Electoral Reforms In India

Intra party elections


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: election commission of india

Mains level: electoral reforms

Intra party electionContext

  • Congress party has issued a notification for the party’s presidential election hinting towards intra party election.
  • As per the official notification, party leaders can file nominations from 24 September to 30 September. The voting will be held on 17 October and the results will be declared on 19 October.

What are the elections?

  • An election is a way people can choose their representatives of their preferences in a representative democracy. Elections enable people to judge the performance of the government.

Why they are important?

  • Elections give people a chance to evaluate their leaders, chance to change the government.
  • Elections help the people in the selection of their representatives and it provides law making power directly to the people.
  • Elections make a fundamental contribution to democratic governance.

Intra party electionWhat is mean by Intra party elections?

  • It is a mechanism to choose the candidates for various posts of the political through a democratic process, it’s a mandate given by the members of the party itself.
  • The intra-party election is a fundamental indicator to explore the authenticity of democratization and decentralization of political parties.

Why elections are necessary within the political parties?

  • Internal debates: During intra party elections there would be contests between leaders. There will be debate, discussions some criticism, and differences of opinion. There should be a dialogue between the leaders, members and volunteers
  • Democratic culture: Political parties don’t have to be homogeneous in terms of both ideas and leadership. Political parties are aggregations of interests yet Party workers should not feel they are being ignored, that their efforts are not appreciated or not going in vain under the shadow of a leader came from the family lines.
  • Political career: Having these internal elections, meetings and contests of ideas is important.  Internal election is a key for upward mobility. It gives better understanding of the party’s idea, culture and the work process.
  • High command culture: High command culture is what we are witnessing today in India and South Asia is problematic for democracy, where all political parties are centralized. The few members at the helm are controlling even the smallest decisions about what party should do. Members are not able to express freely their personal views.
  • Feudalism: They are family-controlled parties, and dynastic politics has become a norm. Won’t be able to name more than three or four political parties which have survived 30 years in Indian politics and are today not controlled by apolitical family.
  • Favoritism: where you can only rise up the ranks in the system depending on the relationship you share with the first family of that party. Irrespective of difference of opinions with the top leaders of the party, the upward mobility majorly depends on the relationship.

Intra party electionWhat is a Legal framework for election?

There is no law for intra-party elections as of now.

  • Seshan effect: When T.N. Seshan was at the helm of the Election Commission of India (ECI); by an executive order political parties were ordered to conduct intra party elections. And because Seshan was a much respected and feared person, political parties complied with it. Since then, elections are held periodically in every recognized party.
  • What Constitution says: Article 324 says free and fair elections to parliament, state assemblies, president and vice-president. It doesn’t say anything about political party or election within.
  • What Courts argue: The courts have made an observation that nothing in Article 324 of the Constitution, or Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 tells us that the ECI can actually regulate internal structures, organizations or elections of the party. Which is why parties, on the left or right, have not been conducting internal elections as we want them to conduct them

Worldwide practice

  • USA: In the U.S. election, the selection of the candidate to be the presidential nominee is done via debate, in which the contenders condemn and criticize each other.
  • UK: In the U.K. Democracy should be at every level, and political parties are an essential pillar of democracy. Intra party election happens to choose the leader of party.

What is state funding of election?

  • It is an idea where state or Government of India provides funding to political parties according to their electoral performance.
  • As of today, state does provide land at concessional rate, free air time on national television but today political parties do not come under RTI. Hence some suggest state funding of elections to regulate the behavior of political parties.

What is the Role of Election Commission in organizational election of political parties?

  • The ECI does insist on organizational elections, but only gently. They do go through the process.
  • Election can happen only if there are two or more candidates in the fray. Getting elected unopposed is also a valid election. It is not just within the political parties, we have

Seen it in panchayat elections and sometimes even in Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections that candidates have got elected unopposed.

Intra party electionHow to fix the accountability of the political parties?

  • ECI re-interpreting the existing laws, as happened in the 1990s. ECI has to imagine its role as a regulator of these political parties and in some ways. They have to try out milder options.
  • Political parties are required to hold organizational elections regularly. The parties are required to inform the ECI about changes in their office-bearers.
  • They are required to submit a document of expenditure incurred during elections and in the non-election periods. But there is no cost attached to non-compliance.
  • Expert suggests state funding of election would ensure the accountability of parties as it will bring parties under ambit of RTI and voters can seek the expenditure report from parties. Election commission can also penalize party for non-compliance.


  • Election for a gram panchayat or presidential it is always a booster for democracy. Intraparty elections are beneficial for party, contesting individual and country at large, it culminates into emergence of quality leadership which in turn a boon for good governance.

Mains Question

Q. Intra party elections are essential feature of healthy democracy. Discuss the role of election commission, the courts and the political parties for the healthy functioning of intra party democracy.

Do follow

Internal democracy in political parties

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