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The word Democracy is derived from two Greek words: Demos meaning “People”, and Kratos meaning “Power”.  It essentially means “Power to the People”.  The People decide which institutions and laws will govern them and their land.  A democracy regards the People’s will to be paramount.  `Vaxpopuli, vaxdei”, that is `the voice of the people is the voice of God”.  Hence, it is highly idealised and eulogised by all as a government “by the people, of the people, for the people”.  Essentials of a democracy include a just legislature, an independent and strong judiciary, an honest and incorruptible executive and free press.  Each of thse citadels supports a thriving democracy.
India is the largest democracy in the world with a parliamentary system of Government, which for all intents and purposes, is the best means for the expression of the popular will. Our democratic system of governance is run by the representatives of the people, elected periodically.  Indian democracy is based on universal adult franchise and a healthy and competitive party-system.  These parties play a significant role in the elections and in the smooth functioning  of the democracy. These political parties are the very life-blood of Indian democracy.
Liberty, equality, justice and fraternity are the very cornerstones of democracy.  They are not available under dictatorship and utilitarian forms of government.  The Constitution guarantees all the Indian citizens these basic freedoms and rights in the form of six broad categories of Fundamental Rights.  There is free, independent and separate judiciary to see that these rights are not violated and tampered with.  All are equal before law, right from the Prime Minister to a peon.  This is the very sprit and essence of our democracy.
Democracy is the best form of government so far found but it is not without its defects and criticism.  Communalism, casteism, regionalism, insurgency, terrorism and illiteracy, etc. are some of the basic problems and challenges being faced by our democracy. Ours is a secular country.  Secularism means freedom to profess, practise and propagate one’s religion without interfering with that of others.  There cannot be any discrimination on the basis of one’s faith and religion either.  There is no state religion and all religions and sects are equal  before the law.  But at times, communal and fundamentalist forces raise their ugly heads and cause considerable strain and threat to the spirit of democracy.  In our country, there are very many political parties, some of which are communal, regional or limited to a particular class of people.  During elections, narrow caster considerations are aroused and exploited by unscrupulous politicians.  Thus, the behaviour of a large number of electors is largely influenced by such dirty propaganda.  Communal feelings and considerations play an important role in the selection of candidates in various constituencies.  The leaders themselves fan communal feelings in constituencies where such a step materially brightens their election prospects.  Regionalism is another major factor in deciding the fate of candidates in the elections.  The politicians are fully aware of these weaknesses of the people and take maximum advantage of them as the circumstances demand.  The recent spate of communal unrests in Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh has time and again put our democracy in jeopardy.  Therefore, we have to be very vigilant and circumspective about it.  Democracy has been successful in India because we are a tolerant people and have proper regard for the others’ point of view.
The multiplicity of parties also causes lack of a strong opposition, which is essential for smooth functioning of democracy.  A strong opposition party is capable of providing an alternative government, if such an opportunity arises, and it also keeps a check on the authoritarian tendency and high-handedness of the government in power.  They criticise the government policies in a democratic and constructive spirit  so that national integration, secularism, unity, liberty, and the rights of the people are preserved and further strengthened.
    Violence is the antithesis of democracy.  Sometimes violence erupts during elections or on account of some other public demand.  It is a bad sign.  The democratic process has no place for violence.  Democracy functions on the basis of majority or consensus.  If violence is resorted to for undoing a majority decision, it is wrong and does not speak well of a democratic people.  Difference of opinion is not only compatible with democracy, but an  essential ingredient for it.  Discussion and persuasion are the only democratic methods, which may be called fair and in keeping with the democratic methods, which may be called fair and in keeping with the democratic spirit.
    Another bane of our democracy is the influence of big money in the elections.  Elections are a very costly affair.  The political parties as well as individual candidates spend large sums of money on elections.  Money has become a major decisive factor in our elections.  Money has become a major decisive factor in our elections.  In every election, money is squandered on transport, film shows, and propaganda to influence the electorate.  Political parties collect large sums of money from big businessmen and industrial concerns.  After having won the election, the political parties try to protect and further the interests of their donors.  The real sufferer in this political corruption is the common man, who is neglected, and progressive and welfare schemes to ameliorate his pitiable conditions are shelved.  Hence, it has been rightly pointed out by the critics of the system that, “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what they want for lunch.”
    But Perhaps, the greatest ill of our democracy is that a large proportion of the electorate is illiterate.  They do not properly understand the functioning of democratic institutions. They are unaware of their rights and often undermine the great power in their hands and end up wasting their votes.  These ignorant and illiterate people are easily swayed by cheap propaganda, empty slogans and attractive promises. Shrewd and unscrupulous politicians mislead them with tall talk and exploit their ignorance for their selfish objectives.
    Recently we have seen eclipse of democracy in the Middle East and also in our neighbourhood.  In Pakistan, democracy has been  thrown overboard, and the status of the minority is yet undefined.  These instances raise doubts in the minds of the people regarding the future of Indian democracy.  But India put all doubts to rest when it successfully conducted the General Elections of 2014 for electing the representatives of the 16thLok Sabha.  The world  watched democratic exercise on the Earth! These were the first Lok Sabha elections when the option of `None Of The Above’ or NOTA was introduced on the EVMs following Supreme Court directions to ensure secrecy of voters who use this option.  Lok Sabha elections 2014 witnessed the highest ever turnout with 66.38 percent of an estimated 814 million voters exercising their franchise – the highest ever in the history of general elections.  These elections are a testimony to Indian people’s faith in the institution of democracy.
    The decisive victory of a single party only depicts how Indian voters have become more assertive and active with regard to their participation in the democratic process.  This further reflects the growing political awareness and maturity of the Indian masses, which, in turn, has made the various political parties more conscious of their responsibility and accountability to the people.  For the democracy to thrive, we must always be ready to broaden the foundations, remove impediments to the free expression of people’s will and the various threats and challenges posed by forces hostile to the spirit of democracy.
   The future draws upon both the traditions inherited from the past and challenges encountered in the present, contemporary India.  Democracy is an evolutionary process, dependent on constant modification and change in the light of experience.  What we just need is a long term vision, an open-minded approach and a spirit of learning from our mistakes.  The fair and free elections, independent judiciary, enlightened voters, nationalistic political parties and the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by our Constitution ensure a bright future for Indian democracy.

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