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PSIR 2A-3 Politics of Representation and Participation – Previous Year Questions – Solved

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] How does democratic politics construct citizenship? [2023/10m/150w/1c]

T.H. Marshall in Citizenship and Social Class defined citizenship as ‘full and equal membership in a political community’, that holds the promise of equality and integration within the political community. Citizenship may then be seen as a condition that is continually evolving and changing. At different moments in history, ‘becoming a citizen’ has involved either an extension of the status to more persons, or a liberatory dismantling of hitherto existing structures of oppression.

Democratic politics establishes the legal framework for citizenship. It defines who is a citizen, delineates their rights and duties, and outlines the procedures for acquiring or losing citizenship. This legal framework is enshrined in a country’s constitution and citizenship laws.

In a democracy, citizenship is closely linked to political participation. Citizens have the right to vote, stand for office, and engage in political activities. The act of voting is a fundamental expression of citizenship, allowing individuals to have a say in the selection of representatives and the formation of government.

The rule of law, a fundamental principle of democracy, ensures that all citizens are equal before the law. Democratic politics reinforces the idea that no one is above the law and that citizens can seek legal redress when their rights are violated.

Citizens in a democracy have the power to hold their elected representatives accountable through regular elections, public scrutiny, and mechanisms such as impeachment or recall. This accountability is an essential aspect of citizenship.

Overall, democratic politics constructs citizenship by defining rights and responsibilities, facilitating political participation, promoting civic education, and fostering a sense of belonging and identity. Citizenship in a democracy is not static; it evolves and adapts to changing political, social, and cultural contexts. [280 words]

2] Discuss the role of social movements in strengthening the democratic processes in developing societies. [2022/15m/200w/2b]

In developing societies, social movements are essential for bolstering democratic institutions. They act as change agents by promoting social and political reforms, fighting for the rights of marginalised people, and calling for greater government accountability.

Social movements often emerge from marginalized communities and amplify the voices of those who have been historically excluded or oppressed. They provide a platform for these groups to express their concerns, aspirations, and demands, thereby promoting inclusivity and challenging existing power structures.

Social movements play a critical role in holding governments and institutions accountable. They scrutinize the actions of those in power, raise awareness about corruption, and demand transparency in decision-making processes.

Social movements encourage citizens to actively participate in the democratic process. They mobilize individuals, foster civic engagement, and create spaces for political dialogue and deliberation.

Social movements contribute to the development and strengthening of civil society organizations. They foster networks of activism, build solidarity among various groups, and create spaces for collaboration and collective action. A vibrant civil society is essential for democratic processes as it acts as a check on state power and provides avenues for citizen engagement.

It is essential to remember that social movements’ effects on democratic processes might vary depending on the particular context, political climate, and tactics used. While some movements can result in quick policy changes, others might have a longer-lasting effect by affecting societal views and public conversation. [232 words]

3] How has the electoral democracy augmented the participation of people in the democratic process? [2022/20m/250w/2a]

An electoral democracy describes a democratic government based on a system that enables all citizens to select one candidate from a list of competitors for political office. The process is called an election. Each citizen becomes a voter who casts a secret ballot with their choices.

A democratic government is a government that sustains itself through public opinion which is expressed through the medium of elections. People vote to elect their representatives who form and run the government. These representatives implement the government’s policies and programmes. People’s participation in the election is what makes our democracy a representative and participatory democracy.

Parties or candidates make policy proposals during campaigns and explain how these policies would affect citizens’ welfare; citizens decide which of these proposals they want implemented and which politicians to charge with their implementation, and governments do implement them. Thus, elections emulate a direct assembly and the winning platform becomes the “mandate” that the government pursues.

Elections serve to hold governments responsible for the results of their past actions. Because they anticipate the judgment of voters, governments are induced to choose policies that in their judgment will be positively evaluated by citizens at the time of the next election.

Election with the Universal Adult Franchise compels politicians to reach most corners of the country and give voice to diverse issues, even if just for electoral victory.

In order for the election to qualify for democratic integrity, the process must be free and fair without any coercion or bribery tactics and independent of the incumbents. The problem is that electoral democracy has been instrumentalized by populists to undermine liberal democracies across the world.

Democracy is enriched when different voices and constructive opinions influence the policies of the government. And elections are the essence of democracy when a political system’s health is evaluated and enhanced. [304 words]

4] The modernization thesis asserts that affluence breeds stable democracy. How do you explain the success of India being the world’s largest democracy as an exceptional case? [2021/20m/250w/4a]

The modernization thesis, which holds that prosperity promotes stable democracies, has generated a lot of discussion in the field of political science.

It is crucial to understand that the relationship between economic development and democracy is complex and multidimensional, even while wealth and economic development can undoubtedly help the stability of democratic institutions. The largest democracy in the world, India, offers an intriguing case study that refutes the modernization thesis’s oversimplified interpretation.

India’s democratic system has deep roots in its history, particularly in the struggle for independence from British colonial rule. The Indian independence movement fostered a strong sense of nationalism, democratic values, and a commitment to inclusive governance. The foundation of democratic principles laid during this period laid the groundwork for India’s post-independence democratic institutions.

India has a vibrant and active civil society that plays a crucial role in advocating for democratic values, human rights, and social justice. Civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, and grassroots movements have been instrumental in holding the government accountable, mobilizing citizens, and influencing policy outcomes.

