Thursday, March 5, 2015

Role of Political Parties and the Right to Direct their Elected Representatives

                During the UPA rule, it was often heard that the Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh is a puppet in the hands of Congress Party’s President Ms. Sonia Gandhi.  Recently, we heard a lot of debates on the contents of Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan’s de facto resignation letter in which she accused Mr. Rahul Gandhi, the Vice President of her party having ‘interfered’ in the operations of her ministry, by forwarding some petitions from people and NGOs for consideration and necessary action. These debates that suggest any direction from the political party to a government formed by that party as something dangerous for our country have always amused me. However, I had discounted those views as mere political posturing against the ruling parties. Such ‘interference’ continues even today, in the form of dictates from RSS to its appointee and the current PM, Mr. Narendra Modi.
                When I read the news about a judge of Kerala High Court criticizing the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Mr. VM Sudheeran about a circular that he had issued to his party’s elected representatives in the local bodies of Kerala, I was rather surprised. One cannot dismiss the comments of a constitutional court either as political posturing, or as blabbering of some ignoramus.  Those statements of the court are binding on the people of the jurisdiction as precedents. Therefore, it is necessary to look into the issue, a little more seriously.
                What is the role of a political party, in our democracy? Our system has recognized the political parties. The candidates in our elections are either duly authorized representatives of recognized political parties or independents.  The elected members of our legislative and local bodies are bound by the whips issued by the political parties. The anti-defection law also recognizes the primacy of political parties in our systems.
                That being the case, is it not necessary for a political party to coordinate with its elected representatives on various policy and administrative matters? When the people have voted on the manifestos of a political party, whose responsibility it is to ensure that the government in power adheres to the promises made in the manifesto? Shouldn’t a political party ensure that the government that it forms governs the country/state/ local body as per the programmes and policies of the party?
                If the answer to the above is yes, then what is the problem in a party president coordinating or even directing ministers or head of a government formed by that party? In the present case, Mr. VM Sudheeran had written to the elected representatives belonging to the Congress party not to support granting of any new licenses for liquor bars in their respective areas. Please note that Sudheeran did not write to the local bodies directly, but only to the representatives who are party members. How can this be termed as an extra-constitutional interference by the Party President?
                Is it the stand of the judiciary that once elected, the representatives should not be given any directions on policy matters, by their respective parties? If it is indeed the case, it will not be in the spirit of the multi-party democracy that our Constitution has adopted.
                I sometimes wonder if we people have internalized the essence of democracy, at all. Reportedly, even Rahul Gandhi, a Gandhi dynasty scion could not convince the Congress party about the need to have democratic elections within the party.  The current prime minister of India is also an outcome of the nomination by RSS and not of any genuine democratic selection or election within the Bharatiya Janata Party.  Same is the case with other parties. No party encourages genuine intra-party elections. Those who seek to benefit from the democracy are reluctant to adopt the same system for their internal affairs.  Yesterday I read the news about how the national leadership of Communist Party of India managed to avoid an election to the post of State Secretary of the party in Kerala! Incidentally, it was again yesterday that the news about the internal bickering and cutting to size within the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party, also came out! All these make me wonder about our real attitude towards democracy. Perhaps, our democracy is a result of the vision of the framers of Constitution, rather than anything natural to us.
                It is in this context that one should analyze the statement from the Kerala High Court.  If the right of political parties to direct their members who are representing them in the local bodies and government are curtailed, it will lead to very undesirable results in our governance. The civil society, political parties, and judiciary must apply their minds to the role of political parties in our democratic system and ensure a healthy balance between various components.  

1 comment:

  1. Democracy or political parties don't operate in a vacuum; they are about people and human nature. Without understanding them nothing perfect can we expect. Sri Aurobindo has delved deep into these issues; how an individual should evolve and imbibe values for an ideal mode of collective living including Democracy. The more people read Sri Aurobindo, the greater the chance of social transformation and ethical revolution. [TNM55]