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3] Politics of Representation and Participation Q & A

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Previous Year Questions

  1. Has the increased participation of the underprivileged in the political process of the developing societies strengthened democracy or created political chaos and conflict? Comment. [2020/10m/150w/1c]
  2. Analyze the contribution of liberal democratic principles in the democratization of Indian polity. [2020/10m/150w/1b]
  3. Explain the reasons for low voter turnout in democratic countries with suitable examples. [2019/15m/200w/2b]
  4. Write an essay on ‘The New Social Movements’ in developing countries. [2019/15m/200w/4b]
  5. Is democracy promotion in developing countries a feasible idea? [2019/15m/200w/4c]
  6. How big a role does identity play in determining political participation in the developing countries? Discuss your answer with suitable illustrations. [2018/10m/150w/1c]
  7. Examine the LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual and transgender) movement in developed societies and how it is affecting the political participation in developing societies. [2017/10m/150w/1c]
  8. Comment on the decline of political parties and examine whether new social movements shall be alternative strategies for establishing link between government and society. [2016/10m/150w/1b]
  9. Do interest groups help to promote democracy or to undermine it? Give your opinion. [2016/15m/200w/4c]
  10. What is the difference between interest groups and pressure groups? Are the pressure groups in India in a position to fully protect or promote the interest of their members? [2015/10m/150w/1e]
  11. Struggle for democracy has been marked by bitter strife and tribulations. Examine the statement illustrating the cases of Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar. [2015/20m/250w/2a]
  12. The Party System in India is neither western nor indigenous. Explain. [2014/10m/150w/1a]
  13. In what respect, is the new social movement, new in nature? Discuss. [2014/10m/150w/1b]
  14. Compare and contrast social movements in advanced industrial and developing societies. [2013/20m/250w/2a]
  15. Is the rise of social movements a sign of opening up of popular space in the political process or decline of representative politics? Examine. [2013/20m/250w/4a]
  16. How did the struggle for representation increases the level and quality of democracy in industrial societies? [2012/12m/150w/1b]
  17. Evaluate the nature and distinction of anomic and associational interest groups in the pressure politics of developing countries. [2012/15m/200w/3c]
  18. Examine the significance of ideological and policy aspects in the structural growth of modern political parties. [2012/20m/250w/4c]
  19. What is The New Social Movement (NSM)? Explain the main challenges of the NSM in the developing countries. [2011/20m/1]
  20. What are the indications of the emergence of a global civil society? [2010/20m/200w/4b]
  21. Is it necessary to evolve a distinct theoretical framework for analysis of emergent politics in the developing world? [2009/20m/200w/1a]
  22. Examine the comparative advantages of democracy and autocracy in restraining political violence. Do you think that autocratic societies are more prone to political violence? Illustrate your answer with a comparative study of a few societies. [2009/60m/4]
  23. How does the functioning of interest groups differ from political parties? Discuss with appropriate examples. [2008/60m/2]
  24. Analyse the basic goals of the Third World movement for global justice. What is the importance of South-South cooperation to achieve these? [2005/60m/2]
  25. Assess the nature of the political process in the Third World. [2001/20m/200w/1b]

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Sample Answers

1] Has the increased participation of the underprivileged in the political process of the developing societies strengthened democracy or created political chaos and conflict? Comment. [2020/10m/150w/1c]

Democracy and political participation are correlated, both of them pushing each other forward.

As per a report by the Pew Research Center, the middle east, the home of Arab Spring, has the highest level of political participation amongst all the developing regions. Egypt stands out even in the middle east, with its citizens pouring into streets twice to oust President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Political participation of the underprivileged is closely linked to the success of inclusive policies of the government and shows an individual’s faith in the state. The belief that one can influence political matters,  also called political efficacy by scholars.

The rise in the political participation of the underprivileged shows that democracy has an opportunity for participation in these regions. But it also depends on the frequency of elections, the development of civil society organisations, and the presence of a political environment that permits free expression.

Those who are in favour of restricted participation adopt a conservative position and doubt the ability of the average citizen. However, some also express reservations against it since participation provides the authorities with the opportunity to legitimise their decisions.

Democracy was very popularly defined by Abraham Lincoln as of, by and for the people. This can be achieved in a true sense when all the section of the society participates in the decision making. After all, democracy is not an end, but a means for a society to achieve its highest potential.

[246 words]


2] Analyze the contribution of liberal democratic principles in the democratization of Indian polity. [2020/10m/150w/1b]

The liberal democratic principles in a political system signify that the rule of people prevails to make the regime legitimate in the real sense of the term.

