition against the cult-driven BJP government without addressing the true failures within, but certainly it can still aid in burning belly fat.
However, it is important to note that the consolidation of power by the BJP is not just a result of these factors. The government has also been successful in implementing its policies, such as demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax, which have been popular with some sections of the population.
Implications for neighbouring countries
At the same time, the decline of democratic norms in India is not just a concern for the country itself, but also has implications for its neighbouring countries. As one of the largest and most influential countries in South Asia, India’s political and economic stability has a significant impact on the region as a whole. The erosion of democratic values and the increasing centralization of power in the hands of the Modi government could have serious implications for India’s relationships with its neighbours.
One major area of concern is India’s relationship with Pakistan. The two countries have a long-standing history of conflict, and the decline of democratic norms in India could exacerbate tensions between the two nations. The Modi government’s policies, such as the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, have already strained relations between India and Pakistan. The lack of democratic values in India could further fuel resentment and hostility in Pakistan, which could have serious implications for regional stability.
Dr. Jaishankar, who was chosen by Modi to lead India’s external affairs, has made statements regarding Pakistan that have sparked controversy. Some feel that his recent comments, including calling Pakistan the epicentre of terrorism, are not in line with the strategic diplomacy approach of many other respected Indian diplomats. It is important for top enablers of the country’s foreign policy to avoid making statements that could be seen as confrontational and potentially detrimental to diplomatic relations. It is essential that Jaishankar does not resort to tactics of sensationalism or political posturing, and instead upholds the values of professionalism and impartiality expected of his position. Diplomacy is a different ball game.
Another area of concern is India’s relationships with other neighbouring countries, such as Bangladesh and Nepal. These countries have traditionally had close ties with India, but the decline of democratic norms in India could strain these relationships. The centralization of power in the Modi government could make it more difficult for these countries to engage with India on an equal footing, which could lead to resentment and instability.
In addition to political implications, the decline of democratic norms in India could also have economic consequences for the region. India is a major economic power in South Asia, and the erosion of democratic values could make it more difficult for the country to attract foreign investment and maintain its economic dominance. This could have a ripple effect throughout the region, as other countries depend on India’s economic stability.
Bottom line is that the erosion of democratic values in largest democracy on the planet could exacerbate tensions and fuel instability in the region, which could have political and economic consequences. It is crucial that steps are taken to strengthen India’s democracy and ensure that the country remains a stable and democratic force in the region.