Context: Unlike their counterparts in the U.K., MPs in India have no autonomy to question and challenge their party leadership
- The ousting of Boris Johnson as leader of the British Conservative Party is the latest in a series of coups periodically mounted by the party’s MPs to get rid of a leader who has become an electoral or political liability.
- If there is a sense that the leader is no longer acceptable to the country, then a well-oiled machine springs into action to protect the party’s electoral gains by providing fresh leadership.
- In India, where the PM exercises absolute authority over party MPs, whose ability to even diverge slightly from the official government line on routine policy matters is almost non-existent.
- The PM’s power is strengthened by India’s unique anti-defection set-up, where uncooperative MPs who do not manage to carry two-thirds of their colleagues with them can always be disqualified.
- Also that PM or CM at the State level are chosen by legislators — the choice is invariably made by a party high command, and then submitted to MPs/MLAs to be rubber stamped.
- Our system allows voters to be heard once every five years.
- The underlying assumption is that, in the interim, their voice is articulated through their representatives.
- It is time for India to seriously consider empowering its elected representatives, to ensure accountability for party leadership.
- MPs in the U.K. are able to act boldly because they do not owe their nomination to the party leader, but are selected by the local constituency party.
- In India, however, it is the party leadership that decides candidates, with an informal consultation with the local party.
- Neither do MPs in the U.K. stand a risk of disqualification if they speak out against the leader, a threat perpetuated in India through the anti-defection law.
- These factors are the biggest stumbling blocks towards ensuring inner-party democracy in India.
Adopt Best Practice
- A workable model can be borrowed from the U.K. where individual Conservative MPs write to the committee expressing that they have “no confidence” in their leader.
- If a numerical or percentage threshold is breached, an automatic leadership vote is triggered, with the party leader forced to seek a fresh mandate from the parliamentary party.
- The only way such a model would work is if an exception is made to the anti-defection law, which is at present misused by party leaders hoping to cling
- on to power.
- The control over candidates must shift from central party leaders to local party members.
Source: The Hindu