Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Let Us Try “Primaries” in Indian Election

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What is the short cut to get nominated as a party candidate in any election in India these days? Be in good books of the leader/party leadership that selects the party candidates. Most of the time loyalty to the leader is the main criteria for selection. Gone are the days when parties select candidates based on the actual work the candidates have done for the common people in that constituency. Thus common party workers and citizens are forced to vote for a candidate imposed on them by leadership.
A victory of the candidate in any constituency is due to the hard work of the party workers/cadres of that party. Do these party workers/cadres have the final say in selecting the candidate in their region? Why can’t we have a “primary election” as we have in US for all our elections? 
For those who don’t know what primary election means here is a brief explanation – a party X has four leaders who wanted to contest the election from seat Y. All the four candidates file their candidature for the primary elections and all the registered party members of that constituency vote to find out who should be the party candidate. The candidate getting the maximum votes gets nominated as the party candidate in that constituency. 
Now what is the advantage of such a system – rather than your nearness to party leader/leadership, the successful candidate needs to be close to the party workers to get the nomination. For that he/she needs to work with them for their cause to get their good will and support. This system will allow hardworking and sincere people who do quality work to get noticed and get elected as our representatives. 
A person like US President Barack Obama, who was an unknown commodity in early 2000’s could become the Senator and then US President mainly due the efficient primary system in US. He could win the trust of the ordinary Democrats all over the US and over other powerful Democrats like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton within a short span of time and could win the primary elections comfortably. He did not have a big name among Democrats to support him when he started the campaign but had lot of ordinary Democrats support which eventually sealed his nomination as Democratic candidate for US Presidential election. 
I understand that there are lots of difficulties in implementing the concept of primary elections in India. In the present scenario, money power may win over power of the party workers and thus a candidate can seal his candidature in primary election with brutal use of money power. Also prospective candidate can enroll bogus voters in a particular constituency to improve ones chance of winning the primary. Yes, there could be difficulties but if all political parties come together and make a system very similar to primary elections in US, it will go a long way in having leaders with good credentials coming up as candidates in elections. 
Is political leadership in India ready for such a drastic change that gives the power to select the party candidate by party workers? Only time can tell… 
Do you agree with this view? Share your thoughts.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the modus operandi proposed for selection of candidates by political parties just practised in US. But I do share your apprehensions too the danger involved in it in Indian context. Though CPI-M is an undemocratic party they have a system form the purpose to take or amend the decision in selecting candidates. Unfortunately the Congress party, the largest democratic party in the world has no such system. So many unhealthy tendencies creep in this process. A foul proof system has to be evolved under the strict supervision of Election Commission to implement the US here too. Prior to implementation we must have serious deliberations on this. Let us begin it now.
K Sankaranarayana Pillai

April 20, 2011 11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well primary system has some major disadvantages also .
For example one indicator is the Tea Party movement in the Republican Party., Many Moderate and widely acceptable candidates in the Republican Party lost to Far Right Rivals in the primaries .

This illustrates the main problem of Primary system that the voterbase is only registered Party members . Thus a smaller radical section can gain control of a Political Party especially in the India Context.

Specifically to the Indian Context while in US 60% of Population is Registered Republicans or Democrats and can vote in Primaries , in India Part members form 2-3% of the Population and wont form a wide enough base to make the experiment count .

Even in the US also in addition to Primaries there are caucases in many states rather than primaries.

I therefore feel Primary experiment in India wont therefore work .


April 22, 2011 7:31 PM  
Blogger Babin said...

You raised a very important point...

a few nominated party officials deciding who should be the party nominees in each constituency is not consistent of a democratic system..

It seems that only those people who become cronies of a few decision makers in the party selection committee get nomination for candidature. this process ignore qualification of the candidate over cronyism...

Moreover, the entire power dynamics within a party is centered around those few with the power to select candidates in elections... This creates a 'dictatorial' environment within Indian parties, not democratic...

I hope, at minimum , the party officials with the power to select candidates of constituencies are democratically elected by party members...

April 22, 2011 10:48 PM  

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