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The recent referendums in Britain and Colombia and their surprising outcomes have raised a question on whether referendums can be a tool to deepen the participatory process of people in Indian democracy. Indian democracy has shown slow but sure maturing with strengthening of representative institutions, increased participation in elections and separation of powers between the various organs of government. But have the Indian citizens reached a stage of effecting influences on important legislations having a strong bearing in their lives? How deep is the democratic consciousness of Indian citizens? A referendum is an instrument of direct democracy where citizens are asked to directly vote upon an important legislation and specific issue instead of representatives who do so on their behalf in normal course of law-making. In Brexit referendum, 52% Britons voted for leave on decision whether Britain should remain in the European Union (EU) or not. In the referendum called by Colombian government to ratify the accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), 50.3% of less than 38% electorate that turned out for election, opted for No vote. In both these diverse regions, the referendums had surprising outcomes. While it was the anger at perceived job loss due to immigration that led to Brexit, in Colombia, a low turnout of electorate resulted in putting in a major spanner in peace deals after painstaking negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC. Referendums add legitimacy to decisions which may otherwise be considered risky or unpopular. Should India use referendums to enhance the substantiveness of our democracy?

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