Elections Do Not a Democracy Make!

QUIZ: When it comes to political candidates running for elections, which voters have more choice?

INDIA – Because it has 1150 political parties

UNITED STATES – Has only seven or so political parties (actually just two for all practical purposes)

If you chose India then your answer is wrong. India has many more political parties than the United States. So one would think it has a whole bunch of choices for the voters. That, however, is not the case because India voters do not elect any candidates running for political office. No political party in India has what in United States are called OPEN PRIMARIES i.e. INTER-PARTY ELECTIONS where registered voters can openly and freely vote to decide which candidate they want to run on their behalf for the open seats.

WHAT? Can that be true in India — supposedly the largest democracy in the world?

Yes, that is true. The candidates for elections are chosen by the “high command” of the political party which in some cases is just one person.

When the esteemed late Indira Gandhi fragmented the old Congress Party she easily formed her own political party and named it “Congress (I).” Yes, that “I” stood for Indira. She became the President and Chief boss of the party. She selected and approved nominees for the Congress (I) by issuing “tickets” to all prospective candidates. Sure enough there was excitement in the Mathura, UP, when we learned that our friend Manvendra Singh was suddenly given the “ticket” to run from Mathura as a Congress (I) candidate along with a suitcase with Rs.250,000 in cash for the campaign! I do not remember the exact year but it was in the 1970s. Sure enough Mr. Manvendra Singh won and became Mathura district’s Member of Parliament (M.P.).

Knowing nothing about the basics of democracy, I celebrated and marveled at the feat our friend had accomplished. The fact that the people of my parliamentary constituency had no say in who should represent them did not occur to me. What I saw was considered “normal.”

Proudly the Congress party maintains that tradition of Indira Gandhi which now is fully controlled by Madam Sonia Gandhi, the mother of Indira Gandhi’s grandchildren. Yes, in case you did not know “democracy” is also a family business! (More on that in another post.)

True, elections and a “peaceful” (if you discount pre-election, intra-party fights) transfer of power is the boast on which rests India’s claims of being the world’s largest democracy.

But to this day, the people have no say in electing/selecting the candidates who seek to run on their behalf and eventually occupy elected posts.

Likewise, the people have no say when it comes to the formation of a political party. The political party does not have to get anything from the voters, just as Indira Gandhi was able to breakaway and literally “register” her party the next day with the Elections Commission. She did not have to go the voters to obtain their consent by getting signatures as is required in the United States.

In this world’s largest democracy it is not the people who are in-charge, but Commissioners and Party Bosses who wield the real power to decide on behalf of the people. Ironically, the constitution of India is ignored. Like the U.S. constitution, India’s constitution also starts with “We the People..” To me that ought to give sufficient authority to the Supreme Court of India to order the changes listed below.

REFORM NOW:CHANGE THE POLITICAL PARTY SYSTEM:

It is too late to dismantle the numerous political parties. However, it is not too late to empower the Elections Commission to change the rules. People also must demand the following changes:

CHANGE 1:

ALL parties must be required to have a fair process of inter-party elections where voters can elect the candidates.

CHANGE 2:

ALL parties must have an open inter-party system of office holders i.e. they must demonstrate that the President and other party officials are elected by party members through a fair system of voting.

CHANGE 3:

A system of open accounting. The people have the right to know where and from whom political parties are receiving money and that this money is being properly accounted for and spent for legitimate purposes (details to be set by the Elections Commission. Government will provide adequate financial resources to the Election Commission to hire certified accountants and auditors.)

CHANGE 4:

Political Party recognition should be withdrawn/invalidated if a political party fails to obtain minimum required votes (this can be set later. The party that fails to obtain minimum required vote could fold up or merge with another party. However, no name changes will be allowed)

Expecting DEMOCRACY from political parties that themselves do not practice basic precepts of democracy is preposterous.

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