Our democracy’s quantity is all right. Quality?

Editorial in The Times, London:

“Indians rightly take pride in a democracy that has survived dictatorship, wars, regional conflicts and the growing threat of religious extremism and sectarian division. The system in India is robust enough to weather more shocks and tensions than the totalitarian regimes of most of its neighbours.

“What matters, however, is not the quantity of India’s democracy but its quality. And here the hard questions go beyond a simple choice between Congress or the BJP.

“Is democracy really working in India? Does it offer voters any real choice? And has it developed party structures disciplined enough to go beyond dynastic politics or the factionalism that is driven by personality, regional factors—and all too often—corruption?

“There have been hopes that Indian democracy will settle into two broad coalitions, led by Congress and BJP, representing a broad Left-Right choice… The hopes are premature. In opposition, the BJP has reverted to a narrow sectarian stance, and in power Congress has shown itself weak and indecisive—despite the popularity and probity of Manmohan Singh.

“They offer no rival visions for India’s place in the world, no competing plans for the economy, no serious differnces on social policy. The world’s biggest democracy means little without a clear choice.”

Read the full editorial: India starts to vote