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Democracy Is Indias Achilles Heel

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We assume that democracy is what every country should have. But what has democracy done for India? Easy. It has stimulated corruption on a massive scale, and if you want to get rich in India the most direct way is to run for parliament and reap the payoffs businesses are obliged to make to the local MP. Caste, that Indian curse, becomes more entrenched as politicians exploit caste allegiances to win votes. Bombay may be booming but it’s hardly Shanghai. A country that is striving to be an economic powerhouse is being pulled down by its political system. Democracy is India’s Achilles’ heel.

So say the pundits but what would they put in democracy’s place? Would they prefer India to be ruled by a Mubarak or an Indian version of the Beijing politburo? Democratic politics is always messy and often corrupt but it is the inevitable price of seeking the will of the people, which will always be preferable to the will of the dictator.

Speaking in favour of the motion in this debate from September 2011 were Patrick French, writer, historian and author of 'India: A Portrait'; and Suhel Seth, author, columnist and Managing Partner of Counselage India, a strategic brand management and marketing consultancy. Arguing against them were William Dalrymple, an author and historian who has lived in Delhi for 25 years; and Mani Shankar Aiyar, former government minister and member of the Indian National Congress.

The debate was chaired by Bridget Kendall, BBC diplomatic correspondent and presenter of The Forum on BBC World Service.

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