At least 53 per cent of Indians favour military rule, finds a recent Pew Research Center Survey. “There are reasons for calm as well as concern when it comes to democracy’s future,” says Pew in its introduction to the 38-nation poll results released October 16. The good part apparently is that despite fears of a ‘democratic recession,’ more than half in each of the nations polled consider representative democracy a very or somewhat good way to govern their country.
Interestingly, nearly 65 per cent Indians polled also felt that a governing system in which experts—not elected officials—make decisions would be good.The disturbing part? “Roughly half of both Indians (53 per cent) and South Africans (52 per cent), who live in nations that often hold themselves up as democratic exemplars for their regions, say military rule would be a good thing for their countries,” says the report. And “in Asia, 55 per cent of Indians, 52 per cent of Indonesians and 50 per cent of Filipinos favour autocracy.” This is particularly intense in India, where “27 per cent very strongly back a strong leader.” The report notes that while military rule is relatively unpopular, 17 per cent endorse this idea even in established democracies like the US, Italy and France.
But for India, this apparent preference for military rule is intriguing, given that it is one of the few nations in the region which has never had even a brief stint of such rule. Even before Independence, our founding fathers were devising ways and means to prevent such an event, and the democratic systems and processes they put in place have worked well so far. There are those cite India’s knee-jerk reactions to the aggressive antics of Pakistan and China to argue that keeping the Army at arm’s length has led to a certain lack of strategic thinking. But today, both nations have been served notice, though with mixed results. As for ‘strong’ leaders, why would any nation in the world prefer a ‘weak’ one?