India adheres to the liberal democratic principles to the extent of providing universal adult franchise and providing each citizen various fundamental rights in Part III of its constitution. The preamble promises liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. The directive principles provide various liberal democratic goals to the country. India has a free legislative body to make laws according to the will of the people, along with an executive organ working on established laws. Moreover, the powers of all the organs are limited, and there is a provision of checks and balances.

India has a multi-party system along with active pressure groups, which enhance political participation at a larger scale.

But at a point, India ceases to be a liberal democracy and becomes a welfare state. Property is not sacrosanct to prevent the accumulation of resources. Indian secularism does not separate religion from the state; the government is supposed to protect each religion equally. India practices affirmative action to provide equality of opportunity to various deprived sections of the country.

Indian polity represents a unique picture. While liberal democratic principles have helped diverse ideas and identities thrive in Indian polity and deepen the democracy, there are also other features of the Indian constitution that cannot be ignored.

[235 words]

3] Explain the reasons for low voter turnout in democratic countries with suitable examples. [2019/15m/200w/2b]

According to NGS Kini, voting behaviour can be regarded as the mode of legitimizing democratic rule. And although voting is an individual act, it does not take place in isolation. Votes are influenced by a host of factors.

First of all, elections motivate people to go out and vote. In addition, even close and competitive elections would also give a higher turnout. For instance, one of the reasons attributed to lower voter turnout in recent elections in Iran was voter apathy to the controlled elections. Voters believed that their vote would not make any difference.

Election fatigue due to frequent elections also plays a major role. It was evident in the recent series of elections in Israel when voters stopped bothering with the casting of votes. Moreover, a heterogeneous community would see lesser voter turnout due to lack of solidarity. In India, voter turnouts in local elections are higher than in national elections because in local elections there are closer networks between people.

Further, if the electoral system is not ‘proportional representation, it also adds to the decline of voter turnout. Minorities tend to believe that their vote will get wasted. Adding to it, the youth may not relate to the manifestoes of any political parties, hence may not vote.

Voter turnout matters because elections are where decisions are made in modern democracies. If there continues to be a lack of voter turnout, the votes will only represent a small sample of the overall population, and the democracy itself will lose its essence.

[249 words]

4] Write an essay on ‘The New Social Movements’ in developing countries. [2019/15m/200w/4b]

The post-colonial states were formed with high expectations, and there was a greater demand for political participation and power distribution. However, many of these states have failed to meet the aspirations of the citizens, and it can be understood as a major cause for the emergence of the new social movements in these countries.

The new social movements in the developing world, while posing a challenge to Marxism, claim to represent the downtrodden masses. They also voice the demerits of globalisation and oppose large corporations and large agencies such as the World Bank. These movements also focus on environmental protection and criticise the industrialised west.

For example, in India, these movements are centred around the subject of Identity-Dalit, Adivasi, women, human rights, environment, etc. They bring forward new issues and carry ideologies that represent a theoretical as well as a practical challenge to traditional capitalism and exploitation. The Aurat March of Pakistan, the Narmada Bachao Andolan of India or the pride movements in various countries are examples of new social movements in developing countries.

Andre Gunter Frank and Marta Fuentes describe new movements as basically “grassroots” and apolitical. As they suggest, the new social movements are organised around a dialectic of a mainly rural poor peasant or working-class base and middle-class intellectuals who provided articulation and leadership.

Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe praise the new social movements for decentralising the social power from the state or economy. These movements indicate the pulse of the people who are no longer ready to accept exclusionary and mindless discourses and agendas.

[259 words]

5] Is democracy promotion in developing countries a feasible idea? [2019/15m/200w/4c]

Although democracy has become a worldwide phenomenon post World War 2, people in the developing world still struggle to understand the spirit of democracy beyond its letter.

Advocates of Asian values like Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammad argue that democracy is a western concept, not traditional to most of the world’s cultures. And cultures having a democratic tradition have a better chance of making democracy work. The third world states are ‘overdeveloped’ as said by Hamza Alvi where the masses still lives in the traditional society. There exists a wide gap between the social morality and the democratic morality of the developed states.

In such a scenario, democracy becomes a guided democracy as in Indonesia under Sukarno, or basic democracy and Islamic democracy as in Pakistan or Iran.  The states in such countries are vulnerable to authoritarianism and are ridden with corruption and maladministration. At its worst, such a system declines into kleptocracy.

Attributing to the traditional nature of society, there are deep ethnic divisions along the linguistic, tribal and religious lines in these nations. These various groups also remain at different stages of socio-economic and political development. For instance, Samuel Huntington has argued in his Clash of Civilisations that Islam has a profound effect on politics in the global south and New democratic regimes have been constructed or reconstructed on Islamic lines.

