The Ideology Of The Ruling Party Politics Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Politics|
|✅ Wordcount: 5445 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
India – with a population of around a billion and an electorate of over 700 million – is the worlds largest democracy and, for all its faults and flaws, this democratic system stands in marked contrast to the democratic failures of Pakistan and Bangladesh which were part of India until 1947.
Unlike the American political system and the British political system which essentially have existed in their current form for centuries, the Indian political system is a much more recent construct dating from India’s independence from Britain in 1947. The current constitution came into force on 26 November 1950 and advocates the trinity of justice, liberty and equality for all citizens.
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In stark contrast with the current constitution of Japan which has remained unchanged, the constitution of India has been one of the most amended national documents in the world with more than 80 changes. Many of these amendments have resulted from a long-running dispute involving the Parliament and the Supreme Court over the rights of parliamentary sovereignty as they clash with those of judicial review of laws and constitutional amendments.
India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha, is modelled on the British House of Commons, but its federal system of government borrows from the experience of the United States, Canada and Australia.
THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
The head of state in India is the President. This is normally a ceremonial role, originally modelled on the British monarch to “advise, encourage and warn” the elected government on constitutional matters. The President can return a Parliamentary Bill once for reconsideration and, in times of crisis such as a hung Parliament, the role is pivotal. The President can declare a state of emergency which enables the Lok Sabha to extend its life beyond the normal five-year term.
As members of an electoral college, around 4,500 members of the national parliament and state legislators are eligible to vote in the election of the President. The Indian Presidency has recently attracted special attention because for the first time a woman now occupies the role: Pratibha Patil who was formerly governor of the northern Indian state of Rajasthan.
There is also the post of Vice-President who is elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of both houses of parliament. The Vice-President chairs the the upper house called the Rajya Sabh.
The head of the government is the Prime Minister who is appointed by the President on the nomination of the majority party in the lower house or Lok Sabha. Currently the Prime Minister is Manmohan Singh of the ruling United Progressive Alliance.
Key features of the Prime Minister (head of government):
Commander in Chief of the military and acts as ultimate military authority.
Through the cabinet proposes the bulk of legislation to the House of the People
Acts as the head of the Majority party in the House of the people and is installed.
No term limit and can be removed through a vote of no confidence.
Key Features of the President (head of state) key features:
elected to 5 year terms.
Ceremonially appoints the Prime Minister
Appoints the Cabinet Ministers
Can dissolve the Lok Sabha after the Prime minister loses a vote of no confidence.
Can declare national state of emergency or Presidential rule of a state.
Ministers are then appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and these ministers collectively comprise the Council of Ministers.
THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
The lower house in the Indian political system is the Lok Sabha or House of the People. As set out in the Constitution, the maximum size of the Lok Sabha is 552 members, made up of up to 530 members representing people from the states of India, up to 20 members representing people from the Union Territories, and two members to represent the Anglo-Indian community if it does not have adequate representation in the house according to the President.
Currently the size of the house is 545 – made up of 530 elected from the states, 13 elected from the territories, and two nominated from the Anglo-Indian community. By far the largest state representation is that of Uttar Pradesh with 80 members. At the other end of the scale, three states have only one representative each. There are certain constituencies where only candidates from scheduled casts and scheduled tribes are allowed to stand.
Each member – except the two nominated ones – represents a geographical single-member constituency as in the British model for the House of Commons.
Each Lok Sabha is formed for a five year term, after which it is automatically dissolved, unless extended by a Proclamation of Emergency which may extend the term in one year increments. This has happened on three occasions: 1962-1968, 1971 and 1975-1977.
Elections are a huge and complex affair which nationwide are held in five seperate rounds taking a total of 28 days.
Link: Lok Sabha
The upper house in the Indian political system is the Rajya Sabha or Council of States. As set out in the Constitution, the Rajya Sabhahas has up to 250 members. 12 of these members are chosen by the President for their expertise in specific fields of art, literature, science, and social services. These members are known as nominated members. The remainder of the house – currently comprising 238 members – is elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in proportion to the unit’s population. Again, of course, the largest state representation is that of Uttar Pradesh with 31 members. The method of election in the local legislatures is the single transferable vote.
