The entire media is abuzz with stories of dissent in AAP and how Yogendra and Prashant have been pushed out by Kejriwal camp. Many supporters / volunteers are disappointed as this killing of internal democracy was not expected by the party with a difference. Political opponents have stated criticising Kejriwal and calling AAP as a one man party of Kejriwal. Kejriwal is being termed by opposition as dictator and undemocratic. All these parties should first look internally within their own parties before accusing Kejriwal.
This article doesn't justify what Kejriwal camp is doing to PB and YY. Neither does it take sides in this war. However its very clear that this internal crisis, cross accusations, stings, open letters have damaged reputation of AAP as a party with a difference.
The article focuses on leadership issue within political parties in India. Most of the parties national as well as regional parties are one man parties – controlled by one / two individuals or families. Democratic processes and principles have been sidelined in the political establishment in world's democracy for decades.
The grand old party Congress has been controlled by the Nehru-Gandhi family since independence. The leadership mantle passed on from Nehru to daughter Indira to sons Sanjay / Rajiv and then to wife-son duo of Sonia / Rahul. In 1966 after LB Shastri's death Indira defeated Morarji Desai for post of parliamentary leader and became PM. After Indira's death her son Rajiv a novice in politics became the PM after landslide victory in 1984. After his death in 1991, Sonia refused to take up the mantle of Congress. From 1991-1998 Congress was controlled by different factions like Narasimha Rao, Sitaram Kesri and others. In 1998 Sonia supporters fought a ugly battle similar to AAP currently to remove Kesri from Congress President post. Since then Sonia and her son have controlled the party. Many leaders like Pawar, Mamata and recently Vasan etc. have left the party.
The party in power BJP since its inception has been controlled by Atal-Advani jodi. One of the two was more powerful and had more influence than the other during various periods – Advani at the time of Rath yatra and Atal when he was Prime Minister. Post 2004 till late 2013 Advani was the one who controlled the party. After the grand success of BJP under Modi in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Modi managed to get his confidante Shah appointed as party President. In many ways now Modi-Shah Jodi has full control over the party – Modi in government and Shah in party. Prodyut Bora, 1st IIM graduate to join politics and BJP's IT cell founder and head, resigned from party recently alleging how un-democratic the party has become after the polls and how nothing other than Modi-Shah Jodi dictat works in the party. Of course who has a better grip in the party is also decided by RSS the ideological pariah of BJP.
Coming to prominent regional parties – majority of them are one man / family armies. People will struggle to name 5 leaders of these parties apart from the family members. Examples: National Conference – Abdullah family, Samajwadi Party – Mulayam Yadav family, Rashtriya Janata Dal – Lalu Yadav family, Bahujan Samaj Party – Mayawati, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha – Soren family, Janata Dal United – Nitish Kumar, Shiv Sena – Thackeray family, Nationalist Congress Party – Pawar family, AIADMK – Jayalalitha, DMK – Karunanidhi family, Janata Dal Secular – Gowda family, Biju Janata Dal – Patnaik family, Telugu Desam Party – Chandrababu Naidu, YSR Congress – Jagan Reddy etc.
What is noteworthy is the fact that individuals who formed the party normally by virtue of their being founder members control the party. In some cases like BSP, TDP and JDU leaders who get the votes have become superior. Naidu emerged victorious in a family struggle after NTR's death. Nitish is more popular so he controls the party rather than founder and President Sharad Yadav. Mayawati became the undisputed leader after Kanshi Ram's illness as she was more charismatic and mass base leader than others / Kanshi family members.
People may argue AAP is different and it was not founded by Kejriwal alone. It was born as a result of people's movement. Agreed, but Kejriwal was one of the prominent founders. Plus he is the one who got the votes for the party so he is the natural leader and people not happy with him may have to amend ways or leave the party. Likewise Modi has become the undisputed leader ahead of senior leaders like LK Advani and MM Joshi because he got BJP an unprecedented victory.
History is witness to the fact that a political party in India with many leaders and no undisputed leader has suffered splits – prominently Janata Party.
Why in India parties with one undisputed leader / family control have done well or are accepted by public despite the very notion being against democratic principles? Indian public historically has voted for personalities / leaders. Leaders who have had a larger than life image and who are bigger than their parties – Nehru, Indira, Atal, Modi, JP Narayan. Parties are there because of these leaders. If Gandhi family is not there Congress would disintegrate. If Modi is not there, BJP wouldn't have won. If Lalu is not there, RJD would split into many RJDs from RJD A to RJD Z. They act as glue which binds party members together. Members know their best chance is with these leaders at the helm so they don't complain.
What is the advantage of one man in control leader parties?
It helps instill discipline in the party. Members know that they can never become the leader of the party. Their ambitions are put under control and it helps to get the best out of them. Internal rivalry among members is also curtailed because peers also can't get to the top.
In case there are many leaders of equal stature within the party it tends to encourage Groupism and war for control over the party.
There can be only one captain of a ship. This phenomenon is prevalent in corporates, sports teams, joint families etc.
So for AAP to succeed there has to be a clear undisputed leader. This is what the track record of successful parties in India shows.
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