Is Indian democracy turning into an electoral autocracy?

Two international reports recently have left Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in India grieving and complaining that global organizations probably have an agenda against it. The complaining started after reputed agencies doubted if India is indeed a democracy.

V-Dem Institute in Sweden has downgraded India’s status from a ‘democracy’ to ‘an electoral autocracy,’ while another NGO, US-based Freedom House said “India’s status declined from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’ as a nation due to a multiyear pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies have presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies affecting the Muslim population.”

The Freedom House report made caustic and vitriolic comments on the status of Muslims in India under Modi, whose government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is wedded to pro-Hindu political ideology of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism.

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“The political rights of India’s Muslims continue to be threatened,” it said and referred to Indian government and parliament enacting a new law, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which grants ‘special access to Indian citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants and refugees from neighboring Muslim-majority countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

It also said Muslim candidates notably won 27 of 545 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, up from 22 five years before in 2014. However, this amounted to just five percent of the seats in the Lower House of Parliament even when Muslims make up over 14 percent of the population….

Many blame Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s consistent failure to strike the right chord with Indian voters.

“Rahul is a leader who often tries to sell fridges to Eskimos. My point is that mere glib talk does not help. Indian politics is getting more complex by the day,” said Ramakanta Shanyal, a political scientist in West Bengal. He said Congress should reform itself to fight a politician like Modi.

It is electorally true, the world’s largest democracy is on the highway to Hindu nationalism, accelerated by Modi. His brand of politics synthesizes Hindu ideology, development and possible use of money and state power effectively.

In other words, Indian political history has certainly shed its democratic status quo under BJP rule. How soon will India a political mechanism to challenge the situation?

Nirendra Dev