Terms of office are for six years, with one third of the members facing re-election every two years. The Rajya Sabha meets in continuous session and, unlike the Lok Sabha, it is not subject to dissolution.
Link: Rajya Sabha
The two houses share legislative powers, except in the area of supply (money) where the Lok Sabha has overriding powers. In the case of conflicting legislation, a joint sitting of the two houses is held. If there is a conflict which cannot be resolved even by the joint committee of the two houses, it is solved in the joint session of the Parliament, where the will of the Lok Sabha almost always prevails, since the Lok Sabha is more than twice as large as the Rajya Sabha.
In India, political parties are either a National Party of a State Party. To be considered a National Party, a political party has to be recognised in four or more states and to be either the ruling party or in the opposition in those states.
Ever since its formation in 1885, the Indian National Congress (INC) – and its successor – has been the dominant political party in India. For its first six decades, its focus was on campaigning for Indian independence from Britain. Since independence in 1947, it has sought to be the governing party of the nation with repeated success.
As a result, for most of its democratic history, the Lok Sabha has been dominated by the Indian Congress Party which has been in power for a great deal of the time. However, since the Congress Party lost power in 1989, no single party has been able to secure an overal majority in the Lok Sabha, making coalitions inevitable. Also, unlike Japan where the Liberal Democrat Party has been in power almost continuously, Congress has had (usually short) periods out of power, between 1977-1980, 1989-1991 and 1996-2004.
The original Congress Party espoused moderate socialism and a planned, mixed economy. However, its spin-off and successor, Congress (I) – ‘I’ in honour of Indira Gandhi – now supports deregulation, privatisation and foreign investment.
While the Congress Party has historically dominated Indian politics, the leadership of the Congress Party in turn has been dominated by one family: Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, served for 17 years; his daughter Indira Gandhi later became Prime Minister; his grandson Rajiv Gandhi was also Prime Minister; currently the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi holds the position as Congress President although she has refused to accept the post of Prime Minister; and her son Rahul Gandhi is a Member of Parliament, while her daughter Priyanka Gandhi is an active political campaigner.
The Indian Congress Party is the leading party in the Centre-Left political coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) which embraces a total of 16 parties.
The other major, but more recently-established, political party in India is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Created in 1980, it represents itself as a champion of the socio-religious cultural values of the country’s Hindu majority and advocates conservative social policies and strong national defence. The BJP, in alliance with several other parties, led the government between 1998-2004.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is the leading party in the Right-wing political coalition called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). When it was originally founded in 1998, there were 13 parties in the coalition but currently there are eight.
A Third Front is a grouping centred on the Communists.
THE JUDICIAL BRANCH
The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in civil, criminal and constitutional cases. The court consists of up to 26 judges, including the Chief Justice of India, all of whom are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. They serve until the age of 65.
India is a huge country both demographically and geographically and consequently it operates a federal system of government. Below the national level, there are 28 States and seven Union Territories.
The largest of India’s states is Uttar Pradesh (UP) in the north of the country. With over 175 million inhabitants, UP is the most populous state in India and is also the most populous country subdivision in the world. On its own, if it was an independent nation, this state would be the world’s sixth biggest country. Only China, India itself, the United States, Indonesia and Brazil have a higher population.
In Indian general elections, it fills more than one-seventh of the seats in India’s Parliament and, such is the state’s caste-based and sometimes violent politics that, currently a quarter of UP’s MPs face criminal charges.
Over the years, India has evolved from a highly centralised state dominated by one political party to an increasingly fragmented nation, more and more influenced by regional parties and more and more governed locally by unstable multi-party alliances. In the General Election of 2009, Congress and the BJP faced each other in only seven of the 28 States; elsewhere, one of the two national parties faced a regional party.
