What Does Being A Republic Actually Mean?

People often use terms like republic and democracy loosely and interchangeably. But at its core, there is a significant difference between being a democracy and being a republic. Without an adequate understanding of such abstract concepts, the Indian citizens at large will fail to appreciate the contribution of the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution.

What Is Democracy?

It is the rule of people. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, it is a rule for the people, by the people, and of the people. For years, the whole world lived in a feudal system. A system where land was the most paramount asset. So, people who owned huge spaces of land eventually became kings and queens and that in turn led to a monarchical form of government.

A placard of the Constitution held up at a protest against the proposed implementation of a 13-point roster system for reserved seats in Indian higher education in New Delhi. (Photo: BAPSA/Facebook)

In a monarchy form, the king was supreme and anything he said or did was the law of the land. A man’s fate and destiny were completely dependent on the abilities and intentions of the king. If the king was weak then the kingdom would be raided by neighbors; if he was evil, then anyone going remotely against his wishes would be punished and so on. There was very little scope for individualism and everything in the empire was done to serve the king and his kingdom.

But after the Renaissance and the Enlightenment in Europe during the 15th and 16th century where individualism strengthened, people fought for their own freedom. We saw a demand by the people to have more rights and eventually being granted the right of ‘self-rule,’ i.e. people ruling themselves. Thus, we embarked upon democracy.

What Is The Problem With Democracy?

The major idea behind people’s rule was that as they would rule themselves, they would work for their own benefits. But soon, the elected people too became a very powerful class which is now referred to as the political class. Not much different from a monarch, honestly. A classic case of how power corrupts individuals.

And hence, the major criticism of democracy is that it will always lead to majoritarianism. The like-minded will rule, team up and work for the like-minded. Hence, it is also often called ‘mob rule.’ In a democracy, there is no limit to the elected people as they have secured the majority of people’s mandate and can do what they deem fit.

For example, in the US, if people subscribe more towards the ideas of the Democrat party, then they shall rule and if they subscribe to the ideas of Republicans, then the Republicans will rule.

Another example of this is the case of the Middle East. The area is plagued with orthodox and regressive ideas within the society, which results in the formation of governments that upholds similar values and legitimises the same, thus getting entangled into a vicious cycle which doesn’t lead to modern progressive value systems.

The worst example of this was Nazi Germany, where the majority party assumed so much power that there was nothing to limit their power, whatever the party thought or felt was made into a law and no one could question them as they had the people’s mandate.

And hence, individualism again weakens in these kinds of systems and if people don’t subscribe to majoritarian views or belong to minorities, then they are doomed to suffer.

How Was This Problem Solved?

This problem was solved by being a republic. Being a republic is a mechanism to limit the powers of the elected power. It is a belief that there is something more supreme than the elected leaders. For India, the major reason that we are a republic is because of our Constitution. The Constitution is the most supreme thing in our country.

It limits and checks the power of our Parliament. Say, for example, if tomorrow, such a leader gets elected who believes that it would be beneficial for our country to be governed by the United States’ President as their system of governance is the best in the world, they wouldn’t be able to do so.

A democratically elected leader would be well in his right to do this but as India is a republic, and our Constitution says that India is a sovereign country, no leader can take such a decision. A leader takes the oath of the Constitution while assuming office because they have to, at any cost, serve according to the values enshrined in the Constitution. Their new policies, laws and decisions cannot be against the Constitution. This is what being a republic at its core means.

This is in no way the complete concept regarding either democracy or republic but my aim was to provide an overall summary of both interrelated concepts so that citizens can appreciate both our Constitution, its makers and how we have been safeguarded from every worst-case scenario to protect every individual’s freedom (individualism).

Hence, always celebrate Republic Day and be very proud of this day as this day belongs to the common public and commemorates the protection of each individual.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: BAPSA/Facebook.
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