Politics of India is an unusually complex subject to analyse. What is not very difficult to analyse is what has gone wrong with it. Today, even the average Indian would say that Indian politics is flawed. He would blame it on corruption, criminalization, etc that now characterize politics. In a way, this is a very accurate assessment of the problem. However, I think that this is the result of the problem and not the problem itself. In my opinion the problem begins at the level of political parties.

Modern Indian history of the post-Independence era accounts the formation of most of the present-day regional and national parties. The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885, with the objective of seeking representation for Indians in the British Indian legislative bodies. Of course, the Congress ended up securing freedom for the country later. The Congress party of today, though, is not the same party that won us Independence. Regardless of what most Congress members like to tom-tom about, the current Congress party is not the party of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Kripalani. The party used to be a democratic party until 1967, when Indira Gandhi took over. She scrapped all the intra-party elections and placed her own loyalists in key posts. This is not all – she also formed a new party, the Congress (I), in which the ‘I’ stood for ‘Indira.’ Till date, there is no thriving internal democracy in the party.

The other major party, the Bharatiya Janata Party too was formed in the 1980s, as a new avatar of the Jana Sangh that was the major Right wing organization with a pro-Hindu ideology. The Jana Sangh was opposed to giving special treatment to minorities. Many other regional and national parties were born in the last century of which the table below gives a brief idea about why they were formed or what they believed in.

Party

Founded in

Objective/Belief

Shiv Sena

1966

To represent the aspirations of the Marathi-speaking population of Mumbai

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)

1949

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

Shiromani Akali Dal

1920

To unite the Sikhs of the Punjab region and to preserve Sikh ideology

Socialist Party

1948

To stand for the Socialist ideology

Communist Party of India

1921

To bring Communist rule in India and to bring reform to the old Indian agrarian system, etc along Communist lines

My point is that all these parties that were formed with an ideology – an objective in mind, are no more about that. No distinction can be made between parties on the basis of the principles, culture or belief of the organization. The truth is that parties have simply become outfits for people who want to be in power.

The BJP used to be a respected party during the Vajpayee-Advani era when the party had a set of beliefs. Unfortunately, they tilted towards a conservative or slightly orthodox approach. At least it was their own belief and they stood for it, come what may! The three Karnataka ministers who were caught watching porn in the Assembly were from the BJP. Had the party still been run on the principles of yore, these Ministers might have been suspended within a day. The same goes for Congress. The dignity of Congress party members during Prime Minister Nehru’s tenure is unmatched so far. Today, if the party leadership had any dignity it would not have allowed someone like P Chidambaram, who has so many allegations of compromising the country’s security (2G scam – spectrum re-sale to Dubai company, Etisalat) against him, to continue as Home Minister.

This is one reason that we see so many defections when an election is around. The belief of a political party is not set to much store as long as it’s giving the defector a ticket to contest. The Congress (or NCP) and the BJP (or Shiv Sena) have such diametrically different beliefs that it is funny to see someone from a saffron party to suddenly join the Congress or vice versa!

Why then are there so many parties? If there is no backbone of principle left for various outfits, wouldn’t it be convenient for them all to merge? Yes, it would. But that’s where the hunger for power in Indian politics continues to result in more and more organizations. The maximum number of divisions in political parties has been over who would become chief minister or who would get to lead the party. Hardly have parties been fractured over a disagreement over policy issues. To conclude, I would say that gone are the days for voters to pick parties. Party loyalties count for nothing as parties stand for nothing! A wise voter must choose the best candidate, whichever party he may belong to. It doesn’t matter.

Image

Narayan Rane, switched sides from Shiv Sena to the Congress for a reason even he may not remember!

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