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Politics in India is much rougher and much more corrupt that in the democracies of Europe and North America. Political assassination is not uncommon: the revered Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, and the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 were all killed by assassins. Communal, caste and regional tensions continue to haunt Indian politics, sometimes threatening its long-standing democratic and secular ethos.
Recent years have seen the emergence of so-called RTI activists – tens of thousands of citizens, often poor, sometimes almost illiterate, frequently highly motivated – who use the Right To Information legislation of 2005 to promote transparency and attack corruption in public institutions. In the first five years of the legislation, over a million RTI requests were filed and so threatening to authority have some of the RTI activists become that a number of have been murdered.
(B) The ideology of the ruling party
Political parties in India love to talk about ideology. Each political party is supposed to have an ideology. So even if a political party does not have any ideology, it will never say so. If you were to ask probing questions about a party’s ideology to a staunch loyalist of the party, you would either be bombarded with a short, nebulous and high-sounding label or be told that the ideology is too complex for anyone to understand so quickly and one would need to spend a few years in the party to really understand the ideology of the party.
The mystification of ideology goes back in Indian history to Gandhi. From around 1920 to 1947, Gandhi ruled over Indian political scene through the ideological direction that he provided to Congress. Gandhian ideology was supposed to be very simple, based as it was on just two simple principles of truth and non-violence. Yet, it was not so simple. Nobody, during Gandhi’s time (and even after his death), could claim to have understood Gandhian ideology completely. Followers of Gandhi would claim their degree of understanding of the ideology based on the years they had spent with Gandhi. Ideology of Gandhi consisted of all that he spoke over the years. If there was an internal inconsistency or contradiction in his utterances or actions, it was not for a Gandhian to question it. All that an ordinary mortal could do was to just look with reverence at all that Gandhi did. If Gandhi deviated from what he had said in the past, it was hailed as development of Gandhian thought and was acclaimed as an “experiment with truth”. On the other hand, if anyone else moved a step beyond literal words of Gandhi, it was condemned.
Gandhi was surely a great leader. But his ideology did not live past him. Even his brightest follower, whom he liked most, did not follow his ideology. Nehru’s dreams of modern India had nothing Gandhian about them. As long as Gandhi lived, for Congressmen, sole source of ideology was Gandhi. After Gandhi’s death this position passed on to Nehru. After Nehru, there was a brief interlude when Lal Bahadur Shastri in his position as the sole fountainhead of Congress ideology proclaimed “Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan”. Soon after the interlude, Indira Gandhi stepped in. Her vision of socialism was a departure from Gandhi, Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Such departures did not bother Congressmen who, by that time, knew only one ideology – Boss is always right.
Less than a decade after Indira Gandhi’s death, a Congress Prime Minister initiated reforms and demolished licence-permit-quota-raj built assiduously by Indira Gandhi and Nehru. The same Congressmen, who had been declaring their unflinching loyalty to Nehru-Indira ideology, now were the champions of economic reforms, liberalization and globalization. Temples of modern India, built as part of Nehru’s vision, were to be sold as part of disinvestment and Congress was applauding. The irony is that the author of economic reforms has now become the prime minister of India with support of socialist and communist parties. He continues to talk of reforms in the same breath as reservations for backward classes in private sector.
Ideological contradictions have never bothered Congress. The party has evolved through contradictions and probably that is its greatest strength. Irrespective of all that Congress leaders may shout from public platforms, the essential ideology of Congress is pragmatism. Cynics might say that pragmatism is a lofty word for collective unbridled pursuit of self-interest. But that is just another way of looking at Congress, which claims to be a party that knows how to rule. It is a party that knows how to mould itself to suit the circumstances. If it sees wide support for Hindutwa, it will jump to the Hindu bandwagon. One cannot forget that Rajiv Gandhi took the lead in production of TV serials like Ramayan and Mahabharat; and Sardar Patel took the initiative for reconstruction of Somnath temple. On the other hand if Muslim fundamentalism is the flavour of the month, Congress can even get parliament to pass a law that overrules a Supreme Court judgement.
