The Election Commission has delisted 255 political parties and passed on their details to the taxman, so that their finances can be probed. Of course, the EC should be vigilant about money laundering, which is the obvious suspicion, but perhaps it has put the cart before the horse. It would suffice to rub out parties found to be laundering, without discomfiting extraordinary acts of the political imagination like the Womanist Party of India in Mombai’s Dombivli and the Life Peaceful Party of Tumkur. These are names to be treasured as living proof of how engagingly peculiar the Indian political scene can be. Indian politics should be confident enough to conserve and celebrate such extraordinary organisations. In fact, the EC might consider opening a museum of defunct parties. Or revive them and take them for an occasional spin, like vintage cars.
Conservation would not be difficult, since a fair number of the parties which were delisted exist only on paper. Some will turn out to be peopled exclusively by the dead. Some consist of an astonishing personality exercising plenipotentiary powers in solitary splendour. The Rashtriya Hindu Sangathan, for instance, whose initials echo those of its founder and sole member, a Hindu devotee of Guru Gobind Singh. Imagine setting the taxman on the dead, the splendidly plenipotentiary, the obscure treasurer with irretrievably bad arithmetic. It does seem like the use of excessive force.
Do away with the launderers, by all means. But find a way to let engaging absurdities like the Great India Revolutioners of Delhi, or the standout Ministerial System Abolition Party of Kolkata, live, instead of dematerialising them with a bunch of humourless rules and regulations. Within India’s vast political culture, there is room for everyone.