Liberal Arts

Podcast episode examines life in the world’s largest democracy

Vineeta Yadav, associate professor of political science, joins the Democracy Works podcast this week to discuss the state of democracy in India. Credit: Penn State Department of Political ScienceAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — More than 600 million people voted in India’s most recent election, making it the world’s largest democracy. In recent years, however, the country has become part of a worldwide trend toward populism and away from democracy.

Vineeta Yadav, associate professor of political science, joins the Democracy Works podcast this week to discuss the past, present and future of democracy in India. The podcast is produced by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and WPSU Penn State.

India became a democracy in 1947 following centuries as a British colony. Today, the country’s government and Constitution resemble the British Parliamentary system.

Yadav said commitment to democracy spread quickly once the Constitution was established and remains strong today.

“One of the unique things about India is that voter turnout is actually higher in rural areas and not just in urban areas,” she said. “That tells you something about how deeply democratic values, norms and practices have really sunk into the citizenry.”

More than 80 percent of India’s population is Hindu, which creates an environment for nationalism and populism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) exemplify this attitude and are using the tools of democracy to advance an agenda that undermines institutions like the free press and seeks to silence the power of ethnic minorities.

"The BJP has a platform that envisions Indian society and Indian government as being based on Hindu values,” Yadav said. “They have a very different vision of what a democratic society should look like in India. They are committed to the processes and procedures of democracy, but not to the values of liberal democracy because they don't think Indians want liberal democracy.”

Pushing back against these forces, Yadav said, is a strong network of local governments and civil society groups throughout the country.

“This has been India’s saving grace so far,” she said. “You have groups organizing on every issue under the sun and from very different angles … leftist groups, extremely conservative and pro-market groups and everything in between.”

Listen to the podcast interview with Yadav at or search Democracy Works in any podcast app.

Last Updated November 05, 2019