Inside Track: Who is the most democratic of them all?

Does the BJP really differ from these family-run parties? The answer is both yes and no. Instead of one family, it is the Sangh Parivar which has the final say.

Written by Coomi Kapoor | Updated: July 9, 2017 2:21 am
Dynasty, Dynasty Indian politics, Internal democracy political parties, Congress Dynasty, BJP Sanghparvar, Indian express, india news, Latest news, express opinion BJP president Amit Shah and Congress president Sonia Gandi

BJP president Amit Shah likes to make the point that the BJP is the only political party with internal democracy. “After my term as president, does anyone know who will be next? Can this be said about any other party?’’ he asks.
Shah’s verbal barb is aimed not just at the Congress, but at almost all political parties today. The 132-year-old Congress, which once had a proud tradition of representing views from far right to the extreme left, is now reduced to a one-family affair. Though a precise and pedantic Narasimha Rao once quibbled that the Nehru-Gandhi domination cannot be dubbed as dynastic rule since you have “an agnate then a cognate and then an agnate’’. Sophistry aside, when it’s all in the family, it counts as dynastic rule, even if Congresspersons keep protesting that the family is democratically elected by the party and the people. Today Congresspersons may grumble privately that Rahul Gandhi does not have it in him to be party president, but, ironically, the only alternative solution they dare to voice is Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Over the years, the sting has been taken out of the charge of dynastic politics with many former critics aping the Congress. Lalu Prasad is the president of the RJD and, in his absence, his kith and kin preside. In the DMK, an ageing M Karunanidhi has appointed M K Stalin his heir. Mulayam Singh Yadav anointed his son Akhilesh, even if he now has second thoughts. Other regional parties, including the Shiv Sena, NCP, TDP, TRS and the YSR Congress etc, are cut from the same dynastic cloth. Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee may be single, but even they trust completely only family members. Nitish Kumar is the exception. He has not promoted his engineer son, but there is no denying that he alone calls the shots in the JD(U).

Does the BJP really differ from these family-run parties? The answer is both yes and no. Instead of one family, it is the Sangh Parivar which has the final say. Shah is correct when he asserts that it is not known who the next BJP party president will be. But that doesn’t mean that the BJP is a shining example of inner-party democracy. Of all Indian political parties, the Communists may be a tad better than most, though elections are a farce. The BJP, on paper, may go through the motions of a poll process but elections are a mere formality with a show of hands. Whether it is the parliamentary board, the national executive, the newly formed Margdarshak Mandal (has it even met?), the national council and the state councils, the members are selected by a handful of top leaders in consultation with the RSS pointperson in the BJP. The local units have little say.

Amit Shah’s name was announced as party president three years ago in July, well before the actual forum for the election, the national council, gave its stamp of approval. So who actually chose Shah for the post? Prime Minister Narendra Modi, impressed by the organisational skills of his fellow Gujarati that won him the 2014 parliamentary elections. Similarly, in the selection of past BJP presidents, the national council was simply the rubber stamp which ratified the choice. Only the selection process may have differed. Then it was a delicate balancing act between the wishes of the RSS and seniority which decided the names. L K Advani ended up a three-time president because of his seniority and survival instincts. After the BJP’s 2009 defeat, Nitin Gadkari was anointed largely by the RSS, which wanted the Nagpur boy. The BJP, nonetheless, claims a greater democratic spirit than other parties since at party forums, even if nominated, in the past, there was a good deal of give-and-take before arriving at decisions.
Shah was under 50 when he assumed office as party boss, but he is nevertheless the most powerful president ever.

Even Advani, in his heyday, did not command such clout. Shah’s control of the party is so complete that there is much less inclination to accommodate the wishes of other senior leaders. At the three-year Modi government anniversary meet with Cabinet ministers and the press this May, it was clear that Shah was the first among unequals. (Only Prime Minister Modi is above him.) The mutual accommodation seen earlier has given way to a sole arbiter whose writ runs practically unchallenged in the party. As long as he is successful, the present autocratic rule will continue. If Shah fails at the hustings, then presumably a greater degree of democracy will creep back into the party.

