Dhaka, Bangladesh
Missing inner party democracy in India

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Missing inner party democracy in India

It is welcome that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called upon the media to focus attention on inner party democracy. There can be no doubt that parties, which function as the elementary units in a competitive democracy, must themselves be democratic in how they function, from choosing their leaders to formulating strategy, in order for democracy to be substantive. In India, few parties have true intra-party democracy. Regional parties that are built around a towering leader do not even have any pretence of democratic decison making: their leader’s whim or fancy is the party’s policy. If that leader passes away, an unseemly scramble for power ensues as the party implodes, particularly if there are no charismatic successors from the leader’s immediate family. Even in the case of ‘ideological’ parties, things are scarcely different. Nitish Kumar did not hold any inner-party discussion while deciding to change his party’s alliance partner in Bihar — even his party president was not in the loop. The Communists call their idea of inner party functioning ‘democratic centralism,’ but the stress is clearly on centralism. The Congress does hold inner party elections periodically, but from the time of Mahatma Gandhi, in the face of whose displeasure elected president Subhas Chandra Bose resigned, the authority of a leader who somehow embodies the party’s collective conscience and moral force has been more important than the mechanics of elections. That Rahul Gandhi will succeed his mother as the next party president is a foregone conclusion. The party high command’s discernment in balancing different power blocs has mattered more for inner party peace than formal methods of democratic choice. The country’s biggest party today, the BJP, makes no bones about locating its conscience and moral authority in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which has appointed, or intervened to resolve differences over choosing, the party’s presidents and prime ministerial candidates. The PM is, indeed, right to focus on the need for inner-party democracy in India. —The Economic Times

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