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India is the mother of democracy, says PM Narendra Modi

'In our ancient epic, the Mahabharata, the first duty of citizens is described as choosing their own leader'

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 30.03.23, 05:06 AM
Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi File Photo

Under attack for undermining democracy and its institutions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday reasserted that India is the mother of democracy, tracing its roots to ancient India and asserting that the country’s economic growth was the “best advertisement for democracy”.

The Prime Minister’s short speech at US President Joe Biden’s second Summit for Democracy was in sharp contrast to what his friend and beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.


While Modi made no reference to concerns at home and overseas about India’s “democratic backslide”, Netanyahu took the protests and criticism head-on and billed them as a “robust debate” that has provided Israel a historic opportunity to strengthen democracy.

In his speech, Modi said: “The idea of elected leaders was a common feature in ancient India, long before the rest of the world. In our ancient epic, the Mahabharata, the first duty of citizens is described as choosing their own leader. Our sacred Vedas speak of political power being exercised by broad-based consultative bodies. There are also many historical references to Republic states in ancient India, where the rulers were not hereditary. India is, indeed, the mother of democracy.”

Democracy, he added, is not just a structure, "it is also a spirit” based on the belief that the needs and aspirations of every human being are equally important. He linked this to one of his earliest slogans as Prime Minister — "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (striving together for inclusive growth)”.

"There is much to say about the virtues of democracy, but let me say just this: India, despite the many global challenges, is the fastest-growing major economy today. This itself is the best advertisement for democracy in the world. This itself says that democracy can deliver,’’ Modi said.

The Summit of Democracy was an election promise made by Biden during his campaign when the US itself was fighting an assault on its democracy by his predecessor Donald Trump’s supporters. Biden conceived it as an exercise to renew democracy at home while confronting autocracies abroad, knowing full well that the Trump years had eroded Washington’s right to grandstand on democracy without some introspection.

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