A farcical democracy? Need to restore inner-party democracy in India

Otherwise, democracy will remain meaningless-- once in five-year exercise by ordinary citizens who are represented by MPs/MLAs who themselves are bonded labourers of a controlling coterie. 

Vinod Aggarwal May 13, 2023
Indian Parliament (Photo: Wikipedia)

It is high time that 'democracy' is legally defined in clear terms in India either by competent legislatures or courts.

Over 75 years have passed since independence and over 70 years when "We the People" gave ourselves the Constitution of India. But in these 70 years, Democracy has for ordinary citizens of the country largely meant only casting votes for Parliament, State Assemblies and local bodies once in five years. Besides this very important right to choose our representatives in various bodies, of course, we do have some basic rights like freedom of speech & expression, freedom of movement and right to practise one's religion, right to equality etc  By and large the courts have been able to come to the rescue of ordinary citizens in India when they appeal to the judiciary about violation of these rights, also called fundamental rights.

But the right of the adult franchise has largely been reduced to casting a vote once every five years and then having no participation in that 'democracy'.Though even this very important right to franchise itself has been shadowed by factors like election-time inducements or promises of free electricity, regularisation of illegal construction, cash, liquor, free sarees, laptops, cycles, sewing machines, etc and affirmation towards caste, creed, religion, etc, a much bigger malice that has quietly crept in our body politic is that even the elected representatives -- MLAs, MPs, local councilors - have lost their voice. 

Party autocrats rule supreme 

The anti-defection law may have curbed mass crossover by MLAs/ MPs before or after elections. But this has resulted in a much bigger problem-- autocratic party supremos, whether properly elected or not in the party,- have effectively killed inner-party democracy. Even the elected MPs/ MLAs have totally lost their voice. Leaders of family-owned parties like the Congress, Janata Dal-S, Akali Dal, TRS, DMK etc, and even non-family-owned parties like the BJP, Trinamool Congress, etc, have effectively become dictators in their own parties. The family - or a small cabal - takes a decision without necessarily having a proper democratic consultation with even the elected members. Their decision becomes the party policy and if it is a matter relating to legislation or resolution to be passed in a legislature, the whip is issued. 

Now it becomes almost legally binding for every elected MP/MLA to vote as per party whip, whether they agree or not. They have to follow the diktat of leadership even when they had no role in deciding the so-called party policy. Nobody can dare violate the whip as everything is decided by a small coterie, and there is hardly any democratic inner-party decision-making like in Western democracies. 

This is a farcical democracy!   No political party is ever going to change the situation. They will, on their own, never agree to a legally enforceable internal party democracy as it will amount to cutting their own feet. Legally enforceable and effective internal party democracy must be implemented before a whip can be issued. Otherwise, democracy will remain meaningless-- once in five-year exercise by ordinary citizens who are represented by MPs/MLAs who themselves are bonded labourers of a controlling coterie. 

Since there is absolutely no chance that the political class will ever agree to cut their own feet, the judiciary must find innovative solutions by suitably interpreting the Constitution and overruling the legislature. They have done it several times in the past - collegium system of  judges appointing judges, Basic Structure theory, declaring National Judicial Appointments Commission as unconstitutional despite the fact that it was passed by a historic vote in both houses of the Indian Parliament and the required  number of state Legislatures 

(The author is a former legal correspondent and a concerned citizen. Views are personal) 

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H P Marda
Mon, 05/22/2023 - 09:34
Nicely analysed. Kudos
Sonal Kothari
Wed, 05/24/2023 - 17:34
The facts are very well highlighted
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