Democracy, as well known, is a terribly flawed, but we know of no better option. Since they have to rely on the number of voters, instead of aiming at their quality, many politicians incline to political patronage of as many lobbies as possible–no matter which ones. On the other hand, all political systems which allow the right to vote to only an élite are liable to the shortcoming of making this élite profit of its position and exploit the non-voters, who cannot rebel (unless violently). One might suggest that democracy needs –in order to work properly– an on-going education of the masses. Information must be widely available and conflicting views should be able to reach the widest audience, in order for the voters to vote after having been able to know and judge the candidates. This process might be time-consuming, but the right to vote seems to me an adhikāra, that is, a right entailing a responsibility. However, many voters may prefer patronage. Hence, either one denies this right to irresponsible voters (and the scenario would then resemble the elitarian one sketched above), or one should be able to persuade people without forcing them. A possible argument could be that of one's future benefits. Culture matters, as shown not just by Amartya Sen, but also by many other thinkers who are not suspected of holding a political agenda. South Korea, for instance, changed its destiny through improving the level of instruction of its inhabitants and countries where illiteracy still affects a large part of the population are more likely to be/remain underdeveloped. But what about the case of a voter who prefers a bird in the (present) hand to two in the (future) bush?
The problem seems crucial for today's societies. Why is it so neglected in Indian philosophy? The Arthaśāstra assumes somehow the position of Macchiavelli's Principe, that is, dictatorship is unavoidable, let us then make it as good as possible. Other treatises wish to instruct the king in order to mitigate his possible defects. Some Brahmans might (I am no expert in the sociological background of dharmaśāstra) have devised law-codes in order to grant to themselves a role at the side of the sovereign. All other authors seem either to have enjoyed the favour of a powerful protector who sponsored them, or to have altogether ignored the issue.
The idea of karman and rebirth might have played a role, insofar as it legitimates the status quo (people who are born devoid of any political right are surely not worth having any).
Still, India is today's biggest democracy. Indians are proud of it and even the conservatives use democracy and do not condemn it (though praising Indian cultural past, the Laws of Manu, etc.). Apart from the UK influence and Gandhi's genius, how could this occur? Could one detect some thoughts serving as its inner foundation within Indian cultural past? And in case this should not be the case, did India develop a political thought worth considering, in order to improve (or substitute) our imperfect democracies?
(photo from http://www.kamat.com/database/)