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The Parliamentary system of India allows for multiple political parties, catering to multiple aspirations, to take part in any election and represent varying ideologies and beliefs. Indian politicians and political analysts as well, often celebrate the vibrancy of India’s multiple party politics. Various parties have been formed out of and merged with existing ones, for reasons ranging from personal rivalries, factionalism and ideology. 

Ideally, a multi-party system is democracy in its true form, as it means that every sizeable voter group’s aspirations can be represented. One or two parties can never do justice to the needs and wants of all sections of society, especially in a country as diverse as India. Let’s take a look at a few parties that launched after Independence to cater to specific sections of voters who needed some kind of representation or voice at the time. 

Party

Purpose 

Shiv Sena 

To fight for the pride of Mumbai’s Marathi population and ensure employment for locals 

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) 

To stand for Tamil pride and fuel secessionist demands for a South Indian Nation 

Bhartiya Jan Sangh (now Bhartiya Janata Party) 

To promote Hindu nationalism and oppose minority appeasement politics of the Congress 

 
The parties mentioned above are few political outfits which actually started out with a mission in mind. This is not to justify their ideologies, but to point out that they were indeed committed to their beliefs. Now lets have a look at other parties that launched after Independence because of personal rivalries and factionalism, sometimes under the garb of ideology. 

  1. Shiv Sena was split by Raj Thackeray to form a new party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, because Bal Thackeray chose his son Uddhav, over Raj to lead the party. Image

  2. Indian National Congress was split by Sharad Pawar to form the Nationalist Congress Party, under the pretext of not allowing a foreign born (Sonia Gandhi) to lead the INC. Clearly Mr Pawar wanted more importance in the party which was denied to him by the elevation of Sonia Gandhi as party President. Image

  3. M.G. Ramachandran split the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam because of his differences with M Karunanidhi, then CM of Tamil Nadu and leader of the DMK., to form the All Indian Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Image

The Shiv Sena & MNS have the same ideology , the same voter base and a similar party structure. The same goes for DMK & AIADMK and INC & NCP. 

This shows that many of the multiple parties are products of inflated egos of disgruntled party leaders who had ambitions which could not be satisfied inside the parent parties. This splitting business has only resulted in a fractured mandate in elections and increasingly difficult-to-handle coalition governments, without any real representation of the people. What is worse about these personality-based splitting factions is that because the background of their formation, the leader can make the new party his or her family business.  

As a result of this mess, the multi-party system has turned on India’s democracy and made it a Quasi-monarchy, with each political family running its own fiefdom. These parties use their goons to solve petty, local problems and buy the loyalty of the poor voter using either money or muscle power. They win regional elections and also Lok Sabha seats which arms them with a bargaining power over the Central Government. They become what I call small scale Kingmakers. In a Federal Union, there is nothing wrong with having a weak centre and strong state units. The problem arises when these states begin to lose sight of national interests and the greater good.  

To my mind, there is no doubt that a multi-party system is the true form of democracy. However, when we allow personality-centric parties to flourish, rather than ideology-based, true representation of the people goes for a toss. The leader is portrayed as the solution to people’s problems, rather than policies.  

One way to ensure that parties are not split by disgruntled leaders is to make sure that every political party has a functioning intra-party democracy and intra-party anti-corruption mechanisms. To some extent, this will prevent elected representatives from being bought over by a rebelling leader and also allow him a democratic way of expressing his discomfort within the party. Presently, these measures can only be written about in articles like these as the political class is happy with the way things are run in this country. As they are the ones who have the power to change the system, it would be foolish to expect them to destroy their own comfort zones. 

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