The mismatches in Indian politics
There is a mismatch between the role defined for the parliamentarian and the expectations of the people. National parties must do better in creating a more equal society by being inclusive .Updated: Mar 25, 2019 08:29 IST
India has a parliamentary system. But there is a mismatch between the role defined for the parliamentarian and the expectations of the people. The constitutional scheme holds that Members of Parliament (MPs) essentially have to frame laws: people on the ground expect MPs to solve their daily problems, intervene in essentially municipal and district level issues, and improve their lives. There is a second mismatch. When the voter goes out to press the button, he is expected to elect only his local representative - admittedly on the party platform he represents. But in reality, since the legislature and executive are conjoined in India, the voter is not just electing his MP but also his Prime Minister. This divergence – of an MP’s role and expectations from him; of an election which is local but turns increasingly national – has made the role of parliamentarians very different in India’s system.
It is in this larger backdrop that we should assess the selection of candidates, so far, by different parties. A caveat- Congress has released six lists, the BJP has named 184 candidates, but many more are yet to be declared. But initial trends give us a glimpse into a pattern. The Congress is playing on the front foot, as Rahul Gandhi said it would, in battleground states like UP. In the seats where it is in the reckoning, the party is putting up strong candidates - even if these candidates hurt the prospects of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance. At the same time, while the Congress left many alliances till too late, the fact is it has stitched up multiple alliances in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. This has meant that it will contest on fewer seats than it did in the past in many pockets. But in all cases, the local candidate is essential in the Congress scheme of things since they hope local arithmetic will overturn Narendra Modi’s national campaign.
But the BJP’s list is even more telling. In a state like UP, where the party suffers from triple anti-incumbency – since it is in power at the centre, has the state government, and has both the MP and mostly the MLAs any constituency - it has chosen to repeat the majority of its incumbents. This is always a fine balancing act for parties. Do you drop MPs and hope anti incumbency fades, or do you repeat incumbents, bank on his home and prevent a possible rebellion? While adopting the latter in key states like UP, the BJP seems to have adopted the former strategy - of changing candidates - in states like Chhattisgarh where it is confronting a major challenge. This can be traced to the fact that in major states, the BJP hopes that the Modi campaign will push through local incumbents, but in some regions, it needs strong local faces.
What is common to both parties so far however is the lack of gender diversity, and the fact that women constitute less than 15% of the list. This is even more incongruous when Naveen Patnaik has given 33% and Mamata Banerjee, 40% of their parties’ tickets to women. Besides calculating only on tactical electoral grounds, the national parties must do better in creating a more equal society by being inclusive.
First Published: Mar 25, 2019 07:39 IST