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Democracy: For defining India's character

'We are 61 and have faced our challenges effectively'

August 11, 2008

Omar Abdullah, 38, the MP from Srinagar on the young and evolving Indian democracy.

The sheer size of India and number of voters is an example that tells us that we are doing well. We are only 61 years old, whereas there are democracies which are centuries old. We have dealt with challenges in an effective manner. We have got freedom but we should remember that with that comes responsibility.

One of the best things we have is freedom of the press which according to me is the best feature. What happened in Parliament (during the trust vote) certainly does not bode well.

Money was thrown on the table of the House and people are upset. But the electorate get whom they elect. I know incumbency has its drawbacks and a majority of those who contest do not get elected. I would like to point out that our voters are relatively young and should think twice before voting for someone. That is the additional feature of a young democracy.

India, 61: The icons that make India

India is a vibrant democracy, I agree. But I would not like to call ourselves the most vibrant democracy. There are democracies in Europe which have carried it further. Whenever there is a difficult decision to be made they have allowed the people of their nation to caste their vote and decide the issue once and for all.

Canada is one such example which has held referendums on various issues and that according to me makes Canada the most vibrant democracy than many of us. As I said that we are a comparatively young democracy and we would need time to evolve.

I am happy with our democracy. If we look in our neighbourhood we find how their democracies have been derailed. Barring once during the Emergency, we have stayed on course.

We do value our democracy and the achievements that we have made during our experiment with it.

Omar Abdullah was first elected to Parliament in 1996 at the age of 29. He is the president of the National Conference and a three-time MP from Srinagar. He spoke to Onkar Singh.

Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: Freedom, the First 50 Years

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