And now there is yet another party dawning on India's political horizons. Psephologist and researcher-cum-activist Yogendra Yadav and lawyer Prashant Bhushan have announced the formation of Swaraj India as a new political party. Already, there are some 1600-plus registered political parties in India. One really wonders as to what is the value addition that this new outfit will bring to our polity! Is it really going to bring anything new to the table? Is Swaraj India really going to make any difference?
Made the Right Noise at its Inception
Theoretically speaking, Swaraj India has made all the right kind of noises right at its first session. While elaborating on objective behind forming this new political party it is claimed that, “The founding values of our republic are under threat. Democracy, Diversity and Dialogue is under attack, ironically by the ones who are entrusted to safeguard these values. The very idea of India is under a challenge. Sadly, there is no political force that has the vision and the will to take on this challenge. Swaraj India takes up the challenge to fill up this vacuum.”
How Would Swaraj India be Different from Others?
Some of the 'striking features' claimed by Swaraj India include: It will voluntarily include itself under the ambit of the RTI Act, it will have a transparent and an innovative candidate selection process based on participatory democracy and there will be no whip on legislators but ‘horse trading’ would be prevented. Furthermore, the party stated that it will 'ensure freedom of expression at all levels'.
Notably, Swaraj India has also released a document called ‘Swaraj Darshan’ — a party with a vision for the 21st century India.
All the right noises made by Swaraj India notwithstanding, questions continue to crop up in minds as several previous avatars of movement-turned-political parties have never really taken off.
‘AAP Squandered Away a Golden Opportunity’
One of the latest examples is that of the Aam Aadmi Party. The 2011-12 anti-corruption movement spearheaded under the umbrella of India Against Corruption created a fertile ground for the emergence of AAP. In spite of winning the popular mandate twice in Delhi, AAP has failed to emerge as a serious political party, convincingly capable of providing alternate governance.
To start with, the party lacks any overarching vision for the country. Its organisation is in tatters and the performance of its elected representatives is far from satisfactory. With its abysmal performance as a party in terms of governance, AAP has almost completely squandered a golden opportunity.
The ‘Lok Satta Party’ Experiment
Not too long ago, the Lok Satta Party led by former IAS officer Jayaprakash Narayan had raised huge expectations at least in certain sections in united Andhra Pradesh. Initially, Lok Satta was a voluntary organisation that had built a kind of movement for massive political reforms. As leader of a movement, Jayaprakash Narayan, a highly motivated young former bureaucrat, appeared to be a serious player wanting to transform the polity in India.
But one fine morning, Narayan converted his voluntary organisation into a political party. He fought elections and also won a handful of seats. But having failed to make deeper inroads into various sections of the society as well as different parts of the state even after ten long years since its inception in 2006, recently its founder-leader announced that the party would refrain from contesting elections “for sometime”!
Parties Born Out of Movements Fail Miserably
Again, in 2004, the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), led among others by Medha Patkar, had tried floating a front to contest elections but had miserably failed and later abandoned the attempt. Medha Patkar had later also joined AAP only to resign soon, proclaiming that the AAP had become a tamasha!
From NAPM to Swaraj India via AAP, movement-based political parties have miserably failed in making any mark.
Firstly, their very emergence has remained inherent with contradiction. All of them had talked about changing the rules of the game and later agreed to join the game with the same rules intact.
Deeply conscious of the fact that the established rules of the game have several infirmities, they were lured by circumstances to try luck and explore possibilities of providing a political alternative. But most such attempts were without any homework and more importantly, any kind of organisation building. Although AAP did earn a significant mandate not just once but twice, it couldn't establish itself as a serious party of governance.
Lack of Dedicated Cadre
One of the common features of all these failed attempts is absolute lack of any serious cadre building. Another common feature is confusion about their ideological positions. True, all of them are left-of-centre but like seasoned political parties, they have more-often-than-not refrained from coming clean on certain issues where their Left identity may not sound politically correct.
Ambiguity about their positions on several issues had further eroded clarity, eventually leading to umpteenth number of contradictions. All this confounded the confusion leaving precious little as a motivating factor for its cadre, if at all there is any.
True, for this latest addition to India's over 1600 established political parties, making an impact is easier said than done. But the minimum one can expect is at least some amount of seriousness in party organisation building efforts. Without them, any new party will prove to be one more successful failure story.
(The writer is BJP Vice-President and a Rajya Sabha member. He can be reached at @vinay1011. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)