Every few weeks, we read news reports that the BJP is going to “annoint” Narendra Modi as its PM candidate. Almost immediately, we see other news reports of people in the BJP who are unhappy with this move. The net result is that things are in a limbo for the BJP. There seems to be little doubt that if there was a popularity contest in the BJP today, Narendra Modi would be more than likely to win. The question is why doesn’t the party seize the moment to introduce a semblance of intra-party democracy? Let there be a vote among the BJP party members to elect the candidate for PM. Let Advani, or whoever else who wishes to be the PM candidate, oppose Modi’s candidature. Let the BJP show the country that it is a party committed to democratic norms and procedures. Let the BJP impress upon us that it is different from the Congress party in its operating procedures. Let the BJP stand out in its efforts to clean up Indian democracy by first setting right its own backyard. In response to this stalemate in the BJP, ironically, Modi fans indulge in chest beating and attacking his opponents in the BJP, instead of pushing the BJP towards instituting intra-party democracy.
The Congress party is historically a party that does not believe in intra-party democracy, though Rahul Gandhi travels around the country stressing the need for it. He talks openly about how he is in politics because of his family connections. After all this, what does he do? He turns around and accepts an appointment as Vice-President of the Congress party. He lets sycophants go to town crying themselves hoarse that he is the future PM. Everyone for Manmohan Singh on down to the last party worker is ready to sing his praise and offer him the crown. Why didn’t he opt for intra-party elections instead? Will anyone in the Congress party dare to contest against Mr. Gandhi?
And what does our media do? Instead of holding both parties’ feet to the fire for not adopting intra-party democracy, it goes completely “gaga” over a non-existent Modi vs Rahul battle – a heavy weight on one-hand whose popularity frightens the veterans in his party, and a light-weight who simply inherits the mantle in the family tradition. The net result is that we have two of India’s largest parties operationally no different from each other. While one is controlled by the Gandhi family, the other is run by the RSS. If this is the standard we set at the national level with no signs whatsoever of changes, then what hope do we have at the state level? The DMK has been run by Karunanidhi for decades. One of his sons is due to take over at some point in time. On the AIADMK side, Ms. Jayalalitha has run the show for decades after MGR’s death. Then there is Mulayam and son (and daughter-in-law) in UP, the Abdullahs in Kashmir, Mayawati of the BSP, and so on.