The Economist’s Democracy Index has a positive outlook on global democracy, with significant improvement in women’s participation, people willing to engage in lawful demonstrations and voters getting more proactive than ever despite being disillusioned with democracy. But the annual index that has been produced by the London-headquartered newspaper since 2006, has noted that not much has changed in India. India is ranked at 41 – a notch above last year. It is still classified as a ‘flawed democracy’ according to the index. India achieved a score of 7.23 on the index to maintain its position – the same it did last year. This is the lowest ever score attributed to India in the index ever since its publication.
India ranks below the US (ranked 25th in the index) and other so called ‘flawed democracies’ like Italy, France, Botswana and South Africa. On expected lines, Scandinavian nations hogged were perched on top of the democracy pyramid. Norway was the world’s most perfect democracy followed by Iceland and Sweden.
The report explaining the index titled ‘Democracy 2018: Me too? Political Participation, Protest & Democracy’ was particularly damning of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It noted,” In India, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition has struggled to maintain its dominance in state elections. To some extent, this is in fact a reflection of the strength of the country’s democratic institutions, which has yielded upsets for the government, despite various coercive tactics used by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to consolidate power.”
Despite the brickbats, the report painted a rosy picture for Modi and the BJP’s prospects in 2019. It noted, “In India, the image of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, resonates with an aspiring middle class, and Mr Modi has also maintained the support of business. But Mr Modi is not unassailable; a lack of attention to the rural economy has fuelled anti-government protests by farmers. In his term, moreover, job growth has been poor, institutional reforms have been slow to come, and those that have been passed have been poorly implemented. So far, Mr Modi has managed to deflect criticism, but his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—the largest in the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition—will be contesting the 2019 elections on a weak footing at state level. Having also lost the support of many small regional parties, the coalition could fail to gain a clear majority in parliament.”
The Economist’s Democracy Index ranks nations on five parameters – electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties. Among all these parameters India fared the worst when it came to political culture. The survey is carried out every year by asking a sample group of people a set of 60 questions. India has been always classified as a flawed democracy. The report defines a flawed democracy as nations that “have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.”