Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

No inner-party democracy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Anti-defection law

Mains level : Paper 2- Inner-party democracy

Context

The ousting of Boris Johnson as leader of the British Conservative Party is the latest in a series of coups periodically mounted by the party’s MPs. What is instructive about this whole process, however, is how much power ordinary MPs have over the Prime Minister.

Lack of inner-party democracy in India

  • A Prime Minister in UK has to be able to maintain the confidence of his own backbencher MPs at all times or risk political oblivion.
  • If there is a sense that the leader is no longer acceptable to the country, then a well-oiled machine springs into action to protect the party’s electoral gains by providing fresh leadership.
  • In India, PM exercises absolute authority over party MPs, whose ability to even diverge slightly from the official government line on routine policy matters is almost non-existent.
  • Impact of anti-defection law: The Prime Minister’s power is strengthened by India’s unique anti-defection set-up, where recalcitrant MPs who do not manage to carry two-thirds of their colleagues with them can always be disqualified.
  • Lack of autonomy: In effect, MPs do not enjoy any autonomy at all to question and challenge their party leadership.
  • Prime Ministers or Chief Ministers at the State level are chosen by party high command, and then submitted to MPs/MLAs to be rubber stamped.

Way forward

  • Strengthening local constituency party:  It is time for India to seriously consider empowering its elected representatives, to ensure accountability for party leadership.
  • MPs in the U.K. are able to act boldly because they do not owe their nomination to the party leader, but are selected by the local constituency party.
  • In India, however, it is the party leadership that decides candidates, with an informal consultation with the local party.
  • Amending anti-defection law: Neither do MPs in the U.K. stand a risk of disqualification if they speak out against the leader, a threat perpetuated in India through the anti-defection law.
  • These factors are the biggest stumbling blocks towards ensuring inner-party democracy in India.
  • System on the lines of 1922 Committee in UK: In U.K. where individual Conservative MPs write to the 1922 Committee (which comprises backbench MPs, and looks out for their interests) expressing that they have “no confidence” in their leader.
  • If a numerical or percentage threshold (15% of the party’s MPs in the U.K.) is breached, an automatic leadership vote is triggered, with the party leader forced to seek a fresh mandate from the parliamentary party.
  •  Of course, the only way such a model would work is if an exception is made to the anti-defection law.

Conclusion

Inner-party democracy is a essential for keeping the spirit of democracy alive. Westminster model dictates that control over candidates must shift from central party leaders to local party members.

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