Parties of small differences

Parties of small differences

Party spokesmen for major national parties never tire from declaiming their different “natures". Labels such as “communal", “pseudo-secular" and what have you, are thrown at each other even as bewildered onlookers try hard to locate their different natures.

Call this the narcissism of minor differences. In the past couple of days, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in moments of reflective calm, must have realized how similar they are, at least in their travails.

Both parties confront what can only be called a Southern Problem. Karantaka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has the BJP chained to his heel. The party has tried hard to discipline the erring Yeddyurappa, but to no avail. Not only does the chief minister claim to have the support of a majority of legislators in the state legislature party, he has also shown his iron hand to the central leadership by demonstrating the support of several parliamentarians on his side. This has led to consternation among the boys (and girls) on Ashoka Road.

The Congress is in an equally unenviable position in Andhra Pradesh where the enfant terrible of the party, Jagan Reddy, never ceased fishing in troubled waters. The latest: a programme against his central party leaders on his TV channel.

Both parties have made disciplinary noises, but are yet to crack the whip. They may (or may not). But one thing is clear. As political power returns to the state level with ever-assertive chief ministers and strong party leaders, reminiscent of the 1960s era politics, both parties are confronting the same problem: How do these parties maintain a semblance of control over their state units?

The fact is that today Indian politics is enmeshed in corruption and nepotism. The dominant tendency at the state level is to promote one’s personal interests by using high political offices.

Matters do not stop there: When one is through, one’s sons and daughters are ready to take over. This too would not matter except for one small detail: In a democracy, political power belongs to citizens and not powerful families.

If this distinction is lost sight of, then national parties, too, will be reduced to what regional parties do. The country will suffer. If only to prevent that, assertion of central control over state units is something that needs to be enforced in a harsh manner.

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