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We know that how crucial political parties are for the democracy. They are the most visible face of the democracy and people blame them for whatever is wrong in the working of democracy.
This is a case of our country too. Popular dissatisfaction and criticism has focused on four problem areas in the working of political parties.
1. LACK OF INTERNAL DEMOCRACY (with in the party):
all over the world there is a tendency in the political parties towards the concentration of power in one or few leaders at the top.
–parties do not keep membership registers, do not hold organizational meetings and conduct internal elections regularly.
–ordinary members do not get sufficient information on what happens inside the party.
–leaders assume greater power to make decisions in the name of party.
–more than loyalty to the party principles and policies, personal loyalty to the leader becomes more important.
2. DYNASTIC SUCCESSION:
since most of the parties do not practice open and transparent procedures, there are very few ways for the ordinary worker to rise to the top in the party. As those in the position favour people who are close to them.
–in many parties top positions are always controlled by members of one family. This is unfair to the others and bad for democracy, since people with not much experience or popular support come to occupy positions of power.
3. GROWING ROLE OF MONEY AND MUSCLES.(in parties during elections)
–since parties are focused only on winning elections, they tend to use short-cuts to win elections.
–they tend to nominate candidates, who have or can raise money. Rich people and companies who give funds to the parties tend to have influence on the policy decisions of the parties.
–in some cases parties support criminals who can win elections.
4. PARTIES DONOT OFFER MEANINGFUL CHOICE:
In order to offer meaningful choice parties should be different, but in the recent years there is decline in the ideological differences among parties in most parts of the world.
–as in our country differences among all major political parties on economic policies have reduced. And also in Britain, the difference between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party is very little.
–sometimes people can not even elect very different leaders either, because the same set of leaders keeps shifting from one party to another. Q. HOW CAN PARTIES BE REFORMED?
Some of the recent efforts and suggestions in our country to reform political parties and its leaders.
1. The constitution was amended to prevent elected MLA’s and MP’s from changing parties. This was done because many of them were indulging in Defections, in order to become ministers for cash rewards.
–now the laws say that if any MLA or MP changes parties, he or she will lose seat in the legislature. The new law has brought defection down and has made dissent even more difficult. Now MLA’s MP’s have to accept whatever party leaders say.
DEFECTION–changing party allegience from the party on which a person got elected to a different party.
2. The Supreme Court passed an order to reduce the influence of money and criminals.
–now it is made mandatory for every candidate who conducts elections to file an affidavit giving details of his property and criminal cases pending against him. The new system has made a lot of information available to the public.
AFFIDAVIT: a signed document submitted to the officer, where a person makes a sworn statement regarding her personal information.
3. The election commission passed an order making it necessary for the political parties to hold their elections and file their income tax returns.
–though parties have started doing so but it is a mere formality.
Many suggestions have been made to reform political parties as,
1. A law should be made regulate the internal affairs of political parties.
–it should be made compulsory for political parties to maintain a register of its members, to follow its own constitution, to have an independent authority ,to act as a judge in case of disputes, to hold open elections in case of disputes.
2. It should be made mandatory for the political parties to give a minimum number of tickets, one-third, to women candidates. Similarly there should be a quota for women in the decision making bodies.
3. There should be state funding of elections. The govt. should give parties money to support their elections expenses such as petrol, paper, telephone etc. or it could be given in cash on the basis of votes secured by a party in the last elections.
4. People can put pressure on political parties and this can be done through petitions, publicity and agitations. Ordinary citizens, pressure groups and movements & media can play an important role in this. If political parties feel that will loose public support by not taking up reforms they will become more serious about reforms.
5. Political parties can improve if those who want this join politics. As the quality of democracy depends upon the degree of participation. It is difficult to reform politics if ordinary citizens do not take part in politics & simply criticize it from outside.
These suggestions have not yet been accepted by all political parties but if accepted can lead to improvement.
But over regulation of political parties can be counter productive and this would force all the parties to find ways to cheat the laws, besides political parties would not like to pass the law they do not like.
Political party: – it is a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in the govt.
–they agree on some programmes & policies for the society with a view to promote collective good.
–these parties try to persuade people why their policies are better than others.
–they seek to implement these policies by winning popular support through election.
–they reflect fundamental political divisions in the society. They are about a part of society and involve PARTISANSHIP.
Political party has three components: the leader, the active members and the followers.
Q. Why do we need parties? Or
what are the functions performed by the political parties?
Parties perform series of functions.
1. Parties contest elections—in most of democracies, elections are fought mainly among the candidates put up by the political parties. In India, top party leaders choose candidates for contesting elections.