India has a long-standing tradition of conducting free and fair elections, which is a cornerstone of democratic practice. Despite logistical challenges, India has successfully organized massive elections involving millions of voters across diverse regions. The regularity of elections and the high level of participation have contributed to the legitimacy of India’s democratic system.

India’s democracy has demonstrated resilience even in the face of significant challenges, such as poverty, social inequality, and regional conflicts. While economic development is an important factor in strengthening democratic systems, India has managed to sustain its democratic institutions and processes despite economic disparities.

The case of India showcases that democracy can flourish and endure even in the presence of economic challenges, emphasizing the importance of contextual factors, historical legacies, institutional frameworks, and citizen participation in shaping the success of democratic systems. [306 words]

5] Explain the impact of electoral systems and cleavages in shaping party systems with reference to developing countries. [2021/20m/250w/3a]

The conventional wisdom regarding party systems maintains that the number of parties is determined by the interaction of electoral systems and social cleavages.

According to Duverger, the electoral system influences the party system of a country. The FPTP (First-Past-the-Post) system, as the simplest example of Plurality/Majority systems, generally provides voters in a district a clear choice between two parties, often gravitating towards a party on the left and one on the right, alternating in power.

Proportional Representation Systems, on the other hand, encourage the formation of several political parties that generally reflect policy, ideology, or leadership differences within society. But India has a multiparty system even with FPTP, but scholars called the Indian system the ‘one party dominant’ system which is back in India with the rise of BJP. 

According to the social cleavage theory given by Lipset and Rokkan, party system fragmentation is greater in countries with more social cleavages. As each cleavage forms, political parties appeal to one side or the other of a cleavage. Most developing countries constitute heterogeneous societies. Moreover, with urbanisation and occupational changes leading to the formation of urban-rural and class cleavages, social cleavage theory predicts that party systems will become increasingly fragmented. 

But many countries in the developing world have low levels of party system fragmentation (so low as to make elections virtually uncompetitive). From the perspective of the social cleavage theory of party systems, the Indian parties, especially the Congress, are anomalous. Religion, language, caste, class and ethnic differences fragment Indian society into groups that make relatively complete claims on individuals. Yet, one party – the Congress – wins the support of a large share of the electorate.

We can say that in developing countries, the interaction of electoral systems and social cleavages created new forms of party systems unique to those countries’ situations which cannot be explained with traditional theories. [309 words]

6] “Political parties and pressure groups are sine-qua-non of democracy.” Comment. [2021/10m/150w/1b]

Both political parties and pressure groups are generally comprised of individuals with similar views on policy and governance who organize together to achieve their policy goals.

Professor Harold J. Laski said about political parties, “There is no alternative to party government, save dictatorship, in any state of modern size. The government requires leaders, leaders require not an incoherent mob behind them, but an organised following able to canalise the issues for an electorate with a free choice.”

Political parties have multifarious duties to perform. They are the most significant sub-actors who participate in and regulate the political process. They put up candidates, canvass support for them, and if voted to power, they govern the state for a specific period. An opposition which, in a responsible manner, keeps the ruling party under constant vigil and check.

According to David Truman, “Pressure groups are attitude groups that make certain claims upon other groups in the society.”

Pressure groups try to bring about changes in policies of the government either by influencing its institutions, or even otherwise. Almost all democracies have adopted the electoral democracy mode. Thus, it is also argued that voters loose control over the government after elections. Pressure groups help to retain such control over the government, making it accountable.

Political parties and pressure groups are essential for the healthy working of modern democratic states and will continue to exist in one form or another. [235 words]

7] 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 and both elements progress with each other just like train tracks.

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, is also called political efficacy by scholars.

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 society participates in the decision-making. After all, democracy is not an end, but a means for a society to achieve its highest potential. [147 words]

8] 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 the 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 as mentioned 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 also has a multi-party system along with active pressure groups, which enhance political participation at a larger scale.

However, 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 democracy, there are also other features of the Indian constitution that cannot be ignored. [238 words]

9] 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 legitimising democratic rule.

Although voting is an individual act, it does not take place in isolation. Votes are influenced by a host of factors. Free and fair elections motivate people to go out and vote, in addition, even close and competitive elections would also give higher turnout. For instance, one of the reasons attributed to lower voter turnout in recent elections in Iran was the 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 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 a 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 meaning. [252 words]

10] 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 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 Dalits, 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 “grass roots” 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 and are not fearful to demand the fulfilment of their rights and claims. [271 words]

11] 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 from some of the developing parts of the world still struggle to understand what democracy really stands for.

The post-colonial states are each at a unique juncture in their developmental journeys. Most of the states do have a democratic set-up, but the states here are ‘overdeveloped’ as suggested by Hamza Alavi because the masses still live 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.

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 the 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 to democracy in developing countries. After all, democracy is an ongoing, dynamic process instead of a singular achievement. [243 words]

12] 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 attempt to assert its priority over the rest. Identity politics becomes a political project that attempts recovery from exclusion and denigration of the group.

In South Asia, Pakistan was formed on the basis of religion, but due to their political isolation on the basis of languages and ethnicity, the 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.

There is a need for these democracies to adopt a model which will accommodate the various identities of people without compromising democracy. India definitely has much to offer to the world in this regard. [226 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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