What Are Some Unique Features of Democracy in India?

As the largest democracy in the world, one of the most unique features of India's political system is its imperative to reconcile the needs and demands of the country's many and radically different ethnic, religious and linguistic groups. Another unique feature of Indian democracy is its internal lack of equality. Specifically, Indian society is rooted in a culture where caste and gender dictate rights and treatment, a fact which seems to fundamentally undermine the tenets of traditional democracy.

The sheer diversity of the Indian population, which accounts for a sixth of all humanity, would seem to make it incapable of sustaining a coherent democracy. Such differences would be an obstacle to shared identity, fellow feeling and therefore consensus decision making, as observed by John Stuart Mill. However, in spite of its internal differences, India has a broadly defined national identity that inspires similar levels of nationalism among diverse sectors of the population. Scholars attribute this to citizens being able to maintain two or three identities at once, including separate but co-existing loyalties to their ethnicity, state and nation.

Another feature of Indian democracy that defies conventional understanding is the country's extremely low income per capita. Usually, when democracy is established in low income nations, they do not last. India's, however, has survived since 1947.