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Swarnim Pandey Dr. Monica Srivastava

Section- B Assistant Professor
Roll No.- 157 Political Science

I have taken efforts in this project. However, it would not have been possible
without the kind support and help of many individuals. I would like to extend
my sincere thanks to all of them.

I am highly indebted to Dr. Monica Srivastava for her guidance and constant
supervision as well as for providing necessary information regarding the project
and also for her support in completing the project.

I would like to express my gratitude towards my parents for their kind co-
operation and encouragement which helped me in completion of this project.
My thanks and appreciations also go to my colleagues in developing the project
and people who have willingly helped me out with their abilities.

-Swarnim Pandey.

 To study the concept of participatory democracy and its features.

 To understand the concept of right to recall and reject as the two important
instruments of participatory democracy.


This research is descriptive and analytical in nature. Secondary and electronic resources have
been largely used to gather information and data about the topic. Books and other references
as guided by faculty have been primarily helpful in giving this project a firm structure.
Websites, dictionaries and articles have also been referred.


Evolution of participatory democracy

Pros and cons

Case study

 Right to reject
 Right to recall



Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally- either
directly or through elected representatives- in the proposal, development, and creation of
laws. It encompasses social, economic, and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal
practise of political self-determination.

According to Robert Dahl, “Democracy provides opportunities for effective participation,

equally in voting, gaining enlightened understanding, exercising final control over the
agenda, and inclusion of adults.”

The political institutions that are necessary to pursue these goals are elected officials free, fair
and frequent elections, freedom of expression, alternative sources of information,
associational autonomy and inclusive citizenship.


Participatory democracy is a process emphasising the broad participation of constituents in

the direction and operation of political systems. The etymological roots of democracy imply
that the people are in power and thus, that all democracies are participatory. However,
participatory democracy tends to advocate more involved forms of citizen participation than
traditional representative democracy. It strives to create opportunities for all members of a
population to make meaningful contributions to decision making and seeks to broaden the
range of people who have access to such opportunities.1 Participatory democracy tends to
advocate more involved forms of citizen participation than traditional representative

Participatory democracy, available at
Participation is the core of the meaning of democracy since time immemorial. Beginning the
time of the ancient Greek democracy in the 5th BC, participation of people in determining
decisions affecting their own life was regarded as the key defining feature of the Athenian
democracy. However, the idea of democracy has evolved into various forms across time and
space. The changing nature of democracy has also affected the form and character of
participation. That is, as democracy is being re-conceptulized, and so is participation.
Athenian democracy was built on the idea of direct participation “in which people governed
directly rather than through the medium of elections and representative institutions.”2

Overtime other forms of democracy emerged including liberal democracy, representative

democracy, elitist democracy, pluralist democracy, popular democracy, to mention only a
few. Direct participation became to be replaced by indirect participation of people through
representation either through politicians or interest groups. With the development of nation
state, the practise of direct participation in a small community became unattainable and
representation had to be applied in order to make democracy attainable.3

However, increased scale from city-states to nation-states was not only the reason for this
move away from the practise of direct participation. The increased direct popular
participation became to be regarded as a threat to the development of capital and private
ownership. As the need to protect the established capitalist order became stronger, and so was
the trend toward the squeezing of popular participation. Paradoxically, direct participation of
people in decision making needed to be circumscribed in order to make modern democracy

It is in this context that another variant of democracy known as Participatory Democracy

emerged in an attempt to recapture peoples power to determine their own fate and to correct
the representative democracy whenever it becomes ‘misrepresentative’.5

Bernardeta Killian, Participatory Democracy in Tanzania


The key idea of participatory democracy is to promote, as far as possible, an equal

distribution of power over collective decision making. It is full expression of the idea that all
citizens have equal status in society, it ensures that there is a high degree of quality in the
outcomes of decision making. It allows people to be masters of their own lives to be fully
self-determining or autonomous. Self-determination at both individual level and at the level
of groups or collectives. As individual citizens have an interest in trying to live our lives
according to our own rights and not to have other people’s ideas of what’s good for us
imposed on us against our will. Participatory democracy can be seen as a away of allowing us
to ensure that collective decisions respect individual freedom. As members of groups, ranging
from households and clubs through workplaces, trade unions and neighbourhoods to states
and international organisations , we also have an interest in living according to our collective
will and not according to plans made by strangers. It enables collective control on our life.

Participatory democracy is good for a sense of community and for good social relationships
in a number of ways. For example, participatory democracy is supposed to strengthen
identification with the community because people feel that they are accepted and that their
voice is heard; they are not excluded and alienated from the society. It is also said to promote
public spirit, because being involved in democratic decision making forces people to listen to
others and take their interests and ideas into account. Full participation can’t be simply on the
idea of ‘what’s in it for me’—it has to be based on a responsible attitude of mutual respect
and concern, of give and take.6

Baker, What is Participatory Democracy?, 1997

Participatory democracy seems time consuming. It can take too long to reach decisions. Now
imagine that this is multiplied by a thorough democratization of society.

Another problem is the problem of scale. It is not practically possible to have participatory
democracy in countries with larger area. In this, everyone is involved. One of the problem is
simple ignorance, second is apathy and the third is self-interest. Participatory democracy
ideal is of public spirited citizens who participate on the basis of mutual respect and concern
and a commitment to the common good. But is democracy of any kind really like that? Isn’t it
more likely that people would participate mainly on basis of self-interest and narrow
sectarian values, so that participatory democracy would simply heighten social conflict?

