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Need for more political parties

The recent announcement that popular actor Pavan Kalyan was starting a political party in Andhra Pradesh created a storm of interest and controversy. The party was attractively named Jana Sena and the cinematic background of Pavan Kalyan gave a perfect name and perfect musical background too. The sound jingles were extremely effective. There was much criticism on whether a new political party is needed and what its use is. The commentators and politicians state that since there are so many political parties, what is the use of another one?

There are many misgivings whenever new political parties are formed. The Indian political experience has been that we must follow the model in USA or UK where there are only two or three political parties and there will be great stability. There is also the myth that if there are two political parties, they will present a clear choice and people will benefit.

The Indian experience seems to be just the Opposite. We find that whenever there are two political parties either in a state or in parliament, (where there is now a near-duopoly), people suffer since the Government and main Opposition party might collude resulting in corruption, nepotism and poor governance.

Most political leaders criticised Pavan Kalyan for such an idea. Perhaps they forgot that under the Constitution, anyone can start a party. In fact, instead of being hostile to Pavan Kalyan, the politicians should encourage him to form a party and stand for elections. If he loses, then their problem is solved and one less cinema hero to flex his muscles in tight T shirts. Remember how Junior NTR went around five years ago and how his show flopped. Or for that matter, how Chiranjeevi did not achieve the success he was expected to.

There was also stinging criticism on the personal attributes, motives and even the personal life of Pavan Kalyan by other politicians. Surprisingly, Pavan Kalyan came back with even more pointed criticism and now it is expected that there will be silence since it will lead to a lot of washing dirty linen in public. No one’s life is perfect and if you live in a glass house, you should not throw stones. Rahul Gandhi’s followers should be very cautious in making personal attacks. It is now confirmed that such personal attacks will be thrown back with interest.

All the old established parties are tired and they have no new faces. There is no excitement in the public. There is a thought that anti-incumbency applies only to governments. But it strongly applies to political parties, if such parties do not frequently change their candidates. The best example of such decline is the DMK of Tamilnadu. The DMK has carried on with the same leadership at the state, district and village level. This has led to the spawning of numerous other political parties since any person wanting to enter politics has no space in the DMK.

The AIADMK survives since its leader is temperamental and frequently expels old leaders. Jayalalithaa earnestly searches for new faces and always springs surprises.

The entry of Jana Sena definitely fills a certain need in Andhra Pradesh. More political parties are needed in Telangana, Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra. The present political establishment involved just internal and lateral movement of leaders. This is not change but in-breeding. There is great scope for more parties when you look at Kerala where there are nearly 20 political parties, who have representation in the state assembly. This is one way to control hegemony of large political parties who became strong arm gangs in small states. In small states, people become more demanding of their MLAs and MPs unless they are satisfied, they look for political alternatives. Small states like Kerala, Goa and Assam have become multi-party states.

In Tamil Nadu, which is now the biggest state of the South, there are at least 10 viable political parties. There is DMK, AIADMK, Congress, BJP, Left parties, PMK of Dr Ramdoss, MDMK of Vaiko, DMDK of actor Captain Vijaykanth, three Muslim parties, three Dalit parties, Forward Bloc which has the Thevars as their base, and even a party from Coimbatore for the Gounder community.

In Assam, every tribe and religion have their own parties. The Bengali Muslims who came from Bangladesh and the Bengali Hindus who came from Bangladesh have separate parties. The divisions become more acute and there will be more parties. This will also happen in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

We find that all regional parties say that they need MPs to have a big hand in Delhi. They claim that if they win MPs, then they can bargain with the Central government for more funds and powers for their states. Even parties with six MPs make great demands and sometimes they succeed. If that is the case, then why not small parties in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh try for five to ten MLAs and use that bargaining power? If five MPs are enough to pressurise the Central Government, surely five MLAs are enough to pressurise the state governments?

Advantage of more political parties:

  • National and regional parties become tyrannical. They intimidate people if anyone protests. More parties mean their power is diffused.
  • More parties mean that more social groups, classes and castes will be represented. When there are only two or three parties, only the dominant caste groups benefit. They tend to reach across to other political parties and establish a cozy power sharing relationship. This is exactly what is happening in Andhra Pradesh.
  • In Tamil Nadu, 20 years ago, there were only the DMK, AIADMK and Congress. Now there are 20 political formations and they all have some representation in the State assembly or even Parliament. This has led to a steady diminution of the dominance of the DMK and AIADMK. They have to share seats in the Legislature and Parliament and form viable political fronts. If they do not do so, then the other side gets more partners and wins elections. The existence of any political parties has led to an automatic control of the tyrannical tendencies of political parties.

In Indian democracy, the bigger danger from dominant political parties can only be thwarted by existence of many political parties. There is otherwise no practical check on dominance and collusion between the major political parties. Whether Pavan Kalyan succeeds or fails, many more like him should come forward in all the three regions of Andhra Pradesh.

Right now, we face political parties who are either family dominant or caste-oriented. A good antidote is let there be many more Pavan Kalyans.

(The writer is New Delhi-based economist and can be reached at drppullarao@yahoo.co.in)

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