It is a vital truth that modern democratic government is impossible without political parties; and that democratic government is party based government. Political parties have become an indispensable factor in the working of a representative government, and, therefore, the late French President de Gaulle called it “the regime of parties”. However, most constitutions are silent on political parties. Of all liberal democracies, probably, only Germany has explicit provisions in its Constitution for parties in the scheme of government. Political parties serve as a link between the people and the government, provide a forum for discussion on various issues and serve as a catalyst through which different interests represent their concerns to Government, and when in the opposition, act as the forum for continuous criticism.
In a democratic government public opinion is the voice of the people. An average citizen is not particularly aware of the prevailing issues of public policy, until they are brought to his attention. The political parties assumed the responsibility of continuous communication with the people. They mobilise public opinion on important issues and also provide a channel for their effective expression. Thus, the political parties both express and form public opinion, they are both cause and effect of public opinion. Public opinion assumes special significance in a democracy, as it is a government of choice and alternatives which the political parties place before them. A democratic government is based on the consent of the people which is expressed through the public opinion in a periodic election. It is through the instrument of public opinion that a democratic government is held accountable to the people, as they have to face the electorates periodically by election. Thus, the more enlightened is the public opinion, more responsible will be the government. Therefore, every government fears the wrath of public opinion. The Press, Political Parties, Pressure Groups, electronic media, cinema etc., play an important role in the formation of public opinion.
Nature of Indian Political Parties
In a plural society like India, it is only natural to have a multiplicity of interests. Proliferation of political parties in India is a reflection of the democratic character of the polity. Indian polity has not yet reached that stage of development where ideologies are strong, the political parties are able to structure meaningful electoral issues and parliamentary opposition successfully channelises popular opposition.
At the outset, a unique feature of several political parties in India is that they trace their origin to the Indian National Congress. When the leaders of these breakaway parties could not get a place of status in the congress party, they separated and formed a new party.
Secondly, if the history of Indian political parties is suggestive of any uniform pattern, it is a pattern of steady fragmentation and proliferation of political forces reflecting social fragmentation and regional divisions of the country. The memories of regional glories, caste and communal divisions, cultural diversity, linguistic nationalism, varying socio economic levels, elite-mass and rural-urban dichotomies and traditional-modern differences are likely to sustain the forces of fragmentation and proliferation of parties.
Thirdly, Indian political parties are generally based around a personality. The tendency among the politicians to give their political loyalties not to ideologies but to particular individuals and leaders are very great. In this kind of parties organised around a personality, parties derive strength from the magic charm of the leaders. The binding thread of political parties are personal and emotional rather than commitment to ideologies, programmes and principles. Almost all parties have been beset with internal dissension. None of the political parties have devised reliable mechanism for curbing internal conflicts.
Political parties have extreme centralisation of their organisation. Most of them have had no elections for a very long time and office-bearers are all nominated by the central leader. Nowadays, the political parties have started conducting organisational elections due to Election Commission’s directives, but it is a mere formality to reflect internal democracy in the party.
Again, political parties have not shown any public accountability of the manner in which they collect and spend their funds. This has led to the corrupt practices in which the money is taken in the name of party by the political leaders which, in fact, goes in to their personal account.
Defection of elected members from one party to another particularly at the time of the formation of government is the major problem of Indian parties. It has given strength to horse-trading in politics of “Aya Ram, Gaya Ram” Sarkar and ultimately lead to corruption.
And finally, immorality has crept into every political party which has vitiated the whole political culture in India. The growing scams and scandals in which the leaders of one or other political party is involved, is a living testimony to this reality.