ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

A Tale of Two Leaders: Autocratic Transition of India’s Two Greatest Leaders


Rakshit Dishari - Wayne State University, Political Science, Detroit, United States


22 – The present democratic crisis in South Asia: causes, distinctive elements and historical precedents


 The idealistic values that a stable democratic government embodies- political competition, democratic institutions, free and fair elections, freedom of the press, and fundament rights to every individual- are under threat globally. India’s democracy is comparable to that of the rest of the globe. Indian democracy under Indira Gandhi and currently under Narendra Modi is being systematically eroded with legal means. Mrs Gandhi and Modi can be labelled as “autocratic legalism” as they came to power through electoral victories, exploited democracy and law to push for their illiberal agenda, and successfully concealed their authoritarian intentions behind the diversity of legal structure.

1975 was a watershed year in independent India. Mrs Gandhi declared a national emergency constitutionally to preserve and hold her position, fashioning an autocratic tendency after facing scathing criticism from the opposition, charges of corrupt electoral practices, and electoral loss in Gujrat. As elections are intervallic, how a democracy functions between elections is crucial. This is where democracy under Modi has faltered. Muslims are targeted, squashing dissent using anti-terrorist laws, and journalists are silenced via FIRs. The research objective of this paper is to present how the democratic process can be used to secure undemocratic means and aims to contribute to a better understanding of how democratic government leaders transition into autocrats using the institutions of democracy.