Political party is a group of people who come together to contest election and hold power in the government. They agree on some policies and programmes for the society with a view to promote the collective good. Since there can be different views on what is good for all, parties try to persuade people why their policies are better than others. They seek to implement these policies by winning popular support through elections.
Thus, parties reflect fundamental political divisions in a society. Parties are about a part of the society and thus involve partisanship.Thus a party is know by which part it stands for, which policies it supports and whose interests it upholds.A political party has three components:
- The leaders,
- The active member, and
- The followers.
Political parties are one of the most visible institutions in a democracy.For most ordinary citizens, democracy is equal to political parties. If we travel to remote parts of our country and speak to the less educated citizens, we could come across people who may not know anything about our Constitution or about the nature of our government But chances are that they would know something about our political parties. At the same time this visibility does not mean popularity. Most people tend to be very critical of political parties. They tend to blame parties for all that is wrong with our democracy and our political life. Parties have become identified with social and political divisions.
Therefore, it is natural to ask- do we need political parties at all? About hundred years ago there were few countries of the world that had any political party. Now there are few that do not have parties.
Functions of Political Parties
What does a political party do? Basically, political parties fill political offices and exercise political power. Parties do so by performing a series of functions:
- Parties contest elections. In most democracies, elections are fought mainly among the candidates put up by political parties.Parties select their candidates in different ways. In some countries, such as the USA, members and supporters of a party choose its candidates. Now more and more countries are following this method In other countries like India,top partyleaders choose candidates for contesting elections.
- Parties put forward different policies and programmes and the voters choose from them. Each of us may have different opinions and views on what policies are suitable for the society. But no government can handle such a large variety of views. In a democracy, a large number of similar opinions have to be grouped together to provide a direction in which policies can be formulated by the governments. This is what the parties do. A party reduces a vast multitude of opinions into a few basic positions which it supports. A government is expected to base its policies on the line taken by the ruling party.
- Parties play a decisive role in making laws for a country. Formally, laws are debated and passed in the legislature. But since most of the members belong to a party, they go by the direction of the party leadership, irrespective of their personal opinions.
- Parties form and run governments. As we noted, the big policy decisions are taken by political executive that comes from the political parties. Parties recruit leaders, train them and then make them ministers to run the government in the way they want
- Those parties that lose in the elections play the role of opposition to the parties in power, by voicing different views and criticizinggovernment for its failures or wrong policies.Opposition parties also mobilize opposition to the government.
- Parties shape public opinion. They raise and highlight issues. Parties have lakhs of member and activists spread all over the country. Many of the pressure groups are the extensions of parties among different sections of society. Parties sometimes also launch movement for the resolution of problems faced by people. Often opinions in the society crystallize on the lines parties take.
- Parties provide people access to government machinery and welfare schemes implemented by governments. For an ordinary citizen it is easy to approach a local party leader than a government officer. That is why they feel close to parties even when they do not fully trust them. Parties have to be responsive to people’s needs and demands. Otherwise people can reject those parties in the next elections.
Why We Need Political Parties?
- This list of function in a sense answers the question asked above: we need political parties because they perform all these functions. But we still need to ask why modem democracies cannot exist without political parties. We can understand the necessity of political parties by imagining a situation without parties.
- Every candidate in the elections will be making many promises to the people about any major policy change. The government may be formed but its utility will remain ever uncertain. Elected representatives will be accountable to their constituency for what they do in the locality. But no one will be responsible for how the country will be run.
- We can also think about it by looking at the non-party based elections to the panchayats in many states. Although, the parties do not contest formally, it is generally noticed that the villages get split into more than one faction, each of which puts up a ‘panel’ of its candidates. This is exactly what the party does.That is the reason we find political parties in almost all countries are big or small old or new, developed or developing.
