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Democracy As A Term And A Concept Politics Essay

Info: 5509 words (22 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Politics

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Democracy as a term and a concept has long been an object of debate in society, not least amongst philosophers, researchers and public debaters. The term originates in the Greek word ‘demokratia’ that simply translates into rule by the people, but to define what that really stands for is more complicated. Hence, there is not only one understanding of the word or one understanding of who will be included in the term ‘the people’ or what ‘the rule’ comprises (Held 1987). By and large democracy is a form of government in which people are governed by their own elected representatives. It is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. In this system of government, it is the people who are supreme and sovereign. They control the government. They are free to elect a government of their own choice. Freedom of choice is the core of democracy.

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Democracy therefore, in Schumpeter’s view, is simply a way for the people to elect or reject the rulers, not a system where people in general have an influence on the decisions made. Democracy in this sense becomes an institutionalized power competition between elites (Grugel 2002). India is a federal state with parliamentary system of democracy. General election in India was held for first time in 1952, from the time being India had a stable political scenario with 1975 to 1977 as exception when national emergency being declared as rise of other parties other than congress was seen.

Indian state is the largest democracy in the world. The Constitution of Indian was enforced on 26 January, 1950. It ushered in the age of democracy. India became a democratic republic infused with the spirit of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. The Preamble, the Directive Principles of State Policy and the Fundamental Rights reflect the Indian ideology as well as the caste, creed, religion, property, or sexes have the right to cast their vote. Parliamentary democracy in India is much hailed. India is said to be the biggest democracy in the world. Democracy is a form of government in which people are governed by their own elected representatives. It is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. In this system of government, it is the people who are supreme and sovereign. They control the government. They are free to elect a government of their own choice. Freedom of choice is the core of democracy. Political parties are the vehicles of ideas. Parties act as the bridge between social thought and political decision in democracy. The past more than half a century proved this democracy to be sham. The Indian politics system is a multiparty system. However, gradually politics has become a game of opportunism and corruption. Most political parties are only interested in coming to power. Every party adopts different caste politics. Some try to influence the people through caste politics. Some try to raise the religious sentiments of the people. The Indian ideology today is replaced by caste and religion. We enjoy every right in theory, but not in practice. Real democracy will come into being only when the masses are awakened and take part in the economic and political life of the country. For a democracy to be fully successful, the electorate should be literate about the politically conscious. They should be fully aware of their rights and privileges.

Analyzing the idea of democracy of Ambedkar in details, it can be found out that Ambedkar had unshakeable faith in democracy. In his conception of exploitation less society, democracy has an extra-ordinary role which he defined as ‘one person, one vote’; and ‘one vote, one value’. Democracy means empowerment of any person for participating in the process of decision-making relating to her/him, democracy means liberty, equality and fraternity – Ambedkar’s definition of democracy had such a tone. Because he presided over making of the Constitution and is being projected as its chief architect, there is a misunderstanding that parliamentary democracy is what he wanted. But nothing could be farther from the truth than this. He himself spoke against parliamentary democracy. He defined parliamentary democracy as “voting by the people in favour of their owners and handing over the rights of ruling over themselves” (Ray and Ray 2011). This provides a glance of the span of his ideal, which certainly was much beyond the Indian Constitution or any common place understanding about him. His conception of democracy appears to be purely people oriented. He showed that the bookish concepts of equality are detrimental to the disabled sections of society in the prevailing social setting and proposed a fundamental change in the concept of equality. It envisaged complete abolition of inequality. His principle of positive discrimination is based on this very concept of equality. But the operational aspects of this concept involved the need for some kind of autonomous institution, which was met by ‘State’ and ‘religion’. Dr. Ambedkar firmly believed that political democracy cannot thrive without social and economic democracy. In his concept of democracy, he opined that political democracy is not an end in itself, but the most powerful means to achieve the social and economic ideals in society. State socialism within the framework of parliamentary democracy can conquer dictatorship. Fundamental rights without economic security are of no use to the have-nots. He was against coercive centralized institutional authority that Hobbesian Philosophy maintains. Related life is consensual expression of shared experience, aspirations and values. If a small section of the society is allowed to maneuver the cultured symbols of the society that process becomes undemocratic and destructive. It is necessary to stress that his greatness lies in the radicalism of his conceptions, his vision of a human society sans any kind of exploitation; not in the remedies or apparatus he proposed in the circumstances prevailing in his time. Thus, Ambedkarism is of great relevance to Indian society even today in obtaining social justice, elimination of untouchability, in establishing equality and freedom and true democracy. Democratic socialism is the key note of his political thought and constitutionalism is the only way to achieve it.(Ray and Ray 2011)

