India’s enduring democracy, despite entrenched social fault lines based on caste, class, and religion, has fascinated social scientists from across the world. One common explanation for the survival of democracy in countries with divided societies is that institutional power (either through the executive, judiciary and legislature or through informal channels) is shared among different groups. This explanation, formally defined as Consociationalism by political scientists, also suggests that groups are granted some form of autonomy (such as cultural, economical or territorial autonomy). This power-sharing among different groups, though, has not happened in India suggests a new study by Katharine Adeney and Wilfried Swenden.

To show this, the authors analyze different political and administrative institutions in India. They find that, though Other Backward Castes (OBCs) have slightly increased their representation in cabinets, Lok Sabha and senior political offices, other religious and caste minorities are underrepresented. These minorities are allotted the less important portfolios, and also wield less power within the party structure. Though certain constituencies are reserved for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories, their representation often does not extend beyond the Lok Sabha. Similar biases exist in the case of administration and judicial appointments, they suggest. They also find that this under-representation is present under both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regimes. However, the authors note that Muslims representation has further weakened under the BJP.

More generally, the authors argue that the rise of majoritarianism and a Hindu nationalistic party in recent years may weaken power-sharing in Indian democracy and further erode the stance towards minorities. They argue for the need for constitutional and legal provisions of power-sharing to protect minority rights.

Also read: Power‐Sharing in the World's Largest Democracy: Informal Consociationalism in India (and Its Decline?)

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