The merits of democracy are so many. In no other form of government do people enjoy so much liberty as in democracy. People are free to express their views. They can give speeches before the public. They can write articles and get them published in the magazines and the papers. In this way they can criticize the policies of the Government. People can from their own parties. They can change the government through fresh elections, as has been done in the general elections to the state assemblies and the parliament time and again.
Further, in democracy all the citizens are treated as equals. All enjoy equal rights. In our country, the poor and the rich are all equal before the law. No distinction is made on the basis of colour, caste, class or sex. Merit is the only consideration in a democracy. All the citizens get equal opportunities of rising to the highest office. Even a sweeper of today can become the president of tomorrow.
But the young democracy in India faces many dangers. The ignorance of the masses is the greatest danger. Then, there is the rigid caste without any consideration of their merits. Our people care little for their duties. They always shout for more and more rights. But for the success of democracy duties are more important than rights.
Linguistic quarrels have weakened the country. Violent trends are visible in every sphere of life. Terrorism is on the increase cult of the gun is being cultivated on a large scale. But violence and democracy do not go together. Democracy implies that problems and differences would be resolved peacefully through negotiations. Violence shows a lack of faith in democratic processes. Hence violence is a great danger to democracy. The political parties indulge in unhealthy, destructive criticism. They do not provide a strong, healthy government or opposition.
A stage has reached when no single party is able to get absolute majority in the center and in some states as well. Regional parties are dominating the scene and parties opposed to each other in their basic principles and ideologies are forming coalition, their one point programme being either to secure power or to keep a particular party out of office by any means, fair or foul. Corruption and bribery has become the order of the day. The two party systems, as in England and other democracies, have not yet evolved in India. Violent trends have been noticeable for sometime in different parts of the country. Shortly after the elections in 1971, there was a demand for the dissolution of the state legislature in Gujarat and the functioning of the government was made impossible. This very pattern of violent agitation was repeated in Bihar. Such violent agitation shows a lack of faith in democracy. Prices rose high and corruption was widespread. It is for all these reasons that some one has rightly said that in India, Democracy means “the government of the chair, by the chair, and for the chair.”
It becomes necessary to safeguard democracy against all these dangers. When near chaotic conditions prevailed in the country, and the very security and stability of the country were threatened, late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, advised the President of India to declare a state of emergency. But it did not mean the end of power democratic rights were restored and people were asked again and again to be ‘fearless’.
There was again the same misuse of democratic freedom as in pre-emergency days. Lawlessness was again no the increase. So the Janta Government could rule the country only for two and a half years. After the elections in January 1980, we again had a stable government at the centre.
Thus, within the short period of the three years, the government was changed twice through peaceful elections. Then Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated and instead of there being chaos and disorder, Shri Rajiv Gandhi was elected unanimously as the Prime Minister. The change was again peaceful and orderly. After his tragic and unexpected assassination, P.V.Narashimah Rao was unanimously elected as the Prime
Minister of the country in general elections held in May 1996 and in February 1998 again the change of governments was peaceful and orderly. This clearly shows that the Indian people are democratic by nature. But they must be educated and taught that democratic freedom does not mean indiscipline, that violence is the very negation of democracy, and that rights and duties are the two sides of the same coin. Education in democracy is essential for its success.