Being on the right side of the ideological divide, in line with changing times, is a natural gift of the Congress. The party can be different things to different persons and no one can afford to make a categorical statement about the ideology of Congress. As they say, it is so profound and complex that you will need to devote a lifetime to understand it and may be even then you would still not have understood it. Of course, if you are fortunate enough to become President of All India Congress Committee and Prime Minister of India, every statement you make will be accorded the status of Biblical truth.
There are a large number of Indian parties, which are just clones of Congress. Most of them are regional parties. They have failed to become national parties because (a) they are unable to match the brand goodwill that Congress enjoys and (b) they do not have the resources that Congress commands. Many of them are successful in their region because their leaders are able to maintain a closer (compared to Congress and other national parties) contact with local aspirations and are able to better satisfy the “collective unbridled pursuit of self-interest” of the breed that is known in today’s India as political workers.
The importance of this breed cannot be overemphasized. Socialist thinkers (Ram Manohar Lohia and others) drew from this breed and created a sub-breed called socialists. This sub-segment is characterized by extreme individualism. For socialists, the pursuit of self-interest is hardly collective. Socialists get together and separate at such a quick pace that one loses track of who is in which party. Their individualism gets a collective tinge in the form of catering to family ties and caste interests. India is probably the only country where all socialist parties are casteist. There are also caste-based parties whose only ideological commitment is catering to the interests of one or more set of castes. Such caste-based parties also often paint themselves with socialist colours.
Caste as a reality of Indian politics has not spared even the communists. Yet, it must be admitted that communists remain the only group in Indian political jungle with a fairly well defined ideology. Of course, having an ideology is different from following it. Communism, as propounded by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin or Mao Tse Tung, is a dictatorship of the proletariat. Its existence in a free democracy with mixed economy is an anachronism. For the past five decades, Indian communist parties have been trying to come to terms with existence in a democratic society. Till the collapse of Soviet Union, at least one of the Communist parties received indirect financial and moral support from Soviet Union. The fall of Soviet Union was a big blow for Indian communists in more ways than one. To survive, almost all communist parties have turned lobbyists for organized labour. Most public sector units and a few large private sector industries have communist trade unions. These trade unions provide the funds for running of communist parties in India. “Dictatorship of the proletariat” has, hence, turned into pressure tactics and lobbying for more and more benefits for the pampered unproductive workers of unprofitable public sector industries. If providing these benefits makes it necessary to impose higher taxes on the proletariat, the communists do not mind it. According to Marx, industrialization was a necessary perquisite for communism. Indian communists have, however, led to a virtual stoppage of industrialization in the two states of Kerala and West Bengal where they have ruled for a long time.
The communist political worker is not much different from the general breed of self-interest driven political workers. A few years back, an erstwhile close friend moved from being a full time worker of a communist trade union to Bharatiya Janata Party via Hindujas (a well-known business family). He was welcomed with open arms by the top brass of BJP. Today, he is part of the topmost echelons of BJP. Most people are surprised by, what they see as, his ideological somersault. The fact is that in the ideology-less world of Indian politics, there is a good demand for expert players who can play this game with aplomb without any pangs of conscience.
Till a few years back, BJP did not recruit from the floating pool of such expert players. RSS used to provide BJP with all the manpower that it needed. Even today bulk of BJP’s manpower needs are met by supplies from RSS. For past seven decades or so, the organizational structure of RSS with its roots spread across the length and breadth of the country has been inspiring a new and different set of volunteers to step into public life. This set did not come into public life for the gains of power or for amassing wealth. Before BJP’s rise to power in some states, they used to endure great hardships. The zeal and commitment of RSS workers was praised by even their adversaries and critics. RSS workers were fired by an ideology, often called as Hindu nationalism, that could best be described as a mix of nationalism and strong religious sentiments.