A broader, but still minimalistic view of democracy is Robert Dahl’s concept of polyarchy. Meaning that democracy is a utopian idea we can never reach, he defines the current democratic states as polyarchies. (Dahl 1971) Dahl sets up eight criteria that constitute a democracy/polyarchy:

‘(1) Freedom to form and join organisations; (2) Freedom of expression; (3) Right to vote; (4) Eligibility for public office; (5) Right of political leaders to compete for support […] [and]votes; (6) alternative sources of information; (7) Free and fair elections; (8) Institutions for making government policies depend on votes and other expressions of preference’. (Dahl 1971)

The important role of civil society within a democratic state is described by Hadenius and Uggla. They argue that civil society has two main functions in democratic states: to develop pluralism in society and educate the people in the ways of democracy. Pluralism in society, were people are engaged together, create and endorse power bases, as people working together have a better opportunity to influence. This can affect the political discourse in the country. A pluralistic civil society will also prevent undemocratic behavior like oppression and discrimination through its nature of communication between different social groups (Hadenius and Uggla 1995). In the real sense of democracy each vote is an absolute power given to voters and he/she can exercise it to be benefitted by sending the right people to the parliament who in turn will make several people friendly legislations to help voters to lead better life and better opportunities. The real power of vote in an ideal democracy will be seen only when people voted for the right person or party depending upon their choices only and should only be based upon the belief that whomsoever he/she s voting will benefit them in long term. However with increasing cases of high profile corruption and misuse of powers in the Indian federal states by its lawmakers, there seem to be the rise of obvious question that if people are voting right people to power then why these cases are emerging? Or the people not voting for the right person? Or there is a lack of talent pool in the system which is not allowing people to vote for the right candidate?

The poor numerically dominate the electorate in many low-income democracies, yet have been largely unable to translate their political weight into effective service delivery and other economic gains (Mauro 1995; Hall and Jones 1999; United Nations Development Programme 2002). What constrains the electoral accountability of politicians in these settings? Explanations abound. Ethnicity-based clientelism may cause poor voters to value the politicians’ group identity (Horowitz 1985; Chandra 2004) and consequently have only a weak preference for electing honest politicians (Banerjee and Pande 2009). Alternatively, weak electoral institutions {ballot stuffng, vote buying, voter intimidation {may make it possible for the dominant elites to subvert democracy (Acemoglu et al. 2001; Simpser, 2008). Another possibility is that voters are unable to identify politicians who would serve them well, either because they lack the information or because they are unable to interpret the available information. This study highlights the fundamental difficulties in the electoral system where the profile of the candidate becomes secondary as compared to other factors as seen in India today. At the time of independence majority of Indian people were illiterate and the concept of democracy was evolving and experimental in nature. The concept of that “democracy flourished mainly in the countries where the people were more educated and the industrial revolution has caused a more or less rise in income” is not true in context of India. In the context of India its augmented that majority of the people are illiterate and due to this they don’t vote according to candidate profile or as per se for good candidates. But in current scenario in politics sees that more than 75% people are literate, still the number of corrupt politicians increases day by day form past where we don’t have high literacy rate in India. Thereby, the democracy didn’t do much good in India. This study hence is a step to focus on the importance of candidate profile for determining the voting pattern of the voters. This study will help in generating questions such as whether voters know their candidates or not? Whether there is any relation between good candidate profile and votes? Whether today the common man or the voter is exercising its right to vote in the manner intended in real democracy i.e. by understanding the candidate and his/her promises and casting vote without any prejudice and biasness? Whether we need an alternative political system or not?

