India is a multi-party parliamentary democracy. Political parties form the core of India’s democratic system. India has a multitude of parties espousing the causes as varied as all-encompassing nation building and welfare to specific causes such as region, religion, caste or language.
In the 69 years since independence, the party system has passed through several transitory phases, such as that from a single party dominance at the Centre and the states to multi-party system from 1977.
However, the current phase of transition seems to be full of contradictions and paradoxes as:
- Dynastic politics reigns supreme. Every citizen is allowed to contest elections, but the hegemony of the founding families of each party has ensured that power stays within the family. E.g: Gandhi family in the Congress, dominance of Lalu Yadav’s family in RJD.
- Factionalism in order to remain in power, even while real power lies with the people. Party leaders who are dissatisfied with apex leadership simply split and establish a new party, without regard for their constituents or their welfare. Absence of intra-party democracy.
- Increase in pre-poll alliances between groupings with disparate ideologies and different priorities. E.g: The alliance between PDP and BJP in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Espouse transparency but not willing to come under the ambit of RTI Act.
- Black money is popular as election rhetoric for all parties, but no party takes steps to reform election financing, which is a big source of black money.
- Rise of regional parties that espouse national causes – such as The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena contesting elections in other states. Ethnicity based parties are also going down the same route.
- Parties are supposed to work for the betterment of the people they serve, but by indulging in corrupt practices while in office, they fail to do that.
- Rise of a personality cult revolving around a single individual, which is antithetical to the idea of party system.
- Near-erosion of ideologies of various parties, especially in the economic sphere.
- Opposition parties obstruct legitimate legislation in the Parliament, ostensibly in the name of “public interest” and “national interest”, but national interest is what is most hampered by such moves.
Multitude of parties has increased diversity and representation. However, it has also increased fragmentation, horse-trading of support in the assemblies, and confusion among the people regarding who would be the best possible representative of their interests. Moreover, multi-party system has also led to indecisiveness of the coalition politics, often leading to policy paralysis.
It is necessary to bring all parties under the ambit of RTI, encourage intra-party democracy by bringing rules for the same, as well as to make the citizenry informed about the pros and cons of the party system, to ensure that people make the best possible choice. Criminalization of politics as well as elections needs to be addressed as soon as possible and the politics of India need to get back to representing the will of the people, instead of the will of the party leaders or corporate heads.