Belated post on India’s elections and a bit about India’s growing social divides

I’d intended to write about this ages ago, but somehow didn’t *sigh* Anyway, Indian elections came and went and the Congress party won once again with even more votes than last time (that means the government is socialist yet again).
A lot of interesting news reports came up during this time. On the one hand, there were a lot of articles hailing Indian democracy. My favourite of these was this. It’s about the quirks of Indian democracy and it points out a number of interesting statistics. Some that particularly caught my eye were:

  • The proportion of people who are members of a political party is much higher in India than in the US and most European democracies.
  • In advanced democracies, as you come down the various tiers - from national to local elections - the turnout of voters goes down.
    In India, it is exactly the opposite: the turnout in federal elections tends to be around 60%, in the state elections it is around 70% and when it comes to village council elections it is anything upwards of 80%.
  • Most important, our democracy defies what was once considered a law of political participation in the world: the higher up you are in the socio-economic hierarchy, the more you participate in politics and voting.
    In India, evidence shows that the poor “untouchables” vote more than upper castes. The poor vote as much, if not more, than the urban middle classes. Rural areas vote more than urban areas. Women vote almost as much as men do.
    In other words there is no connection between social hierarchy and participation in politics.

On the other hand there’s been even more articles and news reports talking about how much further India has to go and how many difficult problems it still faces. Most of these focus on the growing divide between the poor and the middle class.
Here’s a short Al Jazeera report, which shows this very well. The two realities are very striking:

Even before the elections, there was a lot of news coverage illustrating this problem. One of the bigger stories I came across was the gang-rape of a Delhi college student.

A related problem which threatens the stability of India’s democracy and has received some coverage also is the Maoist movement. This Al Jazeera feature is very chilling.

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