- GS-2: Structure, organization and functioning of the Legislature; Issues and challenges pertaining to elections
Making Parties constitutional
What is a Political Party?
- A political party is an organised group of citizens who hold common views on governance. They act as a political unit that seeks to obtain control of government with a view to further the agenda and policy they profess.
- They are indispensable links between the people and the representative machinery of government.
- Political parties maintain a continuous connection between the people and those who represent them either in government or in the opposition.
Do You Know?
- The Indian Constitution, one of the longest Constitutions in the world, elaborately deals with the co-operative societies but not on Political Parties.
- The right to form co-operative societies is a fundamental right under Article 19 (1)(c), but the right to form political parties is not.
What is the legal status of Political Parties?
- Political parties have extralegal growth in almost every democratic country.
- The American Constitution does not presume the existence of political parties. In Britain too, political parties are still unknown to the law.
- Similarly, political parties in India are extra-constitutional, but they are the breathing air of the political system.
- Section 29A(5) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 is the only major statutory provision dealing with political parties in India.
- It orders that a political party shall bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy, and would uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
What is German Model?
- The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (1949) gives constitutional status to political parties.
- Article 21 of the Basic Law of Germany deals with their status, rights, duties and functions. It provides:
- Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people. They may be freely established. Their internal organisation must conform to democratic principles. They must publicly account for their assets and for the sources and use of their funds.
- Parties that seek to undermine or abolish the free democratic basic order or to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be unconstitutional. The Federal Constitutional Court shall rule on the question of unconstitutionality
- Details of regulation of Political Parties shall be regulated by federal laws.
- The German model of constitutionalising political parties is more desirable for India than the U.S. and the U.K. models.
What are the problems facing Indian Political Parties?
- Political parties in developed nations maintain high levels of internal democracy but this is lacking in India.
- There are no periodical in-party elections in majority of Indian parties.
- Majority of political parties are family fiefdoms, where internal Democracy is lacking.
- Most of the parties are openly caste- or religious-based.
- The finances of almost all political parties are dubious and opaque.
What is the way ahead?
- Political parties are the agents of democracy and safety valves in the political system. They desperately need reform.
- Hence, it is high time to constitutionalise political parties to ensure in-party democracy, to impart transparency in their finances, and to de-communalise them.
Connecting the dots:
- Electoral Reforms (NOTA, VVPAT)
- Electoral Bonds Scheme
- Presidential System vs Parliamentary System
- First Past the Post vs Proportionate Representation