Participatory democracy is based on equality and self-determination. But the standard way of
deciding things in democracies is majority rule. There is no equality of power in any
meaningful sense in system in which minority groups don’t get equal rights. Nor can those
groups be said to be self-determining in any meaningful sense if they are rarely successful in
determining the collective view. Everyone has the right to participate in decision making. But
in our society some people are much better resourced for participation than others, whether in
terms of straight financial backing or in terms of education, knowledge, organisational skills
and free time. It is hard to see how this inequality can fail to translate into inequality of power
which in turn creates unequal outcomes.7


Right to Reject: Meaning

Candidates are chosen by political parties but it might happen that people in the constituency
are discontented with the candidates presented to them. On the voting machine, below the
names of the candidates, a new option would be inserted which would say, ‘NONE OF THE
ABOVE’. A voter may choose this to express disapproval of all the candidates given on the
list. If that option gets the maximum vote in constituency then all the candidates would be
considered as rejected. In such a scenario, re-elections would take place with new candidates.

Something similar already exists in the Rule 49-O Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. It states
that if a person does not want to vote to one, and wishes to get this fact recorded, he may
follow a set of procedure in the election booth and do so. But it is not as practical or as grand
as right to reject.

Present Scenario in India

India being democratic nation follows electoral system. Under this system, the citizens of
India choose their elected representatives at the local, state and national level. Elections are
held every 5 years. The voters can vote for their preferred choice of candidates, among the
available options. The candidates who get the maximum votes is considered as an elected
representative of people.

This elected candidate is expected to do due justice to the aspirations of constituency-

irrespective of the manner in which the underlying people in that constituency would have
cast their votes. It is his responsibility to ensure an all round development of it. It is his duty
to give voice to the people in the corridor of power. It is his obligation to discharge his duties
with due fairness.

However, such elected representatives do not meet the people’s expectations once they are
elected to power. They do not discharge the duties given to them. Instead of focusing
development of their folks, they focus on their own personal development. Improvement of
their constituency takes a back seat. Aspirations of people are not met.

The system does not offer any mechanism to the people for changing their representative
once elected. This leads to citizens being discouraged to vote in elections as they don’t find
any worthy candidate.
Right to Reject is an Instrument of Participatory Democracy

Introduction of right to reject in India can give people a chance to reject all the candidates.
Earlier due to absence of proper options to choose people are discouraged from voting.
Voting is the essence of a democracy and in representative democracy like India, this voting
system gives people a chance to decide for the nation. With the help of this right to reject
now citizens are more encouraged to participate in voting. This leads to maximum

‘The court further reasoned that a voter may refrain from voting at an election for the reason
that he does not consider any of the candidates worthy. One of the ways of such expression
maybe to abstain from voting, which is not an ideal option for responsible citizen. The only
way by which it can be made effectual is by providing a button in the electronic voting
machines (EVM’s) to express that right, the court held. Under the ballot paper system, it was
possible to secretly caste a neutral/negative vote by dropping one’s ballot in the ballot box
without marking any mark on it. Under the new system, such secret neutral voting is not
possible, in view of rule 49B (which deals with arranging names of the candidates on the
balloting unit of the EVM), which has no provision for a neutral button.’8

The above article was about a statement given by the Supreme Court of India on Right to
Reject. This gives right to citizens to reject the ones deemed unworthy and take part in
decision making.

On September 2013, the Supreme Court of India ruled that the right to register a ‘NOTA’
vote in elections should apply and ordered the Election Commission of India to provide so. In
2014, general elections they accounted for about 1.1% of votes.


Recall: Meaning

The recall is a participatory democracy procedure that allows the appropriate authority and/or
a specified number of citizens to demand a vote for the electorate on whether an elected
holder of public office should be removed from it before the end of his tenure. This implies
that the recall must fulfil a set of requirements, which distinguish this procedure from others
aimed at terminating an elected officials period at tenure such as impeachment. To be
considered an instrument of participatory democracy, the process of legally interrupting the
period in office of an elected official must involve the initiative and/or vote of electorate.
When the initiative and the decision to do this come exclusively from the legally established

“None of the above”, Frontline, November 2013
authorities, such as legislature or judiciary, and do not require the voters involvement at any
phase of process, the procedure is more properly called impeachment.9

Right to Recall as an Instrument of Participatory Democracy

A recall requires citizens intervention, whether it is t o support or to reject a vote in a referendum a

decision taken by authorative body, or as the initiators of the request which may then be proceeded
and approved by an authoritative body. These could be considered mixed recalls. The procedure is
most participatory when both the initiative and the approval of the recall require the direct
intervention of the citizens, first as initiators of the request and second by expressing support for or
rejection of the initiative by casting their votes in a referendum. We define this procedure as a full
recall. Some countries provide for a mixed recall for the highest executive officials and a full recall
for members of national legislative bodies.10

The table given below shows the req. for the recall in different states in U.S.11



California 1911 All State-wide

officers:12% of votes
cast, 1% from each of
5 counties. Others:
20% of votes cast.

Geogia 1978 All 15% of eligibility of

electors, and each
from 1 congressional

Alaska 1959 All but judicial officer 25% of votes cast

Washington 1912 All but judicial officer 25% of votes cast

The above given table shows that recall of government officials is not just elected candidates.
It shows that how participatory democracy is practised by giving citizens right to recall the
candidates who don’t fulfil their expectations.

Direct Democracy: The International IDEA Handbook, available at

Participatory democracy strives to create opportunities for all members of population to make
meaningful contributions to decision making, and seeks to broaden the range of people who
have access to such opportunities. Right to reject encourages citizens to participation of
citizens. Right to recall gives citizen right to recall the government officials who didn’t fulfil
their expectations by participating in voting to recall officials. Right to reject and right to
recall are instruments of participatory democracy by providing greater means of participation
in decision making.

 O.P Gauba, An Introduction to Political Theory, 6th edition

 Direct Democracy: The International IDEA Handbook

 Bernardeta Killian, Participatory Democracy in Tanzania

 Baker, What is Participatory Democracy? 1997