Like oxygen, democracy is vital for life. However, as long as it is present, one doesn’t necessarily value its importance. Unlike many newly-independent countries, India has always had a democracy dividend, barring a brief aberration in mid-1970s. Indeed, India’s timeline of universal suffrage compares favourably with many developed societies. The empirical basis for a democracy tax, as trade-off against growth, is suspect. Assuming it exists, democracy is non-negotiable.
Democracy doesn’t mean Parliament and state legislatures alone. It’s also the third tier and countervailing pressure by civil society (not just media) to make elected representatives more accountable. The electoral system isn’t without blemishes and proposals for reform have floated around for years. The Preamble to the Constitution says, “We the People”. Unless we the people exert pressure, the system won’t change. Cynicism and secession of the relatively rich and relatively powerful from the system doesn’t help. It’s evident from recent elections that there’s greater interest, especially amongst youth, in democracy. Understandably, there’s scepticism about criminalisation of politics (or politicisation of criminals) and electoral funding, not to speak of functioning of elected representatives. Ideally, there should have been change in time for the 2014 general elections. But those reforms have now been pushed back to 2019, or further beyond.