This study will be hence focusing on voters itself. We see in the parliamentary democracy system that there are election at many levels from union level i.e. Member of Parliament to village level i.e. gram Panchayat level. The level of effect of candidate profile in this level also varies significantly and higher the level of the election the more the gap between the candidate and voters can be seen. The candidate at village level is more accessible to the voters and he/she is known by majority of the voters personally also but as the level grows higher the candidate seems to get distant from voters and only a few knows their candidate personally and also their objectives. In such scenario the voters are bound to get influenced by cast, creed, money power, party etc. Although with all its merits the democracy fails if the unit member of democracy i.e. the citizen fails to utilize its vote to proper effect. This can be seen in many ways such as not voting at all or voting for the wrong candidate. One of the main concerns raised by the public on wrong candidate selection is that they don’t get the right candidate to vote for. This study will also highlights whether we need alternate political form of practice and rights as right to recall. This paper will hence also seek out if right candidate is given to the public whether they will vote for them or not. Harda has been chosen for the same purpose as this town of Madhya Pradesh has an independent candidate who is associated with social activist and is fighting for elections from past many years but couldn’t succeed. The people of constituency are happy with the work she is doing but are unwilling to give their support as votes.

In recent past India experienced the “Anna andolan” and people concern over corrupt politics. People talked about the alternative for current political system, and formed an “Aam Adami party” as “good Party”, but chances are very grim for candidates of this party to win because there are different unfolded factors which determine the voting behavior of people. The idea behind the research originated from this question itself. If the people have a sense that political class is corrupt and their representatives are not doing their real duty then what is the reason they are selecting those same individual when they have the opportunity to vote those corrupt people out of power. The topic was also chosen mainly because in India although many election studies have been done by various academicians not many have attempted to know the motivation factor behind the voting for a particular candidate by the voters. All the studies from the Indian perspective either are concerned with statistics or focuses on one section of the society such as dalits or Muslims. The research on voting behavior is quite common in western literature but not in India.

This study therefore focuses to find out the reasons for voting behavior by the voters. The research is an exploratory research. Exploratory research is a form of research conducted for a problem that has not been clearly defined. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data collection method and selection of subjects. The idea behind the topic is to have a new insight in the problem of understanding the various factors affecting the voting behavior. This research will also explain the various factors involved in deciding voting for a particular candidate and relevance of candidate profile in voting behavior. Mix methodology is used so that it can bring out enrich data and further it leads to in depth understanding on topic. Research tools which are used are focused group discussion, key informant interview and questionnaire to get respondents give their feedback effectively.

Contextualizing the study

Political situation is grim and people are coming up with alternative of good people in politics. But would be very good candidate profile bring success in election? Or are there compelling reasons to analyze the complex interplay of socio, political and cultural factors that can throw light on the issue of electoral success.

Various researches undertaken by the psephologists have exposed a vacuum, pointing towards the need to probe deeper into the process by which the electoral decisions are influenced. Psephologists have been more concerned with the pre poll summary and exit poll; with their chief interest in ‘what” than “how” of the electoral results. In the current political scenario there is the vast vacuum created by the hopelessness of the established political parties and this vacuum offers scope for alternative political option. However despite the desperation the new political alternative offered by new comers the result shows otherwise. There is total disappointment as far as success to the candidate with attractive profile. Though it is not new that voting behavior involves inter plays a numbers of extraneous factors. However probe into the link between candidate profile and decision making on voting behavior promises an exposer into the less studied area of work in electoral studies. It is most common excuse with voters that they are hopeless and under-motivated to participate in the process of election because they do not have any promising candidate.