RSS did not invent Hindu nationalism. The ideology is more than a century old. Towards the end of nineteenth century, Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Vivekanand, working independently, built a religious-political movement that in due course became the foundation of India’s freedom struggle. Both of them were bitterly opposed by the orthodox elements of Hinduism at that time. They espoused a version of Hinduism, which was progressive and reformist. This was unacceptable to Shankaracharyas and other authorities of Hindu community. In a way, Dayanand-Vivekanand combine represented one ideology and Shankaracharyas represented quite an opposite ideology. In the initial years, RSS represented the former, but it never spelled its ideology in explicit terms. To an extent, RSS felt that ideological confusion would help it attract all sections of Hindu society, so all ideological debates were forbidden. Its aim to become an omnibus diluted its ideological focus. RSS chose to replace ideology with emotion. Senior leaders of RSS preached that organizations are built on the basis of bonds of heart and not on the basis of intellectual debate.
Bonds of heart are useful for building a large voluntary organization, but they are of no use when one has to govern or take key decisions in fields of economic or strategic policy. This explains the floundering of BJP as a party of governance. RSS was built to be a fighting machine. The operating software of this machine does not have the capability to deliberate on profound complicated issues. Action rather than thought is the key focus of RSS as well as BJP. It is hence not surprising that RSS, as well as BJP, lacks clarity on all ideological issues.
As an example, let us take the case of Common Civil Code. For more than five decades, RSS and all its offshoots have been demanding a common civil code. In this long period it has never occurred to them to prepare a draft of the proposed common civil code. I have asked senior leaders of Sangh clan about what they want in the common civil code. Their stock reply is that as and when they are in a position to pass such legislation, they will appoint a group to prepare such a draft. In other words they acknowledge that they do not even know what should be the broad contours of the code for which they have been shouting for half a century.
Lack of depth marks every single ideological plank that RSS and BJP claim as their essential identity. Of course, I have not spent a lifetime working with the Sangh clan and Sangh loyalists would be quick to shout that I lack the essential qualification to comment on their ideology. Have we heard that before? Yes, Congressmen say the same. In a way, BJP has just become a clone of Congress. What Gandhi is to Congress, Guru Golwalkar and Dr. Hedgewar are to BJP. BJP officially claims to follow the ideology of EKATM MANAVWAD (translated by them as Integrated Humanism), propounded by Deendayal Upadhyay. I have yet to meet a BJP leader who can explain the ideology in some depth. You may, of course, try to work as an apprentice with some BJP leaders and hopefully before the end of your life you would know what integrated humanism is all about.
The ideological vacuum in BJP is filled by one universal ideology – Boss is always right. So, just as Congressmen look up to Sonia Gandhi as the fountainhead of ideology, BJP cadres look up to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani. RSS, which claims to be the mother organization of BJP, has lost its moral high ground. RSS still supplies bulk of manpower for BJP. But, for a BJP leader, utterances of Atal-Advani are more important than the noises coming from RSS headquarters at Nagpur. Ideological somersaults committed by Atal-Advani have often confused laymen. Diehard BJP loyalists have, however, been quick to change tacks as and when the bosses jumped. These loyalists have risen in BJP hierarchy and live a life of luxury with all the trappings of power.
As BJP leaders have got used to a life of luxury, a major change has come about. Word has gone around that the right channel to get into BJP goes via RSS. As a result, the profile of volunteers entering RSS has undergone a sea change. Emotionally charged, ideologically inspired zeal and commitment are now history. Career-oriented would-be politicians with dreams of power and luxury are entering RSS en route to BJP. They ask no questions and are too willing to jump with every somersault of the leadership.
The conversion of BJP into a Congress-clone or a club for “collective unbridled pursuit of self-interest” signals a national crisis. A decade back, BJP (and Sangh clan) was seen to be the great hope for India. Today, BJP is just another party of petty politicians. India has lost all hopes from her political class, which is intellectually, morally and ideologically bankrupt.
A country without hope is in a danger zone. India cannot remain in this zone for long. A new ideology and a new political party, which will be the torchbearer of the new ideology, is the need of the hour. As the new ideology and party take shape, we can either curse our luck for living in this hour of crisis of ideology or we can work for heralding the new sunrise.
