Among the various reforms that the Election Commission of India has been insisting upon is the holding of regular elections hi the plethora of political parties which contest elections. The plea is that before these parties go to the electorate seeking its mandate on their policies and programmes, they must exercise and implement democracy at the grassroots level within themselves. Presidency in the Indian National Congress heirarchical, democracy, by which the party savears is a mere sham within its ranks. Dynasty rules the roost.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, at present, puts up the facade of elections with alarming regularity, but the results are known hi advance for all to see. The Communists have their own politburo — a group of oldthners past then-prime whose word is supreme and sacrosanct in all political and policy matters. They pick-up their General Secretary from among themselves and choose Chief Ministers in the states ruled by the party. AIADMK has its supremo in Jayalalitha, Bahujan Samaj Party in Kanshi Ram and the Akalis hi any figurehead chosen by the Dal. Inner Party democracy in the country is sadly lacking hi all the leading political parties in the realm.
In the Indian National Congress, the post Independence scenario was dominated by the Nehru-Gandhi dynsty. It was either Jawahar Lal Nehru or Indira Gandhi – at best, one of their camp followers lie U.N. Dhebar — who was the congress president till Mrs. Gandhi finally suffered out dissent hi 1969 over the choice of the President of India. She combined the Presidency of the party and the Prime Ministership of the country and ruled with our iron hand. No one could even whisper dissent.
After Mrs. Gandhi’s death, her son Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister as well as Congress President till his assassination in 1991. Prime Ministership of the country for the dynasty almost became a thing of the past. P.V. Narasimha Rao paid respects to Rajiv Gandhi’s widows, Mrs. Soriia Gandhi, at every given opportunity and the government even doled out Rs.100 crore a year to the Rajiv Randhi Foundation to keep the ideals of the young leader alive. Rao was congress president till Sitaram Kesri was installed in his place.
When senior Congress leader Sharad Pawar wished to contest against the Kesri during the 13th general elections he was sidelined. He later broke away from the party and formed Nationalist Congress Party. A similar fate awaited Rajesh Pilot when he threw his hat into the ring. He however, returned to the fold soon thereafter.
In the November 2000 elections for the congress president the same story was repeated. It was Sonia Gandhi vs. Jitendra Prasada. On the election day (Nov. 12,2000) his supporters were roughed up. The results was a foregone conclusion. Mrs. Gandhi was re-elected as President of the congress. Mr. Prasad could manage only 94 votes in his favour. Mrs. Gandhi ruled out any action against him for contesting. “Contesting elections” is a part of the democratic process, “she said magnanimously. Sycophancy has perhaps been the most enduring feature of the congress. But will other political parties take heed from the fate of the oldest political party-congress-in the land and resort to true inner party democracy.