Monday, June 24, 2024

Political parties, know thyself

A political party is an organized group of people or bodies who seek to capture political power through an election in order to run the affairs of a country by putting forward candidates for public office. In a democracy, leaders must “run for office” in an election. So, political party is a group of persons organized to acquire and exercise political power. Political parties function as a go-between the public and the government and also play many other vital roles in the political system. Functionally, they can be defined as bodies that organize public opinion and interest; transmit public demands to the government; attempt to recruit and propose political leadership; and often attempt to articulate to followers what is desirable in terms of social, economic, cultural and political development. The emergence of political parties in the modern era implies that a political system has entered a new complex stage in which political power can no longer be forced onto the public without public support and elections. Political parties are essential components of liberal democracies. (Takamichi Mito ©Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS). As early as 1770, Edmund Burke defined a political party, ideologically, as a body of men and women united on the basis of their shared political ideas so as to promote the national interest. Yet, to date there is no agreed definition of a “political party” (Paul Allen Beck and Frank J. Sorauf, 1992). Political parties emerged in modern Europe when the political elite could no longer secure legitimacy without the support of masses at large in the political system. In European colonies, however, many political parties came into being through their independence movements and post-colonial modernization efforts. The aforesaid gives some idea of what a political party is and the raison d’etre for its existence, although these days political parties may perceive themselves through different prisms. However, the reasons for the emergence of political parties are clear, albeit there is no agreed definition of a “political party”. So, through the prism of the generally understood definition and roles of political parties, let us attempt to contextualize why the BJP Nagaland thought it was a great idea to clean compounds of our Churches. For one, it may have thought it would curry favour with the rank and file of our religious institutions, which are extremely powerful, thus endear itself to the State’s majority populace and earn rich dividends in our next Assembly elections. It may have thought that such exercise would erase our memories of persecution of Christians and desecration and destruction of Churches in other parts of India. It may have thought that our Church compounds need cleaning, as ‘cleaning’ could mean a totally different thing for BJP Nagaland ~ keeping in mind that the BJP’s ~ and by extension the RSS’ ~ ‘cleaning project’ of India. Whatever may have been the reason for BJP Nagaland to want to clean our Church compounds, it backfired miserably basically because it is not the job of political parties to clean Church compounds. Inversely, it is also not the job of the Church to allow political parties to do compound cleaning or any other kind of cleaning ~ the Church is very clear about that. Surely, BJP Nagaland should have been sensitive to how it is perceived by Christian or other minorities’ religious institutions and avoided spaces where even Angels wouldn’t dare to tread? If it was looking for 15-minutes of fame, it certainly got it but even the BJP Nagaland would concede, it wasn’t the kind of fame it was looking for. As a political party in power at the Centre, it could have done so much ~ and still can ~ to address and redress existential concerns and issues of Nagaland’s ordinary citizen besides focusing on resolution of the Naga political issue. Unfortunately, it has and continues to waste time, energy and resources on personal issues such as religion, and in the process it deflects goodwill away from itself. This begs the question: how well do Nagaland’s political parties and members know the history of the emergence of political parties and their roles and responsibilities, as also their constitutional obligations? The question is pertinent because political parties validate their existence only when they know their place and role as essential components in liberal democracies.