Indian Democracy-Looking Back, Looking Forward

A panel discussion on ‘Indian Democracy-Looking Back, Looking Forward’ was organized by LOKNITI-CSDS  in collaboration with Jain University  on 10 July 2016 at Bengaluru. It marked the start of a series of events to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the formation of the Lokniti network. The programme also coincided with the start of the 10th Annual Summer School on Quantitative Methods which Lokniti organised for the first three years with IIAS Shimla and since then with Jain University.

Sandeep Shastri, Pro Vice Chancellor of Jain University and National Coordinator of the Lokniti Network welcomed the gathering, reflected on the theme of the discussion and introduced the Panelists. He also drew attention to the fact that Jain University and Lokniti-CSDS, have focused on training a new generation of scholars in quantitative techniques.

The first panelist was the eminent historian and writerRamachandra Guha. He commenced his presentation by lauding the work of Lokniti over the last two decades He complimented the group for their contribution to election studies in particular and a nuanced understanding of Indian politics in general. He drew attention to the fact that the decision of the Constitution makers to secure the right to vote for every citizen was an important foundation step in the creation of a democratic framework in Independent India. He highlighted the importance of the electoral process and the success of the Indian electoral machinery. He called India an 'election only' democracy and felt that one of the biggest challenges the system faced was the decline of public/political institutions and made specific reference to the police and judiciary.

Ashutosh Varshney, Professor of Political Science at Brown University and a leading Comparative Politics Expert, spoke of the Electoral Vibrancy and Liberal Deficits of Indian democracy. Anchoring his arguments in Democratic Theory, he stressed that India's democratic experiment clearly indicated the minimal requirement of electoral democracy being met even as the broader requirement of democracy between elections remaining unfulfilled. This he said created a range of democratic deficits. He dwelt at length on the contemporary expressions of these deficits and concluded, by paying rich tributes to Lokniti for its important interventions in the debate on Indian democracy and its rich contribution to theorizing on the working of India's electoral democracy.

The third Panelist was Suhas Palshikar a leading scholar on Indian politics and a Professor of Political Science at Savitribai Phule University at Pune. He took forward the arguments made by the scholars and focused on the road ahead by highlighting the contours of the changing discourse on nationhood and identified the factors contributing to the same. He also dwelt at length in the rise of majoritarianism and emphasized it should not be solely associated with the rise of an assertive Hindu Nationalism. As the Co-Director of Lokniti, he thanked the fellow panelists and other participants for their support and endorsement.

Once the panelists spoke, there was an hour long dialogue with many distinguished citizens among the audience drawing attention to a range of issues. Besides,  the faculty and researchers of Jain university, the participants in the Summer School were part of the audience. There was an elaborate analysis of the impact of social media on the working of democracy, the gender question and the democratic deficit, corruption and its wider implications, decline of public institutions and multiple contours of majoritarianism.

The three panelists responded to the queries and the concluding remarks was delivered by Sanjay Kumar the Director of CSDS. He thanked the eminent Panelists for having spared time on a Sunday evening to be part of the discussion. He also thanked Jain University for hosting the event and it's Faculty, Researchers and students for their active participation.