Make internal democracy ‘substantive’, vice president tells political parties

New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) Political parties should now have ‘substantive organisational’ democracy, Vice President Hamid Ansari said here Monday in the presence of India’s ruling party president Sonia Gandhi and opposition leader Sushma Swaraj.

Ansari was speaking at the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission. Leaders of most national and regional political parties — including Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat, Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee — were present too.

‘Corrective action by the Election Commission and the political parties is imperative to remove blot on the democratic electoral process in the country,’ Ansari said.

‘Despite stringent efforts, unaccounted election expenses constitute the major expenditure of political parties and their candidates. These relate to the distribution of freebies, liquor and cash during elections, the phenomenon of surrogate advertisements, and the extensive media-related malpractice of paid news and coverage packages.’

The vice president pointed out that each of these was ‘a blot on the democratic process and on the objective of free and fair elections. Corrective action by the Election Commission and our political parties is imperative’.

He also asked political parties to establish effective organisational democracy.

‘The Election Commission has insisted upon and enforced procedural inner party democracy in recognised political parties. The challenge for the political parties now is to bring about substantive organisational democracy,’ Ansari said.

The vice president was also dissatisfied with the state of the grassroots democratic system.

‘While we have traversed a long distance in providing a constitutional basis for local government, real empowerment and participative governance at the third tier of government is still a work-in-progress,’ he said.

‘It is to be hoped, as recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, that the electoral process at the local self government level would benefit from coordination and sharing of experiences and resources with the Election Commission of India.’

The vice president had words of praise for the commission, which, he said, ‘has been adapting itself in a remarkable fashion to the evolving society, polity and technological changes to fulfil its mandate’.

On the eve of Republic Day, he said when a country celebrates its festival, it is also a time for introspection.

‘A celebration is a festive occasion. In the affairs of a nation, it is also a time for introspection. Six decades on, a fair verdict would be that the glass is neither empty nor full but well above the half way mark,’ said the vice president.

‘We have established and sustained procedural democracy. And yet, Dr. Ambedkar’s foreboding about the contradiction between political equality and social and economic inequality remains valid. The realisation of one person one vote and one vote one value continues to be elusive.’

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