Whether democracy is suitable or not, there is little doubt that the alternatives are worse. While the forceful promotion of democracy may be counterproductive, the development of a democratic society is a necessity. In this aspect, the information revolution has worked to support a resurgence of democracy as seen with Arab spring. It is helping in the deepening of democracy by giving voices to people. Masses are on the streets in Hong Kong and Thailand to fight for democracy. We should accept the non-linear progress of democracy in such developing countries. After all, democracy is an ongoing, dynamic process instead of a singular achievement.

[319 words]


6] How big a role does identity play in determining political participation in the developing countries? Discuss your answer with suitable illustrations. [2018/10m/150w/1c]

Cascardi has defined identity politics by its assertion into a series of separate value-spheres, each one of which tends to exclude or attempts to assert its priority over the rest. Identity politics becomes a political project that attempts recovery from exclusion and denigration of the group.

Most of the developing countries are post-colonial. Thus, their sense of nationalism arose from identity assertion against colonial rule. In South Asia, Pakistan was formed on the basis of religion, but due to their political isolation on the basis of languages and ethnicity, Bengali people fought for Bangladesh. In fact, the homogeneity in the Army and Punjabi dominance is given as one reason for the distorted civil-military rule in Pakistan. Similarly, in Sri Lanka, there is an ever-present conflict between the people of Sinhalese and Tamil speakers, which led to the rise of LTTE and decades of civil war. The picture in Nepal and Myanmar is not different, where democracy still struggles to root itself owing to politics of identity.

Identity plays an exclusionary role most of the time when a dominant community tries to sideline weaker communities. This, in turn, results in the rise of sub-nationalism amongst weaker communities, who then participate with greater rigour to assert their place in the political discourse.

This identity assertion leads to isolation of one or more groups, rise in separatist tendencies and instability of the government. It is antithetical to democracy and tends to weaken it.


7] Examine the LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual and transgender) movement in developed societies and how it is affecting the political participation in developing societies. [2017/10m/150w/1c]

While the LGBT movements are relatively new to the developing world, it is well established in developed societies. In the west, we see the articulation for rights of these sections of society from as early as the 20th century when many of the developing nations were still fighting for their freedom. This has resulted in legislation in many countries recognising the rights of LGBT communities, including same-sex marriage, e.g., USA, Europe, Australia, New Zealand etc.

The picture is not the same in developing societies. While in countries like India, Indonesia there is tacit recognition of LGBT rights, it is still regarded as a punishable crime, including death sentence (Iran), in most of the Arab countries.

The LGBT community in developing countries is also not as organised as the west. Hence, they are not in a position to politically influence the government. However, the recognition of LGBT rights in the west has created a strong sentiment against its criminalisation and this was also the reason that even the right-wing Indian government chose to remain silent in the Navtej Singh Johar case.

Thus, undeniably the LGBT movement in the developed world has affected the politics in developing nations. However, both societies are at different levels in recognising their right, and the movement in the east is certainly not as strong as in the west.

[220 words]


8] Comment on the decline of political parties and examine whether new social movements shall be alternative strategies for establishing link between government and society. [2016/10m/150w/1b]

Political parties are the organisations of politically like-minded people who seek political power and public office in order to realise their policies.

But there appears to be a widening gap between the policy preferences of voters and the electoral manifestos of parties, indicating the decline of political parties. There is a decline in party membership, voter turnout, party system stability, and social bases of traditional political parties.

As a consequence, we also witness the rise of new social movements in the past few decades and the rise of anti-politics movements. These movements are seen as an alternative for the constituencies whose collective interests are not being represented by established parties. They focus on social change through both community actions and shaping the formal political process. The new social movements are also fluid and decentralised structures that are easier to access by the mass than the Weberian political parties with formal and hierarchal structures. 

However, new social movements have not totally side-lined the parties. The old parties adapt to the new inputs from the environment. Moreover, people still prefer parties for their familiarity and stability. Even now, parties continue as vital sinews connecting the organs of government; as E. E. Schattschneider’s has famously said, “Political parties created modern democracy, and modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of the parties.”

[219 words]


9] Do interest groups help to promote democracy or to undermine it? Give your opinion. [2016/15m/200w/4c]

An interest group is an organised association that aims to influence the policies or actions of the government. They perform the essential democratic functions of aggregating and articulating public opinion.

Interest groups act as the ‘free schools of democracy’, teaching people political and organisational skills. They are recruiting grounds for political leaders and encourage the politics of accommodation, understanding and compromise. By bringing together different people with different backgrounds and opinions, interest groups give people a sense of belonging, a purpose, and are indispensable ways of organising minority interests.

Interest groups also provide a network of organisations outside and independent of government. Moreover, they provide governments with technical information and specialist knowledge and can help implement public policy efficiently and effectively.