This study was prompted by the fact that the Harda constituency had a candidate who have been fighting peoples battles for last many years, though not belonging to established political party having unlimited recourses, but to a newly established political option created.



During the time of independence India took on democracy as chosen form of government. The idea of democracy was still at young stage in west and Indian leaders preferred to this without thinking much for it. The Indian masses were illiterate and poor who didn’t understood the meaning of democracy and neither the institutions associated with it. Neither had he understood the rights given nor the responsibilities. The masses however were more concerned with their two square meal rather than understanding the importance of good representatives in the democratic system. This was not the question with the west where the democracy only originated after the states have become industrialised therefore giving its people sufficient resources to think of other things rather than two square meal. As Ashutosh varshney suggest that in the West, tensions in democracy have remained moderate for at least three reasons: universal suffrage came to most Western democracies only after the Industrial Revolution, which meant that the poor got the right to vote only after those societies had become relatively rich; a welfare state has attended to the needs of low-income segments of the population; and the educated and the wealthy have tended to vote more than the poor. The Indian experience is different on all three counts. India adopted universal suffrage at the time of independence, long before the transition to a modern industrialized economy began. The country does not have an extensive welfare system, although it has made a greater effort to create one of late (Varshney 2007).

As far as democracy in India is concerned what was a developing idea in 1947 has now become a failed idea; its failure now being directly felt by citizen’s in the last two decades. Now, the failure here doesn’t refers to failure of whole democracy itself but the basic nature of the democracy which was ought to be a governance model “by the people, for the people and of the people”. The distance between the candidate and the voters in the past few years have been on increase and the idea is ably put by Yogendra yadav in his article alternative politics that the agenda of political reform in India has to be different from the challenge in the advanced industrial democracies, for our problem is not demobilisation and slowing down of democracy (contra Unger’s diagnosis of western democracies).

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At the same time, unlike other new democracies of the Third World, India does not face the challenge of democratic transition or consolidation. The problems in Indian democracy are not the result of a failure of the modern idea of democracy to take roots in an alien setting. Rather we are faced with problems arising out of an apparent success of the democratic experiment. The people accepted the democratic invitation and over the years popular political participation has only gone up. The last decade has seen something of a democratic upsurge. Popular participation is not devoid of a sense of legitimacy and efficacy of the democratic system. The elections are free and fair in the minimal sense that the rulers are not assured of a return to power; they are at least more free and fair than in most Third World democracies. Yet the existence of this democracy does not deliver what democracies are supposed to: peoples’ control over how collective decisions affecting their lives are arrived at. The real failure of the current phase of Indian democracy is not the failure to hold free and fair elections, nor the inability of the people to affect change in governments through the exercise of their free vote, but the growing distortion in the mechanism of political representation, the growing distance between the electors and the elected, the inability of the mechanism of competitive politics to serve as a means of exercising effective policy options. Clearly, the institutional frame of democracy has failed to translate popular participation and enthusiasm into a set of desirable consequences.

Voting Behavior

Vote is the power given under democracy in the hands of common person and is a wheel of change if used properly. Voting is the main form of political participation in liberal democratic nations and the study of voting behaviour is a highly specialized sub-field within political science. According to J.C. Plano and Riggs, “Voting Behaviour is a field of study concerned with the ways in which people tend to vote in public election and the reasons why they vote as they do.”

Voting behaviour hence is a field of study which mainly focuses on finding the reasons and rationale behind the choices made by the voter. The analysis of voting patterns focuses on the determinants of why people vote as they do and how they arrive at the decisions they make. Sociologists tend to look to the socio-economic determinants of support for political parties, observing the correlations between class, occupation, ethnicity, sex, age and vote; political scientists have concentrated on the influence of political factors such as issues, political programmes, electoral campaigns, and the popularity of party leaders on voting behaviour.

