How democratic are our political parties?

Political parties are vital cogs in the juggernaut called democracy. The more well-oiled they are, the better their ball bearings rub, the smoother democracy rolls. Debate, discussion, dissent are all vital lubricants in the great ride. But how democratic are our parties?

OTOH, you have the Gowdas and Karunanidhis, Pawars and Thackerays, Abdullahs and Yadavs, on top of the Gandhis of course, who think politics is a chromosomal condition—handed down generations through their god-given genes. OTOH, there is a regular Indian spectacle that makes you start doubting.

V.S. Achutanandan and Pinnarayi Vijayan start sumo-wrestling in their veshtis and they are suspended from the CPI(M) politbureau. Mani Shankar Aiyar says the Manmohan Singh government is losing its way and Ambika Soni springs up to announce that he shouldn’t be discussing cabinet issues in public.

All this passes in the name of maintaining party discipline when media perception matters. But is democracy about protecting party discipline or letting the people know? Are our parties shamelessly quelling dissent and muzzle public opinion? Does an electorate that only knows what slips out of the lubricated mouths of the spokespersons know enough to make up its opinion?