From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Representation of the People Act, 1951
Mains level : Paper 2- Making political parties constitutional in India
Making them constitutional will ensure in-party democracy, make them transparent, and de-communalise them.
Significance of political parties in democracy
- A political party is an organised group of citizens who hold common views on governance and act as a political unit that seeks to obtain control of government with a view to further the agenda and policy they profess.
- Political parties maintain a continuous connection between the people and those who represent them either in government or in the opposition.
- Political parties in India are extra-constitutional, but they are the breathing air of the political system.
U.S. and U.K. model
- No constitutional status: The American Constitution does not presume the existence of political parties.
- In Britain too, political parties are still unknown to the law.
- Political parties in developed nations maintain high levels of internal democracy.
- In the U.K., the Conservative Party has the National Conservative Convention as its top body.
- It has a Central Council and an Executive Committee.
- The Central Council elects its President, a Chairman and Vice Chairmen at its annual meeting.
- It also elects an Executive Committee which meets once a month.
- In the U.S., both the Democratic and the Republican Party have the National Committee as their top decision-making body.
- The National Committee plays an important role in the presidential election and agenda-setting.
Issues with Indian model
- No constitutional status: The Indian Constitution is the one of the longest Constitutions in the world.
- It is astonishing that such a meticulous Constitution overlooked political parties, the vital players in the political system, for constitutional regulation.
- Section 29A(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 is the only major statutory provision dealing with political parties in India.
- Most of the parties are openly caste- or religious-based.
- Their finances are dubious and opaque.
- Almost all the parties — the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, the Indian Union Muslim League, etc. — are family fiefdoms.
- There are no periodical in-party elections in Indian parties except in a few like the CPI(M).
Should India follow the German model?
- The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (1949) gives constitutional status to political parties.
- Article 21 of the Basic Law deals with their status, rights, duties and functions.
- It provides: Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people.
- Under it, parties must publicly account for their assets and for the sources and use of their funds.
- It also provides that parties that seek to undermine or abolish the free democratic basic order or to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be unconstitutional.
- Constitution also provides that details shall be regulated by federal laws.
- The German model of constitutionalising political parties is more desirable for India than the U.S. and the U.K. models.
Consider the question “Do you agree with the view that making political parties constitutional will help deal with the many ills political parties in India suffer from? Suggest the alternative model.”
It is high time to constitutionalise political parties to ensure in-party democracy, to impart transparency in their finances, and to de-communalise them.