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The need to democratize the functioning of political parties in India

The need to democratize the functioning of political parties in India

The need to democratize the functioning of political parties in India

The democratic theory includes both Procedural Democracy and Substantive Democracy. Here procedural democracy refers to the practice of universal adult suffrage, periodic elections, secret ballot, etc., while real democracy refers to the internal democratic functioning of political parties—which allegedly represent the people.

The roots of various relevant challenges facing Indian politics at present can be traced to the lack of “intra-party/intra-party democracy” in the selection of candidates and in party elections.

The need for democracy in political parties

Representation: The absence of “intra-party/intra-party democracy” has turned political parties into narrow autocratic structures. This adversely affects the equal political right of citizens to participate in politics and contest elections.

Reduction in factionalism: Due to this, a leader having strong ground connectivity or a mass base will not be sidelined in the party. This will reduce the risk of factionalism and division within the party. For example, after leaving the Indian National Congress (INC), Sharad Pawar formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Mamata Banerjee formed the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Transparency: A transparent party structure along with transparent procedures will promote fair ticket distribution and candidate selection. Such selections would not be based on the will of a few powerful leaders of the party, but would rather represent the choice of the party as a whole.

Responsibility: A democratic party will be accountable to its members, because because of their shortcomings, they may lose in the upcoming elections.

Decentralization of Power: Each political party has units at the state and local body levels. Conducting elections at each level in the party will give an opportunity to create power centers at different levels. This will allow for “decentralization of power” and decisions can be taken at the grassroots level.

Criminalization of politics: Since there is no systematic process for the distribution of tickets to candidates before elections in India, candidates are given tickets simply on the basis of a vague concept of their ‘win-win potential’. This has created an additional problem of candidates having ‘Dhanbali-Baahubali’ or criminal backgrounds entering the fray.

because of the lack of democracy

Dynastic politics: The lack of intra-party democracy has contributed to the trend of nepotism in political parties. Senior party leaders are fielding their family members in the election field.

Centralized Structure of Political Parties: The centralized nature of the functioning of political parties and the anti-defection law enacted in 1985, bar the elected members of political parties from voting in the national and state legislatures of their personal choice or discretion.

Lack of law: At present, there is no clear provision for the internal democratic regulation of political parties in India, and the only governing law is provided by Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which provides for political parties in the Election Commission of India. Provides registration. Although internal elections are regularly held by political parties to elect their office bearers, this is very limited in the absence of any penal provisions.

Individual worship: Often there is a tendency of hero-worship among the common people and sometimes the entire party is dominated by one personality who forms his own congregation, thereby ending all types of inter-party democracy. For example, Mao Zedong’s hegemony over the Communist Party of China or the influence of Donald Trump on the Republic Party in America.

Ineffective internal elections: It is very easy for power groups in the party to destroy internal institutional processes to consolidate their power and maintain the status quo.


Law Commission: In the 170th report of the Law Commission of India on the Reform of Electoral Laws, an entire chapter has been devoted to the need for laws for internal democracy in political parties.

The Commission held that a political party, which does not respect democratic principles in its internal working, cannot be expected and expected to respect the basic principles prevailing in the governance of the country.

NCRWC Report: The ‘National Commission for Review of Working of Constitution- NCRWC’ has recognized that it is necessary to have a comprehensive legislative system for regulating the registration and functioning of political parties or alliances in India.

Second Administrative Reforms Commission Report: The Second Report (Ethics and Governance) of the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has mentioned that corruption is mainly due to hyper-centralization, because the farther away from the public, the power is consumed, the jurisdiction And there is a wider gap between responsibility.

way ahead

Legislation to make internal elections mandatory: It is the duty of political parties to take appropriate steps to ensure the conduct of elections at all levels. Political parties should conduct internal elections at the national and state level in the presence of observers nominated by the Election Commission.

Amendment in Anti-Defection Law: The ‘Anti-Defection Act, 1985’ obliges the elected House members of the party to act in accordance with the orders of the party ‘whip’ – who are decided by the top leadership. One of the ways to promote democratization among political parties is to provide opportunities to express intra-party dissent.
Anti-defection law should be used only in cases where they vote against the party whip on extremely important occasions like a no-confidence motion.

Reservation: Seats can be reserved for women, minorities, and members of backward communities.

Financial Transparency/Audit: It should be made mandatory for all political parties to submit the details of their expenditure to the Election Commission of India within the stipulated time frame. A heavy fine should be imposed on the political parties who do not submit these details on time or in the prescribed format.

Empowering the Election Commission of India: To inquire into allegations of non-compliance with any provision requiring the Election Commission to conduct internal elections.

Penalty for non-compliance: If political parties do not conduct elections in a free and fair manner, then the Election Commission should have the penal power to cancel the registration of the party.


Politics cannot be seen in isolation from political parties, because they are the main means of implementation of democracy in the country. The introduction of internal democracy and transparency within political parties is important for promoting financial and electoral accountability, reducing corruption, and improving the democratic functioning of the country as a whole.

It is necessary that political parties consider the ever-increasing demands for electoral political reforms and take steps towards bringing in ‘inter-party democracy’.

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