According to J.C. Plano and Riggs, “Voting Behaviour is a field of study concerned with the ways in which people tend to vote in public election and the reasons why they vote as they do.”

The study of voting behaviour is a common practice in western academia, the decision making process is sometimes compared to that of buying decision. The study of voting behaviour in India was not directed towards the voters itself but was more or less confined to finding out the failure and success of the democratic institutions. As D L Sheth; 1970 suggests that in India theoretical and empirical studies of India’s party and political system have being receiving increasing attention. By and large, however, these studies are confined to a characterisation of, or controversy about, the structure of the system; they deal much less with the elements that support such a structure, may change it, or indeed undermine it. One of the most obvious of these elements is the changing pattern of behaviour, opinions and attitudes of voters, not simply as a functional attribute of the prevailing structure, but as an independent variable that has a causal significance for the structure itself. Although so obvious an item of investigation, voter behaviour and Voter development have by and large been ignored in political analysis.

He also points out that indeed, studies of voting behaviour carried out so far have underplayed the voter himself as an independent determinant, and have instead viewed voters’ behaviour as some sort of conditioned response to existing structures and the environmental forces operating at the level of his immediate locality. This is evident from the image of the Indian voter projected by political and anthropological studies and endorsed by political activists. Despite a steady increase in voter turnout and despite frequent shifts in electoral support for the parties, especially at the constituency level, the notion of herd behaviour of the Indian electorate still persists. It is an image of a voter for whom voting is a ritual or at best an act of fulfilling extra-political obligations. While voting, he is not only unaware of the political implications of his act but is supposed to be unconcerned and innocent of the fact that he is involved in an act of choice. Political reality is something quite external to his universe of perceptions and evaluations. If he changes his party support from one election to another, he is not guided by any political or civic considerations, but is only responding to a change in factional arrangement within political parties at the local level or to the exhortations of ‘middle men’ who are in command of ‘vote banks’.

Operating on such an image of a voter, political parties and activists put a premium on the mechanics of electioneering rather than on critical issues, policy choices and problems of governmental performance. They would rather depend on local ‘bosses’ and ‘miracle men’ of the polls than be concerned about patient cultivation of support, based on a record of work. Relying on ‘vote banks’ and ‘bargainers’ who are supposed to control these ‘vote banks’, they tend to extend the system of patronage and spoils. The voters, in turn, come to interpret elections as providing an opportunity occurring at regular intervals to extract individual and group benefits. The maxim that “in democracy the people get the system they deserve” thus also becomes applicable in reverse. This sets the vicious circle going, in which the relationship between a representative and a citizen becomes one of that between an ‘advancer” and a ‘blackmailer’. The rules of the game are assiduously observed, but the game played no longer remains one in which they ostensibly believe they are in. The Indian scholar Johri observes a vote is the right to express one’s choice or opinion, especially by officially marking a paper or by raising one’s hand. Voting behaviour is a set of attitudes and beliefs towards election at the national as well as at the local level. The voting behaviour of India is influenced by its local culture.

