At a time when concerns are being expressed about the safety and rights of the minorities in the country, Vice President Hamid Ansari on Monday said that India’s democracy was anchored in the existential reality of a plural society.
Delivering a lecture at the Corvinus University in Budapest on 'Indian Democracy: Achievements and Challenges’, Ansari emphasised the diversity in the Indian society, saying the population of 1.27 billion comprised of over 4,635 communities, 78 per cent of whom are not only linguistic and cultural but social categories. “Religious minorities constitute 19.4 per cent of the population,” he noted
Ansari, whose lecture at the university was the last engagement before he left for Algeria, said Indian culture was syncretic in character. “It is a veritable human laboratory where the cross breeding of ideas, beliefs and cultural traditions have been in progress for a few thousand years,” he said.
The national movement, he said, had recognised this cultural plurality and sought to base a national identity on it.
“In other words, the superstructure of a democratic polity and a secular state structure, put in place in modern India, is anchored in the existential reality of a plural society,” Ansari said.
Referring to the rise in political clout of the backward classes, he said, “The democratic process has brought about a shift of political power from the middle and higher castes and classes of urban society to backward classes who are now the politically most influential ones in the country.”
Ansari noted that they had won reservations for themselves in legislatures and government services as were accorded to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. “There are a few examples in recent history of such a conspicuous shift of political power, involving such a huge mass of population, taking place in such a short period of time almost without any violence and in a democratic way,” he said, and described it as one more example of the miracles that democracy can create.
The vice president stressed on the need to remove 'inequality traps' in the society through inclusive development. He said the government accorded it high priority in its socio-economic policies, but the pace of its realisation remained a matter of debate.
In the lecture, the vice president also touched upon the issue of electoral reforms, saying there were questions to be addressed on whether the First-Past-The-Post system in our elections was indeed representative in nature. He said that in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, only 117 of the 539 winning candidates in the House of the People secured 50 per cent or more of the votes cast.
“The debate on this, as on other matters listed in the Law Commission’s report, continues. Different segments of political opinion view the proposed changes differently and are unlikely to develop a consensus at an early date,” Ansari noted.
The vice president also cautioned that it was necessary to ensure that public dissatisfaction was addressed. While voter participation has increased, so has voter dissatisfaction with their elected representatives.
Ansari is on a five-day visit to Hungary and Algeria.