Internal Democracy and Election Commission of India (ECI)

  • IASbaba
  • September 24, 2022
  • 0
Indian Polity & Constitution
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Context: Recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has rejected the idea of a ‘permanent president’ for a party. A party from Andhra Pradesh reportedly elected states’ Chief Minister as its president for life.

  • As per the ECI, such a step is inherently anti-democratic.

What is ‘Internal Democracy’ or ‘Intra-party democracy’?

  • It refers to the level and methods of including party members in the decision making and deliberation within the party structure.
  • It is usually known to nurture citizens’ political competencies and/or producing more capable representatives which in turn ensures that the party produces better policies and political programmes.
  • Any party that participates in a democratic process, and wants to govern and legislate, should include formal and periodic election of office-bearers as part of the way it functions as an association.
  • At present, in India and South Asia, almost all political parties are centralised. They are family-controlled parties, and dynastic politics has become a norm.

Reason behind centralised control in a party:

  • The fragmentation of India’s polity into a federalised, multi-party system has also given way to domination by “charismatic” individuals or their families, mainly because of the nature of support that these parties enjoy or due to their financing structures which necessitates centralised control by a single coterie or a family.
  • Because of this, several political parties do not insist on thoroughgoing internal elections to secure their leadership; and even if they do conduct polls, they lack sufficient contestation and are done to reaffirm the dominance of the high command.

Framework to ensure Intra-party democracy:

  • RPA,1951: ECI uses guidelines issued for registration of parties under Section 29A, RPA,1951 to remind parties to conduct elections and to ensure that their leadership is renewed, changed, or re-elected every five years.
  • Constitution: All rules and regulations apply more to candidates than to political parties in India.
    • Nothing in Article 324, or Section 29A, RPA,1951 tells us that the ECI can actually regulate internal structures, organisations, or elections of the party.
  • However, ECI does not have any statutory power to enforce internal democracy in parties or to mandate elections.
    • The ECI does not question the result or the procedure the parties followed.
    • The ECI expects political parties to abide by their constitution, a copy of which is also submitted to the commission when the parties are registered. It is not for the commission to step in or criticise if anyone is elected unopposed.
  • In the 1990s, when N. Sheshan was at the helm at ECI, by an executive order political parties were ordered to conduct organisational elections.

Framework in other countries:

  • In the U.S. election, the selection of the candidate to be the presidential nominee is done via debate, in which the contenders condemn and criticise each other.
  • Something similar is seen in the U.K. Democracy.

Suggestions in this regard:

  • 1999 Law Commission Report: It strongly recommended that India should have some mechanism for internal regulation of political parties.
  • The CEC in 2011 also submitted a draft on this to the Union Law Ministry.
  • New interpretation of the existing laws by the ECI, as happened in the 1990s.


  • Political parties don’t have to be homogeneous in terms of both ideas and leadership. Political parties are aggregations of interests, so, there are going to be differences within.
    • Having these internal elections, meetings and contests of ideas is important.
  • The lack of substantive power with ECI only leads to parties carrying out the ECI’s edicts in a mechanical manner.
    • However, with dynasticism and a lack of internal democracy becoming a matter of public debate, perhaps public pressure would finally bear upon parties to do the right thing. Internal elections are key for upward mobility.

MUST READ:  Election Commission of India           

Source:  The Hindu                    

Previous Year Question

Q,1) With reference to the Union Government, consider the following statements: (2021)

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and by-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognized political parties.

Select the correct code:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 3 only


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