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Organisation & Party Ideology: LOST IN THE LABYRINTH FOR POWER, By Dr. S.Saraswathi, 13 July, 2012 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 13 July 2012

Organisation & Party Ideology


By Dr. S.Saraswathi

Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)


Party politics in India, both within and between Parties, is undergoing difficult times due to political as well as non-political developments. One major problem faced by many Parties is to maintain cordial relations between their organisational and Parliamentary wings


Remember, during the AICC session held in New Delhi 2004, Party President Sonia Gandhi expressed serious  concern  about the rise of factionalism in some States which in turn was the cause for the Party’s electoral defeat. Issuing a strict warning to various faction-ridden units, she reiterated that intra-Party rivalry would not be tolerated.


Alas, this fell on deaf ears. Post the electoral debacle in UP, Punjab and Goa Assembly polls in 2012, Sonia again repeated the warning.  “If the energy we expend in factionalism and in talking and doing things that do not matter…if we used half that energy in strengthening the organisation, our strength would double,” was her message to Congressmen.


But this too did not stop in-fighting. Addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party after the poor performance, she urged her MPs to shed factional behaviour and fight elections as an united disciplined team. Organisational unity, she asserted, would bring to the fore the Party’s core inner strength nee “essential capital” being corroded by internal power struggles. The raison d atre for showcasing the Party’s poor image and belittling its performance.  


Undeniably, this blunt outburst was a rude shock to her loyal foot soldiers who were busy finding alibis and shifting the blame for the electoral defeat to their Party rivals.   


Following this shake up, there were also reports of a “Kamaraj Plan” to divest some Congressmen from Government to organisational work. Primarily, to bring about cohesiveness in the Party’s rank and file.   Notwithstanding, criticism it was an “honourable” way of shifting Ministers whom Party bosses were not comfortable with.       


True, most Parties experience upheaval and a tug-of-war between   their organisational and Parliamentary wings.  But today, this has now protracted to a tussle between State units and Central leadership, a kind of intra-Party Centre-State problem. Presently, national Parties, Congress and BJP are undergoing major internal upheavals.


Importantly, given that Constitutional federalism manifests itself in national Parties and their federal organisational structure, many State-level and regional Parties also follow suit.  Wherein, the “High Command” is the numero uno in Party affairs and its diktat is a code that the entire rank and file has to adhere to. It is immaterial whether they agree with it or not.


This “authority”   is most recognized   in the Congress by sheer adulation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty since pre-Independence days.  Whereby, its history is replete with instances of competition and rivalry  between its organisational and Parliamentary wings for supremacy. 


Old Congress hands recall, how Jinnah had no admiration for the Congress High Command. Which he compared to the Fascist Grand Council.  In the 1930s, when the Congress accepted Legislative office, the High Command also gained a new political role in Government. 


Congress members at the Centre and States cultivated a tendency to be responsible first to the small group within the Party called the Congress Working Committee and then only to the legislative bodies and the electorate.  Thus, began the politics of organisational wing versus the Parliamentary wing.      


At one time, it was argued that the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) could not function and democracy would be reduced to a mockery if Ministers were to hold office only so long as the All India Congress Committee (AICC) or its counterparts in States, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) allowed them to do so. 


At another level, many asserted that the Prime Minister and Ministers were dependent on the organisation to continue in office. When Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister, the question of the relative role of the Party and the Congress Government became a hot issue and was provisionally settled as the Government’s prerogative to make policies and implement them respectively. As it was responsible for both and answerable to the people.


Moreover, in the States the Party unit has to adhere to what the PCC decides. Be it choosing the Leader in the Assembly, Ministry formation or who would be anointed Ministers. The Parliamentary and legislative wing only regulate and coordinate activities of the Party in the legislatures.      


In fact, the idiom “High Command” is so meaningful that even the BJP uses it for its Central leadership. But, in States, the Party is very different from the Congress. As the Saffron Sangh’s State units do not necessarily have to mutely follow the orders of the Central leadership.  Strangely, instead of reading this as a sign of inner party democracy, the BJP’s opponents view this as a sign of disorder and indiscipline.


Needless to say, Parties are far from democratic. Most powers are centralized in the High Command. From allotment of tickets, to contesting the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections to nomination for the Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad everything is decided by the Central leadership and not by leaders in the constituency as is the practice in Britain.


Pertinently, till the debut of the Janata Party in the mid-1970s, the Congress and the BJP were wedded to their ideology and social goals.  Both gave more impetus to expanding their organisations and widening their social base.


The emphasis was on “non-power goals” vis-à-vis ideology, organisation and social welfare programmes. However, post Emergency and the rise of non-Congress regional Parties the weightage given to ideology fast began to recede.


The decline and disappearance of the age of “one-Party dominance” and emergence of the coalition era also heralded the weakening of the politics of ideology. The “Organisation” gained primacy over Government. Read the Party High Command.


This afflicted regional Parties too. Whereby, the person or group which controlled the organisation   also controlled the Party’s Parliamentary wing.  Remember, when the late MG Ramachandran was expelled from the DMK, he captured the local units and built a new Party with his supporters called the AIADMK. Present Chief Minister Jayalalitha succeeded him by capturing the Party organization from Ramachandran’s widow Janaki Ramachandran.


Besides, V.P.Singh, who broke away from the Congress and became the Prime Minister in the late 1980’s could not last long as he did not enjoy strong organisational backing. Parties need to take lessons from the Communists. The Parties strength is rooted in their organisation. ----INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



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