Why is India called the biggest democratic country? I have seen many other countries bigger than India that still follow voting mechanisms. Why is India called so?

  • 7
    1. Define "bigger". Land area? Population? Economical strength?
    – Philipp
    Jul 31, 2014 at 8:42
  • 2
    2. Define "democracy". The definition of what is a democratic voting mechanism and what isn't differs a lot from country to country. In fact, many countries which are considered dictatorships by others call themself democratic just because they force everyone at gunpoint to vote in an election where there is only one candidate. The German Democratic Republic, for example, had the word "democratic" in it's name even though it is generally agreed that it was a totalitarian socialist state.
    – Philipp
    Jul 31, 2014 at 8:45
  • 3
    Define "Called". Give a specific example of who calls it that, so the context of where they used the term can be determined.
    – user4012
    Jul 31, 2014 at 14:48
  • 10
    India is the second "largest" country in the world by population. And it is "democratic" (by most measures) compared to China, the largest.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 31, 2014 at 16:22
  • Related Question: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/1907/… (Upshot to Whyis it called this? Because it is!) Aug 4, 2014 at 14:25

3 Answers 3


This question depends on two definitions:

  1. When is a country "bigger" than another? Land area? Population? Economical strength?
  2. When do you count a country as a "democracy"? Just having a voting mechanism doesn't make a democracy. When the vote is meaningless or designed in a way that the ruling party has an unfair advantage, it hardly matters. Also, there are a lot of other criterias which some people might or might not consider part of a working democracy (separation of powers, political equality, right to due process, freedom of speech...). I would argue that you won't find a country in the world which would be considered 100% democratic according to every possible definition.

India is the second largest country in the world by population. The only country with a larger population is China. The government system of China is a one-party socialist state which can hardly be called democratic, even though some government representatives are in fact elected directly or indirectly and the CPC has some democratic structures internally.

India is the 7th largest country by land area. Larger areas have: Australia, Brazil, USA, China, Canada and Russia. I will certainly not rate these countries by how democratic I would consider them, but I think that everyone can find at least one country in that list they would consider at least as democratic as India.

India is the 7th largest country by gross domestic product. Economically bigger countries are: United States, China, Japan, Germany, France and United Kingdom. Many of these countries would fulfill most definitions of a democracy (or at least those which would also be fulfilled by India).

tl;dr: The statement "India is the biggest democratic country" is solid when you measure by population, but not when you measure by area or GDP.

This, of course, under the assumption that you consider India itself a democracy. But I am not going to touch that issue with a ten foot pole.


Besides to the population, land area and the gross domestic product, I would like – as an answer – to explain about the decentralized system in India - which is an important aspect of democracy in this country. In India, these are Panchayats that play this important rule. It has been said that it is the oldest system of local government in the Indian subcontinent. There are about 265,000 gram panchayats in India (statistics of 2002) (and that is why it might be the biggiest). According to the Article 40 of the Constitution of India (the chapter on Directive Principles of the State Policy), the Government of the country has to set up Panchayats in the villages so that they can act as local self-government. Panchayat Acts were later (during 1950s) implemented in all states and by 1960 Panchayats were almost established throughout the country. Following the 73rd Amendment Act, 1992, which came into force in 1993, democracy was introduced at the village level. There is also one-third reservation for women in the Panchayat seats.

Decentralization can be defined as transfer or distribution of decision-making powers to local people. In fact, decentralization signifies the devolution of powers, and it is a major part of the democratization process.

  • 5
    That's really interesting, but how does it answer the question?
    – Philipp
    Jul 31, 2014 at 13:27
  • It;s pretty good info, but I doubt that most people using the term "largest democracy" mean it this specific way.
    – user4012
    Jul 31, 2014 at 14:50
  • 265,000 gram panchayats - means that it is the most extensive one.
    – Saeid
    Jul 31, 2014 at 14:58
  • So, it could possibly also win by a metric of "greatest number of elected officials".
    – Hulk
    Feb 15, 2021 at 6:59

Democracy is the government of the people. Thus, larger the number of people involved in the democratic government, larger is the democracy. India is second largest country in terms of population, after the China. But the china doesn't have complete democracy. Hence, India remains with the largest country (in terms of population) which have democracy.Therfore it is termed as the largest democratic country.

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