In the squabble in the Samajwadi Party with uncle pitted against nephew and son taking on the father, governance seemed all but forgotten. That the differences between leaders can hold the party and government hostage raises the issue of the lack of inner party democracy in many political parties.
The Congress holds inner party elections but often not on time. The BJP has internal elections as do the Left parties. But the rest are basically run at the whims and fancies of a strong leader. The Shiv Sena has never ever had an internal election. Rather Bal Thackeray made the rules as well as settled the succession issue in favour of his son with somewhat disastrous results with the nephew breaking away and forming his own party in a fit of pique.
The BSP does not have inner party elections, nor is there any succession plan or even a viable deputy. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the DMK, the AIADMK, the Trinamool, the RJD and the Janata Party (Secular) are run as personal fiefdoms and elections, if they can be called that, end up in choosing a leader by `consensus’. During state and general elections, the candidates are not chosen in a transparent manner, rather the party leader and his or her coterie do the selection. UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s interview to this paper, in which he says SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will decide who the party’s CM candidate will be in 2017, bears this out. Now it can be argued that this is an internal party matter and that a party has every right to do as it pleases.
But it has an important effect on the quality of candidates put forward before the electorate. India really needs a model where party members will be able to choose their candidates in constituencies and not have them decided by a ruling clique. The Election Commission has made it clear that there have to be elections for party functionaries but in most cases a consensus is forced and nothing really changes. There have been several committees which have suggested political reforms in order to introduce intra-party democracy in elections for important party positions, fund raising and spending and facilitating the rise of younger talent. The 170th report of the Law Commission has dwelt at length on this.
Political parties control the state apparatus, decide on the spending of public funds and frame legislative mechanisms and are considered the bedrock of democracy. So, it is imperative that as part of the strengthening of governance and finessing electoral reforms, intra-party democracy be institutionalised. The problems of letting leaders settle things among themselves unmindful of the voters who elected them is all too evident in the family saga which was played out for days on end in the SP case in UP and which seems to have abated slightly now.