India is celebrating 75 years of independence. An apt time to reconcile its gains and losses and also access where the critics of the current government have gone wrong. On August 15, 2022, India and Indians have travelled a long way on the road to democracy during the last 75 years. We have every reason […]

India is celebrating 75 years of independence. An apt time to reconcile its gains and losses and also access where the critics of the current government have gone wrong. On August 15, 2022, India and Indians have travelled a long way on the road to democracy during the last 75 years. We have every reason to be proud of our country and its achievements. The government has planned big events across the country to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence as’ Amrit Mahotsav’.

However, the critics of the current government say that India’s democracy is under siege. They point out further that Indian democracy is in serious decline according to major international democracy rankings or that India may no longer be a democracy at all. They allegedly claim that the deterioration in the quality of Indian democracy has only accelerated since the 2019 re-election of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


Critics also allege that due to the social engineering initiated by the BJP, historically oppressed Bahujan (backward) communities who do not conform to the image of a good Hindu are sought to be marginalised as do the religious minorities who find themselves identified as internal enemies. Bemoaning alleges that liberals and leftists, activists who have raised issues of the environment and human rights, and anyone else perceived to be “anti-national” have been included in the list of internal enemies. They turn hoarse, saying dissent is muzzled, increasingly through official edicts. Old controversies like in Mathura and Varanasi over temples and mosques are reignited, and claims that mosques were built upon the demolition of temples have resurfaced.

They allege that the social fabric knitted together by India’s diverse communities is being torn and new religious flashpoints have been created. But here it would be pertinent to note that India shares its democratic degradation with many other countries across the world. This process has been variously described as authoritarian, populist, ethnocratic, exclusionary, and fascist. But to be sure, the dominant groups in ethnocracies value democracy—at least for themselves—and often take pride in their democratic institutions. But a polity based on the structural exclusion of a section of its population cannot reasonably be said to qualify as a democracy.


Indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone on to extol India as the mother of all democracies, invoking the country’s heritage of participatory decision-making and checks and balances. However, all these shrill noises of criticism and dissent beg a question. If all these accusations are true, then what has prevented the other political parties in India from preventing this bulldozing by the BJP and adopting the practises and systems which have made the BJP the party that it is today?

Critics say that mobilisation of interest groups and booth management efforts are underway in full swing, as is the momentum. Is there anything that can stop the BJP juggernaut? There is a good reason why the BJP is in power in 18 states out of 28, and has more than 400 members in Parliament and 1,300 legislators in state assemblies. Driving the party is a “here and now” approach. There is no room for political complacency—with an energetic prime minister who communicates with the people directly there is simply no other option for the karyakartas (workers). In contrast to other political parties, the BJP’s careful planning, management of its cadres, and execution resulted in these victories, whereas the Indian National Congress, or the GOP of India, had lost the plot long before the 2014 elections.

The INC it seems had taken the electorate for granted, the young emerging leadership of the party was side-lined by the old satraps, and its party management at the legislative and ground level both had floundered completely. I had witnessed 2 general elections in UP before 2014, where at the booth level the party had no agents or managers to manage the voters. Before that, the Communists too had lost the plot completely. Their route was more or less linked to the booming of the Indian economy after India opened up its economy and the market reforms rolled in. The middle class, which now had access to more consumer goods and could aspire to a more lavish lifestyle, had no place for the politics of demonstrations and agitations.

As far as the minorities of India are concerned, particularly the largest minority, i.e., the Muslims, they themselves are to be blamed for their woes. After independence, the community as a whole seems to have withdrawn into a shell. It was not seen as part of the Indian mainstream. Their self-promoting leaders kowtowed to their political masters by assuring them of the Muslims’ votes for their benefit.

These leaders failed to lead their community to greater learning and become an important part of the country’s growth, as other minorities such as Sikhs and Parsis did. By neglecting this, they neglected their growth also. From the old Westminster style of governance that dominated India’s centrist politics for the better part of the last seven decades, it is a dynamic right-wing push that is dictating the frenetic pace of statecraft now, but there is nothing wrong with this, as the right-wing has come to power using the democratic tools available to every party.

If the political critics of the BJP bemoan the so-called social engineering engineered by the BJP’s use of social media to further its messaging, then who has stopped them from following or using the same tools? In an interview, Badri Narayan, social historian, columnist, and professor at G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, offers an interesting insight into the working style of the BJP. He says that there is no political party like the BJP anywhere, which is working for elections two years in advance as well as governing, both at the same time. It is a mega-political machine in every sense.

Senior academic and researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Manisha Priyam is of the view that the BJP under Narendra Modi is an electoral party, more than an ideological one. It takes every election very seriously, not just the Lok Sabha polls. This makes us ponder who has stopped the other political parties from adopting the same strategy and planning. If they are not up to it then they themselves are to be blamed. No one else! Stop bemoaning! Get your act together.

 The author is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on Indian Muslims, educational, international affairs, interfaith and current affairs.