2. Parties put forward different policies and programmes: each one of us may have different opinions and views. In democracy large number of similar opinions has to be grouped together to provide a direction in which policies can be formulated by the govt. and parties do this.
–A party reduces a vast multitude of opinions into a few basic positions which it supports.
–The govt. is expected to base its policies on the line taken by the Ruling party.
3. Parties make laws for the country: Though laws are passed by the legislature but most of the members belong to a party, they by the direction of party leadership, irrespective of their personal opinions.
4. Parties form and run govt.: Big policy decisions are taken by political executive that comes from the political parties.
–Political parties recruit leaders, train them and make them ministers to run the govt. in the way they want.
5. Those party who loose the elections, play role of the opposition. They voice different views and criticize govt. for its failures or wrong policies.
–opposition parties also mobilize opposition to the govt.
6.Parties shape public opinion: they raise and highlight issues.
–they do this through-pressure groups, which are the extensions of political parties and also launch movements for resolutions of problems faced by the people.
–Opinions in the society crystallise on the lines parties take.
7.Parties provide people access to govt. machinery and welfare schemes implemented by govt.
–for an ordinary citizens it is easy to approach a local party leader than a govt. official, they feel close to party even if they do not trust them.
–even parties have to be responsive to the people’s needs and demands otherwise people can reject parties in the next elections.
Q. How can we say parties are a necessity for democracy?
Q. Why modern democracies cannot exist without political parties?
1. If every candidate in the elections will be independent, no will be able to make any promises to the people about any major policy changes.
2. The govt. may be formed, but its utility will remain ever uncertain.
3. Elected representative will be accountable to their constituency for what they do in the locality. But, no one will be responsible for how country will run.
Also if we look at the non-party based elections to the Panchayats in many states, although, the parties do not contest formally, it is generally noticed the village gets split into more than one faction, each of which puts up a ‘panel’ of its candidates.
This is why we find political parties in almost all countries of the world.
RISE OF POLITICAL PARTIES
The emergence of political parties is linked to the emergence of Representative Democracies—large scale societies need representative democracy.
–as society become large and complex they also need some agencies to gather different views and various issues and to present these to the govt.
–they needed some way to bring various representatives together so that a responsible govt, could be formed.
–they need mechanism to support or restrain the govt., make policies, justify or oppose them.
–political parties fulfill these needs that every representative govt. has.
HOW MANY PARTIES SHOULD WE HAVE—PARTY SYSTEMS
In different countries we have different political systems being followed.
There are three types of political party systems:–
1.ONE PARTY SYSTEM—In some countries only one party is allowed to control and run the govt., these are called one party systems.
–we have this type in China.- Communist Party.
Any democratic system must allow at least two parties in to compete in the elections so that each party gets a fair chance to come to power. in this respect it is not a democratic option.
2. TWO-PARTY SYSTEM—In some countries power usually changes between two major parties.
Several other parties exist, contest elections and win few seats in the legislature. But only two main parties have a serious chance of winning and forming govt.
–examples are UK AND US.
3. MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM—If several parties compete for power, more than two parties have a reasonable chance of winning and coming to power either on their on their own or through an alliance with others.
–in India we have this system.
ALLIANCE/FRONT—when several parties join hand for the purpose of contesting elections or winning power, it is called front or alliance.
NDA—National Democratic Alliance, UPA-United Progressive Alliance are the examples.
COALITION—the govt. formed by various parties coming together in a coalition.
Present govt.—UPA govt. is an example of this.
Q. Which party system should a country choose?
Party system is not something that a country can choose.
It evolves over the period of time, depending upon the nature of society, its social and regional divisions, its history of politics and nature of elections.
–each country develops a party system that is conditioned by its special circumstances. For example in India we have evolved a multi-party system; it is because the social and geographical diversity is so large that it can not be accommodated by two-three parties.
–no system id ideal for all countries and all situations.
NATIONAL PARTIES/REGIONAL PARTIES
At present there are more than 750 political parties registered with the election commission in India.
Democracies that follow a federal system all over the world have two kinds of political parties.,
Parties that are present in only one of the federal units and the ones that are present in several units of the federations. This happens in India as well.
NATIONAL PARTIES;-those parties which are country-wide parties are called National parties.
–these parties have their units in various states.
–by and large they follow uniform policies, programmes & strategy that is decided at the national level.
–Election Commission declares those parties as national parties which have got 6% of the total votes and have at least won 4 seats in the LokSabha.
–Election Commission offers some special facilities to large and established parties. These parties are given a unique symbol and only the official candidates of that party can use that election symbol.
–parties that get this privilege and some other special facilities are called Recognised Political Parties.
–according to this classification in India we have six national parties.