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  1. S
    satish
    Jul 14, 2017 at 7:01 pm
    bjp is best party.............. ........................................ digital marketing ins ute
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      Aditys
      Jul 10, 2017 at 4:55 am
      Either author is dishonest or stupid. First there is very healthy compe ion in BJP if you followed narendra Modi before 2014. Advani and sushma swaraj did not wanted Narendra Modi even when he was RSS person even more than sushma swaraj or even advani. Modi was even removed from central parliamentary board. Two reasons Modi got selected 1. Big support at low and mid level BJP leaders and workers 2. Modi success at Gujarat level. Lastly and more importantly nobody believed Advani will win he lost before when he was projected as leader of BJP. Modi was pulling much bigger crowds. Now coming to Amit Shah he has his position due to his capability. Check results of UP election in lok sabha no body even cannot other BJP Leaders could not do what Amit Shah did. Can Advani win Delhi and defeat AK - my answer is no. None of BJP leaders can compete with Amit shah in capsbility. Another example Mrs Patel was CM of Gujarat as she was close to Modi but was removed as she was not capable
      Reply
      1. A
        Antony
        Jul 10, 2017 at 3:21 am
        If BJP-RSS is worried about muslim population growth why they are not implementing uniform civil code and two child policy for all? also abolish the cast system and the reservation system too to make india a forward looking majority hindu nation ! instead these idio ts are behind cow , beef laws and lynchings and communal riots creating instabiliy and communal riots across india when porkistan and china is readying for attack from both sides ! muslims already reached 180 millions and it is projected that their population will reach 350 million by end of 2030 due to high birth rate which will be equal to population of America. I appeal to all gober eating ic sanghis here not to make 180 million anti nationals within the country and instead quietly frame the laws which restrict the population growth which will make sure that india is and will remain as a hindu majority country ruled by majority hindus. you dont need to be turn the country into another regressive porkistan !
        Reply
        1. A
          Aditys
          Jul 10, 2017 at 4:57 am
          BJP cannot change cons ution as it does have 2/3 majority in both lok sabha and Rajya sabha
          Reply
        2. S
          Suresh
          Jul 10, 2017 at 1:36 am
          RSS controls everything wrt BJP, VHP and all other parivar organizations. Separation is only for name sake. RSS is a cadre based organization like communist. Such organization don't need and cannot have internal democracy. RSS was formed by Brahmins from Konkan region in Maharashtra and still primarily controls and takes all important decisions for BJP and all BJP leaders get OK from RSS. Separation RSS and BJP exists for only for legal reasons.
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            Aditys
            Jul 10, 2017 at 5:07 am
            Please do your research VHP is not related to RSS. Also many leaders in RSS and BJP are not Brahmin. For example the two important leaders in BJP who ho have the full control of the party is Narendra Modi -Dalit and Amit Shah - Vania Aldo the president candidate from BJP is dalit. Communists are crafted base party and congress is even worst than that congress is slave party to serve Gandhi party
            Reply
            1. K
              Kamal Chouhan
              Jul 14, 2017 at 1:08 am
              You are living the world of lies created by BJP and Modi. Modi is nowhere near to Dalit. His caste was also included in October during his tenure as CM. Sole aim of BJP is Hindu ideology and hatred for dalits.
          2. R
            Raaj
            Jul 9, 2017 at 10:54 pm
            Does the media like indian express, TOI and HINDUSTAN TIMES get butthurt that modi and bjp have won-YES they do. No doubt about it. Keep whining
            Reply
            1. G
              Gopal
              Jul 9, 2017 at 10:49 pm
              Sangh parivar is not a family that is related by blood. So don't play on the "parivar" word to mix different issues. BJP does not practice dynastic politics. Internal democracy is an entirely different matter. Obviously, all parties including the BJP have a long way to go. But don't conflate issues to muddle things in an attempt to appear balanced.
              Reply
              1. K
                kamal
                Jul 9, 2017 at 10:40 pm
                Very good balanced examination of the situation prevailing in the Indian Politics.
                Reply
                1. V
                  Venkat
                  Jul 9, 2017 at 10:24 pm
                  Meaningless article. Supporters (a.k.a majority of the voters) will always take the yes part and the detractors (the very few diminishing number of leftist whose only livelihood is Indian Express) will take the 'no' part. Voters are looking for a working Gvernment- and the current Government fits the bill. All these attempts to make BJP look bad will have no effect.
                  Reply
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                    Aditys
                    Jul 10, 2017 at 5:10 am
                    Excellent reply why Indian express gives space to such stupid authors
                    Reply
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