Role of ideology in polity
Distinguish between self-good and national-good
Except for the left parties and some other parties like the BJP, the political parties remain family-held corporations.
By Joginder Singh
A political party is an organisation that seeks to attain political power in democracies, usually by participating in electoral campaigns. All political parties have an ideology, or some ideas or policies, with which they try to convince the electorate that they are best suited to serve them through their rule. All parties often champion a certain ideology. Although the compulsion of coalition, among disparate interests, to make up the majority, may dilute their ideological stance. In our parliamentary system of government, generally a leader, whose party obtains absolute majority or a majority with the coalition partners, becomes head of government.
Partisanship, for a particular ideology or thinking, is natural and inescapable both among the supporters of political parties and their elected representatives, who invariably subscribe to their party'sviews and policies.
Distinction is essential to all political parties, as they must appear to be different, at least in some ways from other parties to compete in politics and win elections. The distinction or differentiation is illustrated in their programmes, policies and pronouncements on various internal and external issues concerning the country.
Political parties are often measured on a political spectrum. One spectrum is the Left, associated with radical or pro-poor policies, and the Right, associated with conservative or traditional policies. The other diversity, or range, includes totalitarian regimes, either a pro-socialism or pro-communism, or a centrist approach. Sometimes, politics defy easy placing of the parties on the political spectrum. Thomas Carlyle says: ?Universal history, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom of the history of the great men who have worked here? Heroes teach us right and wrong; heroes give us great inventions and discoveries. It is the great few who transform society; the multitude follows them. Modern democracy has produced millions of fools who vote, other men who go to Parliament and fret, and, inevitably, the few who act.?
Leo Tolstoy said: ?There is no greater fool than he who thinks he makes history and believes others when they assure him he does. Not even a leader like Napoleon Bonaparte has any part in determining the course of history. Napoleon was the tool of vast social forces beyond his control.? ?Studying the laws of history,? Tolstoy declared, ?we must absolutely change the objects of our observation, leaving kings, ministers, and generals out of the account, and select for study the homogenous, infinitesimal elements that regulate the masses.?
Fundamentally, ideology, whatever may be its content, is as essential to the politicians as air is to the human being to survive. Without moorings, a ship will be buffeted around. Same is the role of ideology for a politician. Basic values or fundamentals are what determine the character and standing of a man. The same equally applies to the politicians.
However, whatever thinkers may say, the basic objective of any political party is to seize power, which is always sought to be justified in terms of the public good, and the ?public interest?.
Many political leaders get an office, because they are born into a dynasty. Except for the left parties and some other parties like the BJP, the political parties remain family-held corporations. Congress Party has a succession of three Prime Ministers belonging to one family. National Conference and PDP in J&K are controlled by two different families. Same can be said of INLD of Haryana and Akali Dal of Punjab, DMK of Tamil Nadu, JD(S) of Karnataka, Shiv Sena of Maharashtra and a few others. The ideology of some regional parties centres around what their leader or leaders say
Different cultural and political patterns tend to produce different kinds of leaders all over the world. Down to 1945, England produced a leadership of birth and wealth. Of 306 cabinet ministers from 1801 to 1924, 213 lived off accumulated wealth and only 93 had to earn their own living. Since 1945, a high proportion of British leaders have depended upon financial support and jobs supplied by trade unions. French and Italian legislatures have possessed more teachers and intellectuals than any other national legislature. The Third French Republic was some times referred to as the ?Government of Professors?. In India, professional politicians, intellectuals and businessmen, mostly from high castes, with a lot of money, rule the masses, whereas in Japan'spost-war House of Representatives, business owners and executives were prominent and bureaucrats, educators, and farmers were considerably behind. Militarists have abounded in Chinese politics of the last century, but the early modern China saw the domination of politics by literati, a group of scholarly civil servants. On the whole, only American legislatures may be said to be lawyer-dominated. Other legislatures have had more representatives from a larger number of occupations. In our country, all the top leaders are full-time politicians and politics is their source of livelihood.
There are some striking similarities between the political and corporate sectors in our country. There was a time when affiliations, with a business house or a corporation or a political party lasted for an entire career. The drill was that you joined at the bottom, rose through the ranks, took on increasingly important roles and responsibilities and retired gracefully at some point of time. The company, or the party, would usually and normally meet your aspirations, depending upon your work and contribution and suitably accommodate you in suitable positions, whenever it was in a position to do so.
Like everywhere else now, the executives and politicians, frustrated with internal obstacle to upward mobility and fulfillment, are now striking on their own and setting up their own new ventures and political parties. Based on this, Telugu Desam, RJD, PDP and various factions of Akali Dal in Punjab have come into existence. These days, it is not uncommon to move from one company to another or from one party to another. However, our attitude towards these developments in the two spheres is quite markedly different.We do not even take notice or comment adversely, when a high-profile manager changes his company for more money, more independence or whatever else motivates him or her. But, a politician making a similar move is generally condemned as a power-hungry opportunist who is willing to betray ?ideology? for the sake of more materialistic goals.
Just as churn in managerial positions in the corporate sector has, by and large, been beneficial for long-term performance, mobility for politicians across parties has potentially positive outcome for good governance. Let us keep in view that politicians, like other professionals, are individuals pursuing and protecting their interests in a broader social context. As long as they do it within the accepted ethical and legal boundaries, their actions are entirely legitimate.
Cross-over by politicians, from the perspective of policy paradigms, proves that the sharp differentiation between parties, with respect to their views on men and matters, is disappearing. It seems their belief that what is important for an individual politician is also good for the country. Distinction between self-good and national-good no longer matters. Staunch Shiv Sainiks of yesterday are Congressmen of today. Congressmen of day before yesterday suddenly become Akalis and vice versa. They are quite brazen about it. It must be kept in view that the moment a politician ceases to be in office or fails to get elected; it is a political death for him. To be relevant, politicians must be able to get re-elected and remain in some position. But fortunately, any turncoat is viewed with suspicion even by the recipient party or his new leaders. They may tolerate defectors to their rank, but the deserters can never be depended upon. The new masters are bound to look upon new converts as half-converts. Once an individual leaves his moorings, generally it is curtains for him. Fundamentally, ideology, whatever may be its content, is as essential to the politicians as air is to the human being to survive. Without moorings, a ship will be buffeted around. Same is the role of ideology for a politician. Basic values or fundamentals are what determine the character and standing of a man. The same equally applies to the politicians in politics.
(This article was written for the Organiser Republic Day Special on ?Role of Ideology in Polity?. Since we received it late we are carrying this now. The author is a former CBI director and can be contacted at [email protected])