Who wants democracy? A terribly simpleminded question many might say. In an Indian democracy everyone must. But as Javeed Alam, a prominent political theorist shows in this simply, yet elegantly written book the answer to his basic question is not quite that simple. Using data compiled from a study by V.B. Singh and Subrata Mitra, Professor Alam statistically illustrates some of his always interesting, often profound findings. For example, in 1971 only 48 per cent of the Indian electorate thought that their vote had any impact on how the country is governed. By 1996, this had climbed to a little less than 60 per cent, an increase that in a democracy marked by mass poverty and inequality, is as Alam notes “enormous”. In this there is a specially high regard for the judiciary and the election commission. In 1996, more than 75 per cent felt these functioned in a commendable manner; a degree of confidence that many democracies, including in the global North would envy.
January 2006, volume 30, No 1