India’s democracy, as envisaged by the makers of the constitution, thrived essentially because of the respect of the leaders for the ethical constitutionalism and moral activism of the grassroots activists. Do you agree? Comment. 10 marks

Mentor’s comment-

  • In the introduction present the background of the question.
  • In the body start by defining what you understand by ethical constitutionalism and moral activism and discuss their importance.
    Explain how having faith in the above principles have led us to the idea of ethical democracy. Take cues from the article and explain the views of great leaders and thinkers such as – Mahatma
    Gandhi, Aristotle, Ambedkar etc. Elaborate on the concept of ethical democracy and suggest upon its advantages.
  • Conclude that Indian democracy has been immensely benefitted from such diverging viewpoints.

The ‘democracy’ that a major part of our world swears by comprises free and fair, multi-party, fixedterm elections based on universal adult franchise in its ideal state. A contestant party winning the majority of votes represents the will of the electorate and gets to form the government; others sit in the opposition until the next election.

1. India’s Democracy: ethical constitutionalism and moral activism of the grassroots activists
1. World’s successful democracies like the US, UK and India, there is a fine balance between the elected and non-elected institutions with enough safeguards.
2. There was much doubt about the idea of universal adult franchise during the making of the Indian Constitution.
3. But Rajendra Prasad, assured the Assembly’s members about the raw political wisdom of the average Indian as also the strength of the other institutions to safeguard the chairman of the Constituent Assembly, who democratic process.

4. Seven decades of India’s democratic experience bear testimony to the political maturity ofthe Indian people.
5. However, India has had its own bruises during this period. The infamous Emergency taught
an important lesson that Parliament, the elected branch of democracy often described as the “temple of democracy”, can become a circus and democracies can be imperiled if the rulers succeed in jeopardizing the other pillars like the judiciary and free press.
6. Mahatma Gandhi was not a big admirer of the parliamentary system. He never uttered a harsh word against anybody but used words such as “sterile woman” and “prostitute” for the British parliamentary system.
7. Gandhi’s view was that in the British system, the parliament works only for partisan interest – and not for the national interest.
8. “By political independence I do not mean an imitation to the British House of Commons, or the Soviet rule of Russia or the Fascist rule of Italy or the Nazi rule of Germany. They have systems suited to their genius. We must have ours suited to ours… I have described it as Ram Rajya — sovereignty of the people based on pure moral authority,” he wrote in Harijan in January 1937.
9. B R Ambedkar too described democracy in India as “only a top-dressing” on an Indian soil “which is essentially undemocratic”.
10. In his famous “Three Warnings” speech, Ambedkar warned that only constitutional means and institutions should be used hereafter instead of the means used during the freedom movement.
11. He also underscored the importance of social democracy for the success of political democracy.
12. Both were responding to the experiences of their times – Gandhi was referring to the tyranny of the British rule and Ambedkar was responding to the oppressive caste system.

13. Neither was against democracy, but both were against the idea of “majoritarian rule”. For Gandhi, democracy meant the weak getting the same chance as the strong. For Ambedkar, it was about giving voice to the voiceless.
14. For democracies to succeed, both Gandhi and Ambedkar believed that the parliamentary majorities need to be restrained through constitutional ethics and public morality.
15. Constitutional ethics is about leaders respecting constitutional order, conventions and institutions.
16. The elected must protect all the unelected instruments of democracy – judiciary, media and civic organizations.
17. Gandhi’s greater emphasis was on public morality. He insisted that for India’s democracy to succeed, the Congress should convert itself into a lok sevak sangh and work at the grassroots for social, economic and moral independence of the people.
18. True Gandhians chose syndication at the grassroots rather than election to Parliament or legislative assemblies.

India’s democracy, as envisaged by the makers of its Constitution, thrived essentially because of the respect of the leaders for ethical constitutionalism and moral activism of the grassroots activists.
Neither should see the other as an enemy and try to bring them down.

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3 years ago


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