The Indian general elections (Lok Sabha) are over and the results are out today, while the final count is still to come, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress party has already been declared the winner. This is a good news for anybody believing that consensus and integration are the necessary requirement for a peaceful and harmonious society. A belief that is not shared by the direct opponent of the Congress: the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whose stance against non-Hindus and particularly Muslims is clearly antagonistic, and only supported by an historical revisionism and negationism about the Muslim contribution to the Indian culture.
But beyond the winner and the loser, this election is of the utmost importance for anybody interested in democracy.
India is the largest existing democracy, and this election is expected to have an overall turn-out of 60%, from a number of eligible voters of 714 millions. Considering that only 66% of the population is literate, this simple fact already shatters the assumption that a wide-spread formal education is a necessary prerequisite for democracy. While it is desirable, it is not necessary, because the concept of democracy, its practice, rests deeper in an individual psychology than what a formal education provides with. India and its popular culture actually have a long tradition of democracy, that can be readily seen in the many arguments of the past between schools of thought, but that also has its equivalent in daily mundane practices. It is a mindset, and this mindset predates any formal education.
On such a fertile ground however, formal education can only blossom more powerfully, and that is seen by the consensual forms inherent to Indian politics. It may seem chaotic, unproductive from an external point of view, and it certainly can be improved tremendously from its current state (especially with regard to the corrupted bureaucracy), but problems are not denied, and improvement are constantly made. The pervasive culture of consensus is not the cause of the current problems, on the contrary, it is the solution, even a party like the BJP was forced, when in power (1998-2004), to move towards relatively moderate positions, because of it.
Not only consensus is the antidote to extremism, it is also the condition of success for radical reforms by ensuring everybody genuinely work towards it.
Lastly, consensus has its own requirement to be fully successful, and it is human empathy, the ability to adopt others point of view, and not to get stiffened in the blind protection of direct self-interest. In that, it is of no surprise that India, as the cradle of many no-self philosophies (anatman), should also be the place of the revival and necessary evolution for modern democracy.
A few links where to follow up with the elections:
The Times of India