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India is falling prey to hollowness, US think tank


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India, once celebrated for its vibrant democracy, is facing a paradoxical situation as political freedoms decline while government effectiveness improves. The country’s trajectory has taken a turn towards illiberalism, with civil rights weakening and voices of dissent facing repression. In this article, we delve into the complex landscape of India’s shifting political and social indicators, examining the impact of illiberalism on democratic longevity and the government’s effectiveness.


Illiberal Democracy: India’s Changing Political Landscape

Freedom House’s classification of India as a “partly free” country reflects the erosion of civil rights and the rise of illiberal democracy. While electoral politics remain relatively healthy, other essential components of a liberal democracy, such as “voice and accountability” and the “rule of law,” have worsened since 2014 under the BJP rule.


Government Effectiveness Amidst Declining Liberties

Surprisingly, as India’s political freedoms diminish, the government’s effectiveness has improved in several aspects. World Bank indicators show progress in “political stability and absence of violence,” “control of corruption,” “regulatory quality,” and “government effectiveness” since Prime Minister Modi took office.


Ideology’s Role in Shaping India’s Democratic Trajectory

Scholars argue that political ideology has played a significant role in both the establishment and weakening of India’s democracy. The nation’s founding leaders believed in democracy, but with the rise of Hindu nationalism, the perspective shifted to one that challenges dissenters as “anti-national” and justifies repressive measures against independent voices.


Attacks on Civil Society and Minority Rights

The illiberal shift is evident in administrative and legal actions against independent voices in academia, think tanks, and media outlets. Thousands of civil society organizations have been denied registration or renewal since 2015. Additionally, minority rights, especially those of Muslims, have come under attack, further exacerbating concerns about India’s democratic health.


The Dichotomy of Majoritarian Rule

Proponents of majoritarian rule argue that their electoral mandate allows them to pursue any agenda they wish. However, this perspective challenges the essence of true democracy, as a dictatorship of the majority still suppresses dissent and weakens opposition.


Progress Amidst Persisting Challenges

India has made considerable progress in reducing multidimensional poverty and poverty incidence between 2005 and 2021. The Modi government has played a significant role in this achievement. However, persistent issues, such as poor employment records, low female participation rates, and stagnant economic growth, require attention.


Government Mistakes and Close Ties with Business

Notwithstanding the government’s accomplishments, some decisions have been contentious, such as the 2016 demonetization and the Covid lockdown’s impact on migrant workers. The proximity between government and business interests raises concerns about potential cronyism.



Growing extremism in India has widened social divisions to unprecedented levels. Since the beginning of the BJP government till now, where India has been economically stable, the foundations of the state have been shaken. People of different religions and races are divided. In this situation, the Indian Prime Minister must reassess his goals. The recent events in Manipur show that socially the citizens have lost trust in the government.

India’s journey from a vibrant democracy to an illiberal one with declining indicators is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. While the government has shown effectiveness in some areas, it must address issues of civil rights, minority rights, and opposition intimidation to preserve the essence of democracy.

Zain Saleem
Zain Saleem
Zain Saleem is an Islamabad-based Senior Journalist

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