Is democracy working for India?

Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju

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In India, parliamentary democracy runs largely on the basis of caste and communal vote banks.

I am not a supporter of democracy, and I want to give my reasons.

In his book ‘ The Republic’, Plato, the disciple of the great Greek philosopher Socrates, mentions a dialogue between Socrates and a man called Adeimantus about democracy. Socrates compares the country with a ship sailing in a perilous sea, with gales and tides threatening to capsize it.


Socrates then asks Adeimantus whether if he were a passenger he would like the ship to be controlled by all the sailors and passengers collectively, or only the captain and a few others having expertise in navigation. Obviously the latter, Adeimantus replied. Socrates then said this was why he was against democracy.

Most people do not have expertise in properly running the state, yet in democracy they are expected to do it.

Conceived of as a bulwark against tyranny, democracy usually ends up by providing tyranny the finest soil it ever had, e.g. the rule of Hitler who came to power by democratic means.


This is because in a democracy a politician does not have to present rational arguments to the voters, but appeals to their prejudices and emotions, as Hitler did.

Most people are stupid, and can be deceived easily, e.g. by Indira Gandhi’s slogan ‘Gharibi hatao’.

In Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto threw the tiny Ahmadi community to the wolves in 1974 by getting them declared non Muslims, to retain his popularity.

In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress, which got apartheid abolished, has degenerated into a corrupt organisation, and South Africa is having riots and looting.

democracyIn India, appeal in the name of Hindutva resulted in BJP victory, which has not eradicated or alleviated our socio-economic ills like poverty or unemployment (they have got worse), but resulted in persecution of minorities.

In India, parliamentary democracy runs largely on the basis of caste and communal vote banks, as most people in India have backward, feudal mindsets, full of casteism and communalism. Casteism and communalism are feudal forces which have to be destroyed if India is to progress, but parliamentary democracy further entrenches them, and our politicians use them for polarising society and inciting hatred to get votes.

In India when most people (maybe 90%) go to vote, they do not see the candidate’s merits and demerits, whether he is a good man or bad, educated or uneducated, etc.

They only see his caste or religion (or the caste or religion his party represents). That is why we have so many people with criminal antecedents in Parliament or the state legislatures. And that is why I have called 90% Indians fools.

Gen Zia ul Haq

It is a mistake to equate democracy with freedom. Real freedom is freedom from poverty, hunger, unemployment, lack of healthcare, ignorance, etc. Democracy does not give the people that, but only gives them an illusion that they are free.

In my opinion if India is to progress it must have a dictatorship, but dictatorship of a special kind.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Dictators can be like Gen Zia ul Haq of Pakistan, who was feudal minded and tried to ‘Islamise’ Pakistan, throwing it back into the middle ages, or like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, who, along with his associates destroyed feudalism in Turkey and brought it into the modern world.

India needs a dictator like Mustafa Kemal, a modern minded, patriotic leader who, along with some similarly minded associates, will crush religious bigotry, rapidly and ruthlessly industrialise India, abolish poverty, unemployment and other socio-economic ills plaguing our country, and bring India into the ranks of the developed countries. That is the only way out of our distress.

Democracy cannot achieve that.

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Markandey Katju

Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India.

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