Missing decency and value system
Mushrooming of regional political parties without stated political goals, and the deterioration of political values across the spectrum are taking Indian politics to a new low
In the recent past, in Telangana as well as in other states, the proliferation of regional political parties without any aim and objective and absolutely without an underlying agenda has been rampant. They even contest elections and by-elections and end-up securing negligible votes. Quite a few of them register in anticipation of someone offering a premium, as in the case of the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP).
Some of the 'padayatras' hurl unpalatable abusive language at the ruling party and its leader. In a vibrant democracy like ours, anybody may launch a political party, provided they adhere to decency and the value system.
Many regional parties will wane away sooner or later. In the past, leaders like Nadendla Bhaskar Rao, KE Krishnamurthy, Janareddy, Mudragada Padmanabham, Vijaya Shanti, A Narendra, P Indrareddy, Devender Goud and a host of others launched political outfits and wounded them up sooner or later. Unless there is a definite, dedicated agenda, as in the case of Telangana Rashtra Samithi, like achieving a separate state, and gradually climbing the ladder for a larger goal, there is no point in forming a party. In Telangana, when national parties Congress and BJP are hard placed to beat TRS, what will new parties be able to do except abuse the ruling party?
Genesis and the evolution of political parties are very interesting, though decency and value systems are missing. Political parties in a democracy are indispensable and a necessary evil, in order to achieve reasonably a better outcome. The stated primary aim and objective of any political party is, to compete in periodically held elections and offer voters or citizens a series of welfare measures that they would implement if elected to power and if voted out what they would do while in opposition. This, in other words, means placing before the voter the party's style of governance if in power or holding governments accountable if they sit in opposition. Every political party, with no exception, pronounces lofty ideals while registering but only a few adhere to them in practice.
Citizens customarily seek primary membership of a particular political party, ultimately to rise to higher positions gradually in the party before becoming eligible to be an elected people's representative either at the local or at state or national level. These are conventional practices and characteristically adhered to in countries like the USA or UK. However, as days passed, in some developing countries including India, it has become a fashion akin to a sublimation process in chemistry, where the transition of a substance directly from the solid phase to the gas phase without passing through the intermediate liquid phase takes place. In present-day politics also, without even taking a primary membership and customary wait of a couple of years, influential and wealthy individuals are leapfrogging to reach the top position, be it in the party or the governance including entering legislatures. Membership in a party has become very easy.
A critical analysis of the genesis and evolution of political parties throws light on very interesting aspects. Typically, there has been inadequate research precisely focusing on the conception of political parties to date. Few existing studies are not that helpful in explaining the sociological problem of the genesis of a party. The birth of a political party that survives for a long time, takes place against the backdrop of a firm objective to accomplish something non-existing at the time of birth. For instance, the Indian National Congress was formed to achieve Independence. Telangana Rashtra Samithi's main goal was to achieve a separate Telangana State. BJP advocated Hindutva and was critical of secular policies. Thus, every party has to have a goal.
The Indian political party system is unique. It hardly fits into any kind of systematic classification to categorize the party systems. It is defined by the singular nature of Indian politics on one hand, and the nature of the state-society relationship on the other. The politics of pre-independence and post-independence, particularly in the first two decades are no more to be seen at present. In the last two decades, there has been a substantial change both in the nature of politics as well as in the nature of the relationship between the state and society. A radical change is visible in the context of the politicization of a greater number of people, especially those belonging to the less privileged sections of society, which explains the nature of the party system. While the change is welcome, how many of them can wield power is to be pondered.
Post-independence, for a long time, Indian democracy was essentially a one-party system. Jawaharlal Nehru's death threw a challenge to the dominance of the Congress party. Regional parties started emerging and becoming stronger all over the country, often replacing congress in many states. Since 1947, the Congress had total control over the political scenario in the country till 1996, except in 1977-79 by Janata Party led by Morarji Desai and in 1989-90 by the Janata Dal led by VP Singh. In the post-emergency elections, in 1977, the first-ever non-congress party government was formed giving birth to a multi-party system in India.
But the actual turning point came in the 1996 general elections when people gave a fractured verdict. For the first time, the BJP-led NDA dethroned Congress and Vajpayee became Prime Minister for 13 days. After the BJP failed to pass a confidence motion, 13 regional parties formed the United Front which lasted two years. Since 1996, all union governments have been a coalition, either led by Congress or by BJP. Since then, the days of a single party forming the government at the centre were over till 2019 when BJP led by Modi secured 303 seats.
Taking advantage of some constitutional provisions, cooperative federalism has weakened. Nevertheless, regional parties got strengthened and started playing a key role in national politics. At one stage a regional party, the Telugu Desam, founded by film actor NT Rama Rao emerged as the main opposition party in Lok Sabha in 1984. The toppling of duly elected state governments opposed the party in power in the centre, which began during Morarji's Janata Rule and continued during Indira's Congress Rule.
Later, it has become the order of the day in the BJP rule, whatever may be the reason. As many as nine non-BJP state governments were toppled during the past eight and half years. Few more are under threat if recent developments are any proof.
A cursory look at the rise and success of the regional parties shows that their existence and ability to come to power had always been based on mass issues or sentiment. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK and AIADMK came to power alternately and still exist drawing their strength from the Dravid movement. Parties like the Samajwadi Party, and Bahujan Samaj Party came into being on the issues of SCs, STs, Minorities and the BCs. Telangana Rashtra Samithi was born out of a people's movement for the formation of a separate Telangana State. TDP came to power appealing to Telugu pride and sentiment. Parties like the CPI and CPM were born out of the communist ideology while parties like the AIMIM and Akali Dal were formed based on religion. AAP rode to power on the issue of statehood for Delhi. So also, Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal, Navin Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal etc. Recently formed political parties in Telangana don't fit into these parameters. Their experiments of starting a new political party are nothing but quixotic.
A political party must be evaluated by the way its leadership functions. If the leadership's behaviour is decent, cultured and with some ethical standards, they are respected by the people. A filthy language merely serves as a free entertainment show. And such shows will withdraw public interest and cannot motivate or influence them. Name-calling and body shaming are not at all encouraged in public life. One may criticize the political opponents on issues but not stoop down to the level of making baseless allegations and abuses, which is a punishable offence according to former CEC TN Seshan. Unfortunately, in Telangana National Parties are also resorting to this. And hence, the missing decency and value system needs to be restored.
The writer is the Chief Public Relations Officer to the CM of Telangana. Views expressed are personal