(C) The strength of opposition
The opposition in a democracy plays as important a role as the government. For a strong and sensible government to work in a proper way, according to the will of the people, and equally strong and sensible opposition is a must. Such an opposition is the secret of the success of democracy in England, the oldest democracy of the word. There is mainly one strong political party is opposition. In this lies the strength of democracy in that country.
On the other hand, in Indian there are a number of opposition parties constantly quarreling among themselves. This is the greatest weakness of Indian democracy. In India there is no strong, united and healthy opposition. There are various reasons for it. No industrial revolution has taken place in this country. The result is that the working class is not politically conscious and, therefore, it is disunited and weak.
The opposition parties do not have any clear cut programmes and policies. Their approach is often communal, sectarian or regional. Their leaders are confused and have no idea of their aims and objectives. They quarrel for power and there are frequent splits. There are often defections on a large scale. People do not have faith in such parties, and so they fail to secure a majority in the elections. In the legislature itself, their leaders indulge in destructive criticism to gain their political ends. They keep party interest above national interest.
The role of opposition in a democracy is very important. The opposition accelerates the growth of the county or retards its growth by untimely agitations. For example, the violent agitations in Gujarat, Bihar, Assam and Punjab resulted in great loss of life and propensity and failed entirely to gain their objectives. The Government’s policy of State Trading in Food grains was wrongly criticized for political reasons. The result was that procurement targets could not be reached and wheat had to be imported to build up comfortable buffer stock. This was essential to hold the price-line. Such a destructive approach is against the national interest.
The role of opposition in a democracy should be healthy. It should criticize the Government policies in the national interest and not for part gains. The opposition parties must come together and merge on the basic of similarity in their ideologies. Universal illiteracy and universal poverty, unhealthy linguist, regionalism, racism and casteism characterize Indian life. They are all obstacles in the way of the growth of a cohesive social and political life in the country.
There is a mushroom growth of political parties due to the selfishness and lack of far sightedness of their leaders. Parties can come together on the basis of common ideology. But in India the party alliances are opportunistic, the only common ground between them being their hostility to the Government. Obviously, such alliances are bound to be short lived. For example, the Janta Party was a coalition of a number of political parties. So it, could not rule the nation for any length of time. It was thrown out of power due to the inter-quarreling of the opposition parties.
In a democracy the aims of the Government and the opposition should be the same- the good of the people. The opposition should criticize the government to implement its manifesto. It should criticize the government only to make it more efficient and honest. Criticism should be based on sound principles. Opposition parties should keep in mind that they may be called upon by the people to form the Government by any time. They should, therefore, function in a responsible way.
Prior to 1967, the opposition was divided into an array of small parties. While the Congress garnered between 45 percent and 48 percent of the vote, no opposition party gained as much as 11 percent, and during the entire period, only two parties won 10 percent. Furthermore, in each election, independent candidates won between 12 percent and 20 percent of the vote.
The opposition’s first significant attempt to achieve electoral unity occurred during the 1967 elections when opposition party alliances won control of their state governments in Bihar, Kerala, Orissa, Punjab, and West Bengal. In Rajasthan an opposition coalition prevented the Congress from winning a majority in the state legislature and forced it to recruit independents to form a government. The Congress electoral debacle encouraged even more dissidence within the party, and in a matter of weeks after the elections, defections brought down Congress governments in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. By July 1967, state governments of two-thirds of the country were under opposition rule. However, opposition rule in many cases was short-lived. The aftermath of the 1967 elections initiated a climate of politics by defection in which the Congress, and to a lesser extent the opposition, attempted to overthrow governments by winning over their state legislators with promises of greater political power and outright bribes. Needless to say, this period seriously undermined the ability of most parties to discipline their members. The increase in opposition-ruled state governments after 1967 also prompted the Congress to use President’s Rule to dismiss opposition-led state governments with increasing frequency (see Emergency Provisions and Authoritarian Powers, this ch.).
Although the centrist and right-wing opposition formed a “grand alliance” during the 1971 parliamentary elections, it was not until the general elections of 197
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