From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Internal democracy in political parties
It is obvious that institutional intermediaries in a representative democracy must themselves be democratic. However, beyond the rhetoric, internal democracy in a political party is less straightforward.
How democratic accountability in a political party is different from that in a country
- Democratic accountability in a political party is qualitatively different from that in a country.
- A political party is a collaborative platform to capture state power to achieve a certain vision for society.
- In a country, there are sharp differences between citizens on the vision and values themselves and the role of democracy is not just to create a framework to negotiate conflict but to ensure that the state is representative of the largest section of the electorate through periodic elections.
- Thus, while democracy at the level of the country is a bottom-up opportunity to change direction altogether, democratic accountability in a political party exists within an ideological framework.
Is internal elections for party leadership a solution?
- Subversion of internal institutional process: Proponents underestimate the ability of existing repositories of power to subvert internal institutional processes to consolidate power and maintain the status quo.
- Independence of lower level: the assumption that the lower levels would be independent and hold the higher levels of leadership to account glosses over the many ways power asserts itself.
- Independence and quality of electorate: The outcome of internal elections is contingent on the independence and quality of the electorate.
- In indirect elections (through delegates), the electorate would likely mirror the existing balance of power.
- In direct elections, there is a concern of ideological dilution and/or capture through opportunistic membership.
- It is evident that internal elections may factionalise power but cannot establish normative accountability, which extends to all members of the party along three interconnected axes of ideology, organisation and competence.
- Normative accountability is thus rooted in a dynamic context and is necessarily a deliberative process.
Democratic functioning in political parties is not an end in itself
- Unlike for the state, democracy is not an end in itself for a political party.
- The highest possible attainment of individual well-being and individual self-will through a democratic state is an end in itself.
- The purpose of a political party is the acquisition of state power.
- Democratic functioning may be an ideological imperative, operational choice, or legitimising tactic but it is not an end in itself for a political party.
- Instead of looking at internal party processes, one way to decentralise power is by getting rid of the anti-defection law.
- The need to canvass votes in the legislature will create room for negotiation in the party organisation too.
- Most importantly, this reform will impose a similar burden on all political parties and may create space to change the overall political culture.
Consider the question “Lack of internal democratic functioning in the political parties has bearing on the overall political functioning of the country. Examine the factors responsible for its lack in India and suggest measures to encourage it.”
The role of democracy is not just to create a framework to negotiate conflict but to ensure that the state is representative of the largest section of the electorate through periodic elections.