However, at times the interest groups may also undermine democracy by being stringent with their narrow, sectional concerns. They can be exclusive, keeping out some sections of the population and not representing their views (e.g., women, minorities).

Moreover, interest groups are responsible only to their own members. If interest groups have too much power, then representatives and the responsible government will have too little.

Lastly, these groups may lose their critical independence of government and may propagate the government’s agenda. On the other hand, governments may be ‘captured’ by private interests resulting in fragmented public policy, preventing governments from developing coherent policies.

In the ultimate analysis, as Miller says, ‘politics rests ultimately upon the conflict and accommodation of interests’. And interest groups help to prevent governments from imposing unfair burdens on the unorganised masses, thus ultimately contributing to democracy.

10] What is the difference between interest groups and pressure groups? Are the pressure groups in India in a position to fully protect or promote the interest of their members? [2015/10m/150w/1e]

Answer Needs Improvement!

Interest groups are a large category of organisations that are formed to promote a special interest. Pressure groups are a specific sector within interest groups which use persistent and coercive techniques to affect policy and influence policymakers.

India is a developing country having a scarcity of resources and acute poverty promoting the significant role of the pressure group. The pressure groups in India are based on caste, religion, business, agriculture, language, etc.

Recent farmers protest lead by pressure groups like Bharatiya Kisan Union against the farm legislations which led to Supreme Court holding the laws. Various caste groups pressurise the governments for reservation in jobs or education, e.g.  Patidar Agitation of Gujarat and the Maratha reservations case.

Due to heterogeneity of India and the presence of intersectionality, pressure groups fail to include all the people. There is always clash of interests and the group with more power prevails and voting banking prevails as Tom Driberge has said, ‘you have only two options with pressure group if you agreed with it then accept it and embrace it and if you are not agreed then ignore it’.

Pressure groups are intrinsic part of India’s democracy who bring forward various demands of people in front of the government.

// 2nd part of the question could be addressed more explicitly and better. The question is about are PGs in position to fully protect /. Promote interst of its members?

11] Struggle for democracy has been marked by bitter strife and tribulations. Examine the statement illustrating the cases of Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar. [2015/20m/250w/2a]

Post decolonisation, Most of the third-world countries adopted a democratic form of government. However, this western political practice could not sustain, and in many countries, democracy was reduced to electionalism.

Pakistan got independence in 1947 and since then has mostly been under military control, directly or indirectly. As suggested by Christophe Jaffrelot, because of the contradictory elements, ideas and motives that continue to exist in the country. There continues to be tension between the unitary identity of the state versus the ethnic identity of regions, the complex relationship between civilian politicians and military institutions, and the role of Islam in the governance of Pakistan.

Nepal, on the other hand, was never colonised but remained a monarchy. Since 1950, the country has been experimenting with democracy which has failed after a minute success. Recently, there is again an ongoing crisis concerning the leadership of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal- Unified Marxist-Leninist which has led to the dissolution of the parliament and the rise of several constitutional questions. The crisis even gave rise to pro-monarchy rallies by a section. Further, there are issues of identity politics with Madhesis, Dalits and Janjatis seeking more participation in decision-making.

Further east, on 1 February 2021, Myanmar’s democratically elected government was removed by a military coup on the pretext of election fraud. Myanmar was only a decade-old democracy after nearly a half-century of direct or indirect military rule. The military did not simply return to the barracks after 2010, and the Myanmar society faces a crisis of tolerance; Rohingyas are just one example.

In Robert Dahl’s work on polyarchy, freedom is central to democracy. Freedom to formulate and express their preferences and to have a share in the government of one’s society. But most of these countries turned into electoral authoritarianism or a tutelary regime rather than democracy. And the fight between unlimited state and freedom-seeking citizens continues, leading to loss of life, liberty, and dignity.

12] The Party System in India is neither western nor indigenous. Explain. [2014/10m/150w/1a] // Modification can be done.

Political scientists like Zoya Hassan and Paul Brass believe that India’s party politics does not fit neatly into any of the theories of liberal democratic politics known in the west. Simultaneously, India’s traditional social divisions have not translated easily into the party-political system. India’s heterogeneity has made it impossible for a single set of parties to emerge across the country as happened in more homogenous societies. The first three decades of India were dominated by the Indian National Congress, called by Rajni Kothari as the ‘once-dominant’ party system of India. This later went under the process of fragmentation giving rise to the ever-evolving party system of India. The diversities and social fragmentation of Indian society have produced a proliferation of regional and other political parties which often give to each state in the Indian Union a unique party system imperfectly integrated into the “national party system.” Parties in India are the blending of different forms of modern organisation and participatory politics with indigenous practices and institutions.

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