In Voting Behaviour in rural and urban areas of Punjab; Journal of Political Studies Dr. Mughees Ahmed points out that Biradari seems to be stronger than political fidelity as far as motivations for voting behaviour are concerned. Two elements are required for the victory of a candidate; one is the ticket of a major political party and the other is the favour of a major Biradari. Individualism in voting behaviour does not exist in the voting system in the politics of rural areas comparatively more than in the urban areas. The tendency of voter is limited to major political parties or to major biradaries. Political scientists believe that political parties and pressure groups are necessary for democracy. Generally in Pakistan and especially in Punjab biradaries are playing the role of pressure groups and providing a contesting atmosphere which is necessary for democracy. The better level of education and political awareness will reduce the power of discouraging elements of biradarism. Biradarism as a racial or group prejudice should be discouraged. Political parties assure an individual citizen that his general interests will be safeguarded with minimum of personal involvement and if the need arises, the citizens would participate actively. However in Punjab the same is ensured by groups and biradaries. Speaking in a South Asian context, no doubt, societies are multi-lingual and multi-cultural and pluralism has been a hallmark of India throughout the ages. However, pluralism must be neutral in essence: it should not be allowed to work as leverage for resource allocation. Biradarism is more acute in rural and less in urban areas. It has worked as a source of alignment and realignment in the electoral process and resource allocation on such considerations. Smith; 1997 suggest that the voter goes through decision making process similar to those of buyer or consumer in his choice of candidate or political party. In voting behaviour, choice is often influenced by familiarity with the candidate, or sometimes the level of trust in the candidate and/or his political party. There are however, many conscious and unconscious reasons underlying why people vote the way they do. Some of these reasons are rational while others are emotional. The split between the two is called the “emotional/rational dichotomy”.

The idea of alignment of the voter to ethnic group is also a factor which exists in India as suggested by the success of ethnic parties in recent times. Limited information about politician quality provides a rationale for this; Ethnic networks provide informal insurance and enable information flows (Habyarimana et al. 2007; Miguel and Gugerty 2005). Furthermore, a politician’s ethnic identity is often a good predictor of redistributive preferences (Pande 2004; Besley et al. 2007). All else being equal, both reasons will cause voters to favor politicians belonging to their own ethnicity and this will provide the party that represents the majority ethnic group with an electoral advantage. This may, in turn, reduce elections to a mere ‘counting of heads’ and lessen the role of elections as a source of accountability (Horowitz 1985). Consistent with this hypothesis (Norris and Mattes 2003; Posner et al. 2010) report a significant electoral advantage for the party representing the ethnic majority in Sub Saharan Africa

Theories On Voting Behavior

Voting behaviour study in India has not been done with the voters in mind but several other factors as the institutions involved in the process, ethnicity etc. therefore it becomes imperative to look towards models developed in western worlds. Voting is the simplest form of political participation and therefore the most common way for citizens to take part in the political process in democracies.

Voting is a phenomena that most citizens can relate to and therefore opinions about voting and motives for voting, including motives for choice of party/candidate, are as various as the population investigated. Also, in democratic countries elections are held regularly and there is a cumulative set of data available to study tendencies in voting behaviour. This has made research on voting behaviour immense (H Catt, 1996). The easy management of large sets of data through computer programmes has facilitated statistical research on voting behaviour. Within the European context, a strong correlation between ethnicity and election outcomes was observed during the first part of the 20th century (P Norris & R Mattes,2003). The research at the time showed that fluctuating party loyalties was not widespread. The common view amongst researchers on voting behaviour was that voters who changed loyalty in between elections where uninformed and uninterested in politics. In the late 1960’s new research showed that class alone could not explain voting behaviour, considering the increasingly common phenomena of people both voting outside their social standing and changing their party identification between elections. In order to explain this behaviour, research on the subject started to change and the scope broadened.

Theoretical Approaches To Voting Behaviour

One basic thought within the research on voting behaviour, historically as well as today, is that voter’s loyalty to a large extent follows group identity patterns. Many different factors can function as a base for group identities. Ethnicity, language, religion and social standing are all determinants for what group identity individuals will have. It is important to note that group identity is not primarily determined by actual characteristics but by the view of society as divided into different entities. This includes the specific group’s internal view of themselves as a separate entity, as well as society’s external view of the group as a separate entity.

Ethnic vote is a concept within the theoretical views on voting behaviour where group identity and ethnicity are looked upon as basic motives for choice of party/candidate. Another approach is loyalty vote. When a voter identifies with a specific political party and votes for that party as a sign of support for the party, rather than a will to affect the orientation of the present politics, this is referred to as loyalty voting in the theoretical literature. In this concept lies t


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