Aparty that secures at least 6% of the total votes in the in an election to the Legislative Assembly of a state and wins atleast 2 seats is recognized as a regional party/state party.
–some of these are all India parties that happen to have succeeded only in some states.
–parties like this are Samajwadi Party, Samta Party and Rastriya JantaDal have national level political organization with units in several states.
–some of the partie like Biju Janta Dal,Sikkim Democratic Front & Mizo National Front are conscious about their state identity.
1.INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS (INC)
popularly known as the Congress Party, is one of the oldest parties of the world.
–founded in 1885.
–Played an important role in Indian politics at the national and state level after the independence.
–Under Nehru sought to build a modern secular democratic in India.
–Ruling party at the centre till 1977 and then from 1980-1989, after which its support declined.
–A centrist party in its ideological orientation, it espouses secularism and welfare of weaker sections and minorities.
–Supports new economic reforms with a human face.–Emerged as an single largest party with 145 seats in 2004 elections and is currently a ruling as United Progressive Alliance coaltion govt. at the centre
BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY (BJP)
–founded in 1980 by reviving the Bharatiya Janata Sangh.
–wants to build a strong and modern India by drawing inspiration from India,s culture and values.
–cultural nationalism or Hindutva is an important element in its conception of Indian nationhood and politics.
–wants full territorial & political integration of Jammu &Kashmir with India, a uniform civil code for all people living in India irrespective of the religion, and ban on religious conversions.
–its support base has increased in the 1990’s, it was earlier limited to north and north west and to urban areas, the party expanded its support in south, east, the north-east and to rural areas.
–came in power in 1998 as the leader of the National Democratic Alliance including state and regional parties.
–lost elections in 2004 and is the principle opposition party in the Loksabha.
BAHUJAN SAMAJ PARTY (BSP)
–formed in 1984, under the leadership of KanshiRam.
–seeks to represent & secure the power for bahujan samaj which includes dalits, adivasis, OBC’s and religious minorities.
–draw inspiration from the ideas and teachings of ShauMaharaj, Mahatama Phule, Periyar Ramaswami Naicker and BabaSaheb Ambedkar.
–stands for the cause of securing interest & welfare od dalits and opperesed people.
–main base in the state of UP & substaintial presence in the states like MP, Chhattisghar, Delhi
Uttrakhand and Punjab.
–formed govt. in UP several times with support of different parties.
–in Loksabha elections in 2004 it polled about 5% votes and secured 19 seates in loksabha.
COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDIA-MARXIST (CPI-M)
–founded in 1964.
–believes in Marxism & Leninism.
–supports socialism, secularism and democracy and opposes imperialism and communalism.
–accepts democratic elections as useful means and helpful means to securing the objective of socio-economic justice in India.
–enjoys strong support in Kerela. westBengal & Tripura, especially among the poor, factory workers, farmers, agricultural laboures and intelligentsia.
–critical of new economic policies that allow free flow of foreign capital and goods into the country.
–has been in power for 30 years in West Bengal.
–in 2004 elections it won about 6% votes and 43 seats in Loksabha.
–Currently supports the UPA govt.from outside without joining the govt.
COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDIA (CPI)
–formed in 1925.
–believes in Marxism & Leninism secularism and democracy.
–opposed to the forces of secessionism and communalism.
–accepts parliamentary democracy as the means of promoting the interest of working class, farmers and the poor.
–became weak after the split in the party in 1964 that led to the formation of the CPI(M)
–popular in Kerela, West Bengal, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
–its support base has declined over the years, secured about 1.4%votes and 10 seats in 2004 Loksabha elections.
–advocates coming together of all left parties to build a strong left front.
–currently supports UPA govt. from outside.
NATIONAL CONGRESS PARTY (NCP)
formed in 1999 following a split in congress party.
–supports democracy, gandhian secularism, equity, social justice & federalism.
–wants high offices in the govt.to be confined to the natural born citizens.
–major party in Maharashtra and has a significant in Meghalaya, Manipur and Assam. A coalition partner in the state of Maharashtra in alliance with the congress.
–since 2004 a member of the UPA.
Other than six national parties, most of the parties in India are classified as state parties or regional parties.
–some of these parties are all India parties that happen to have succeeded in only some states.
–parties like Samajwadi Party, Samta Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal have national political organization with
units in several states.
–some of these parties like Biju JanataDal, Sikkim Democratic Front & Mizo National Front are conscious
about their state identity.
–over last three decades the number and strength of these parties has expanded, this has made parliament of India more diverse.
–no national party is able to secure on its own a majority in Loksabha,as a result national parties are compelled to form alliances with state parties.
–since 1996, nearly every one of state parties has got an opportunity to be a part of one or other national level coalition govt.