Election Commision & Inner Party democracy

Election Commision & Inner Party democracy

Source: The Hindu

News: On the one hand Congress is holding elections for the post of party president after a gap of more than 20 years, while on the other hand elected Andhra Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy was elected as Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) president for life.

Types of Indian Political Parties:

  • Cadre-based parties: These parties have some organizational structure directed towards ideological goals or principles. For Example: Bharatiya Janata Party or the Communist parties.
  • Parties having core ideals but  loose association of individuals with different opinions: For Example: Indian National Congress party. 
  • Parties with social or regional clout: These political parties have influence among certain sections of the society and regions. For Example: Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party for Rajbhar community and  Apna Dal for Kurmi community. Examples of regional parties are Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party etc.

Reasons for non-democratic/autocratic tendencies and lack of internal elections among political parties:

  • Multi-party system and federalised nature of India’s polity
  • Domination of  “charismatic” individuals or their families in party structure.
  • Opaque financing structures of most political parties.
  • Dominance of the high command leading to centralised control of parties by a single individual or a family.
  • Inadequate competition for internal polls: Parties lack sufficient contestation for leadership posts.
  • Fear of disunity: Political parties fear that internal contests may foster disunity due to the zero-sum nature of electoral politics. 
  • Absence of statutory or legal basis to mandate internal elections: Election commission issued guidelines to conduct periodical  elections for party leadership,but it does not have powers to  enforce inner party democracy or to mandate elections.
  • Prevalence of nomination and consensus-building methods for selection of party leadership.
  • Political parties lack a constitutional foundation: Phrase “political party” was nowhere mentioned in the Indian Constitution. For the first time, a political party is defined from Anti-defection law, 1985.
  • Paradoxical nature of legislations: India is a party-led democracy. But in India, candidates are subject to rules  and regulations more than political parties.
  • Lenient nature of Election Commission to mandate  its executive guidelines for periodical internal elections.
  • Court observed that Article 324 of the Constitution, or Section 29(A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 did not provide ECI the power to regulate internal structures, organisations or elections of the party. 

Way forward:

  • Inception of party constitution for internal regulation of political parties: Political parties should  abide by their own constitution.
  • Model of state funding of political parties: Former Chief Election Commissioner of India S.Y. Quraishi proposed that parties should receive money as per the number of votes polled for them. For example, the state can pay political parties Rs.100 for each vote polled in their favor. 
  • Ensure electoral transparency: EC should ensure that parties must submit  documents of expenditure incurred during elections and in the non-election period.
  • Attaching cost to no-compliance of EC orders such as regular  organisational elections, in case parties conceal changes in office-bearers and addresses from EC. Election Commision of India should utilize its executive power to ensure organizational elections as happened during T.N.Seshan’s tenure.
  • Parties should establish a balance between divisiveness of election and high command culture so that in the long run it does not weaken the party.

Conclusion: Political parties are aggregations of heterogeneous interests, ideas and leaderships leading to internal differences. So, Internal elections pave the way for upward mobility through meetings and contests of ideas.


1.The Hindu: Internal Democracy.

2.The Hindu: Should the ECI insist on inner-party elections?

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Yojna IAS Daily Current Affairs eng med 23rd Sep

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