One look at the leadership of various political parties in India, will confirm that our democracy is only skin deep. While the leaders give customary lip service to democracy, their autocratic streak is all too evident in their dealings within their own political parties. Not only do they shamelessly promote their kith and kins, they run their parties as personal fiefdoms. They also prevent free voicing of opinions. Any contrarian voice against the ruling clique even at ‘Inner Party Fora’ leads to swift expulsion. Even though it is now established, that dissent is the true essence of democracy, no political party in India, without exception, provides any space for dissent. How can such a situation be conducive to the growth and prosperity of democratic values in our polity?
Not too long ago, Government formation at the Center was held hostage to the the equitable distribution of power within the progeny of Karunanidhi from his three marriages. Alas! he did not command the numerical strength to justify a cabinet birth for each of his sons/daughters/grand nephews, but he gave the Congress negotiators a tough time anyway. The recent clamour in Andhra Pradesh for anointing the political novice son of the late Chief Minister as the next CM, is symptomatic of the same problem. Indian political history is replete with instances of dynastic successions. Led by the redoubtable Nehru-Indira Gandhi-Rajeev-Sonia-Rahul, off late this virus has been contracted by practically every state satrap be it Lalu-Rabri & Paswans in Bihar, Patnayaks in Orissa, Badals in Punjab, Abdullahs & Sayeeds in J&K, Pawars & Thakerays in Maharashtra, Goudas in Karnataka, Mulayam clan in U.P., Karunanidhi clan in TN etc. . The examples are endless on both sides of the divide. The oft repeated, specious argument that one should not object to politician’s son being a politician when there is no objection to a doctor’ son becoming doctor, engineer’s son being engineer etc., does not hold much water. The objections are not just based on the sons/daughters/nephews/wives joining politics but more importantly on the complete absence of any due process and the walkover awarded to these star politicians. It is almost akin to a business or a monarchical succession. Obviously it is at the cost of other more deserving leaders and it discourages those without such affiliations to enter politics.
Even otherwise, nomination of candidates for elections by Political parties is done without any tranparent due process. It is subject to the whims of the ruling clique. In some cases, sale of party tickets to the highest bidder has also come to light. It may seem like an internal matter of the respective political party, but it has an important bearing on the quality of choice (or lack of it) available to the electorate. Hence this process to needs to be brought under public scrutiny. We need to devise a model where party members duly elect their candidates for each constituency after following a due process.
Party system is an integral part of parliamentary democracy. It plays a crucial role in deciding not just the candidates but also the ‘party line’ on critical issues. This ‘party line’ is then enforced in the legislatures using the anti-defection bill, if required. Normally the political satrap’s whim becomes the will of the people. Hence political parties can not be left soley to the discretion of the their leaders alone. They needs to be more tightly regulated by an outside agency. While the election commission mandates timely election of party functionaries, in most cases it is a mere formality. Active electioneering is discouraged and a consensus is concocted to keep the status quo going.
Inner party democracy will add more depth and meaning to our democracy. It will also have a direct impact on the kind of people joining politcs and a bearing on the choice available to the elecotorate.