‘Mahatma Gandhi stabbed inner-party democracy’

Jaithirth Rao in The Indian Express has a fine piece on the contrast between the subcontinent—19-year-old Bilawal Zardari Bhutto being asked to assume his mother’s mantle—and two individuals without any inheritance (financial or otherwise), without any aristocratic connections—Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee—emerging as front-runners for the leadership of two of the oldest political parties in the oldest continuous constitutional republic in the world.

The obvious question is why does it happen there and not here. Because, says Rao, the ownership of democracy in the United States has been transferred from the party bosses and fixers to the people. This prevents the “unrepresentative elite” from gaining control of parties which curtails the choices of voters. Here, on the other hand, that has become the norm, and it is that we need to change:

“The beginning of the end of inner-party democracy in the Congress must squarely be placed as Mahatma Gandhi’s doing. When Subhash Chandra Bose defeated the Mahatma’s candidate, Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya, in a fairly fought election for the Tripuri session, Bose was simply “not allowed” to operate and he subsequently resigned. It was clear to all observers that only Gandhi’s nominee could lead the Congress irrespective of the views of the rank and file party members. The Congress party has an unelected body known as the “High Command”, which appoints state leaders and chooses MP/MLA candidates. Other parties now imitate the Congress.”

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