Feature

India: Why we’re not a real democracy

Somehow we have been ruled by “the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty” almost the entire six decades since independence, said Ashok Mitra in The Telegraph.

Ashok MitraThe Telegraph

India may bill itself as the world’s largest democracy, but in reality it is a monarchy, said Ashok Mitra. Somehow we have been ruled by “the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty” almost the entire six decades since independence. Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter, Indira Gandhi, and her son Rajiv Gandhi were all prime ministers. And Rajiv’s widow, Sonia Gandhi, could have been prime minister for the past seven years had she so chosen; instead, she remains Congress Party leader and plays the role of kingmaker. The dynasty isn’t all that popular—only about 25 percent of voters choose the Congress Party. But the other large party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, scares so many Indians with its militant Hindu fundamentalism that smaller parties ally with Congress as “a lesser evil.”

The result is that, year after year, with few interruptions, the prime minister of India either has been a member of the “royal family” or is a “faithful acolyte” chosen by them. Even today, the incumbent prime minister “knows that any day a member of the family wants to occupy his slot, he has to vacate it.” Soon it will be the turn of Rahul Gandhi, Sonia’s son, to wield “power of the scope and magnitude of a medieval king.”

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