- The rise of political parties is directly linked to the emergence of representative democracies. As we have seen, large societies need representative democracy. As societies became large and complex, they also needed some agency to gather different views on various issues and to present these to the government They needed some ways, to bring various representatives together so that a responsible government could be formed They needed a mechanism to support or restrain the government, make policies, justify or oppose them. Political parties fulfil these needs that every representative government has. We can say that parties are a necessary condition for a democracy.
How many parties should we have?
- In a democracy any group of citizens is free to from a political party. In this formal sense, there are a large number of political parties in each country. More than 750 parties are registered with the Election Commission of India. But not all these parties are serious contenders in the elections. Usually only a handful of parties are effectively in the race to win elections and form the government So the question then is: how many major or effective parties are good for a democracy?
- In some countries, only one party is allowed to control and run the government These are called one-party system. In China, only the Communist Party is allowed to rule. Although, legally speaking, people are free to form political parties, it does not happen because the electoral system does not permit free competition for power. We cannot consider one-party system as a good option because this is not a democratic option. Any democratic system must allow at lest two parties to compete in elections and provide a fair change for the competing parties to come to power.
- In some countries, power usually changes between two main parties. Several other parties may exist, contest elections and win a few seats in the national legislatures. But only two main parties have a serious chance of winning majority of seats to form government. Such a party system is called two-party system. The United States of America and United Kingdom are examples of two-party system.
- If several parties compete for power, and more than two parties have a reasonable chance of coming to power either on their own strength or in alliance with others, we call it a multi-party system. Thus in India, we have a multi-party system. In this system, the government is formed by various parties coming together in a coalition. Even several parties in a multi-party system join hands for the purpose of contesting elections and winning power. It is called an alliance or a front For example, in India there were three such major alliances in 2004 parliamentary elections -the National Democratic Alliance, the United Progressive Alliance and the Left Front The multi-party system often appears very messy and leads to political instability. At the same time, this system allows a variety of interests and opinions to enjoy political representation.
- So, which of these is better? Perhaps the best answer to this very common question is that this is not a very good question. Party system is not something any country can choose. It evolves over a long time, depending on the nature of society, its social and regional divisions, its history of politics and its system of elections. These cannot be changed very quickly. Each country develops a party system that is conditioned by its special circumstances. For example, if India has evolved a multi-party system, it is because the social and geographical diversity in such a large country is not easily absorbed by two or even three parties. No system is ideal for all countries and all situations.
National political parties
- Democracies that follow a federal system all over the work!tend to have two kinds of political parties: parties that are present in only one of the federal units and parties that are present in several or all units of the federation. This is the case in India as welL There are some countrywide parties, which are called ‘national parties’. These parties have units in various states. But by and large, all these units follow the same policies, programmes and strategy that is decided at the national level.
- Every party in the country has to register with the Election Commission. While the Commission treats all parties equally, it offers some special facilities to large and established parties.Which are given a unique symbol -only the official candidates of that party can use that election symbol. Parties that get this privilege and some other special facilities are ‘recognized’ by the Election Commission for this purpose. That is why these parties are called, ‘recognized political parties’.The Election Commission has laid down detailed criteria of the proportion of votes and seats that a party must get in order to be a recognized party. A party that secures at lest six per cent of the total votes in an election to the Legislative, two seats is recognized as a State party. A party that secures at least six per cent of the total votes in Lok Sabha elections or Assembly elections in four States and wins at lest four seats in the Lok Sabha is recognized as a National party.
- Over the last three decades, the number and strength of these parties has expanded This made the Parliament of India politically more and more diverse. No one national party is able to secure on its own a majority in Lok Sabha. As a result, the national parties are compelled to form alliance with State parties. Since1996, nearly every one of the State parties has got an opportunity to be a part of one or the other national level coalition government.This has contributed to the strengthening of federalism and democracy in our country.
Challenges before political parties :
- We have seen how crucial political parties are for the working of democracy. Since parties are the most visible face of democracy, it is natural that people blame parties for whatever is wrong with the working of democracy.All over the world people express strong dissatisfaction with the failure of political parties to perform their functions welL This is the case in our country too. Popular dissatisfaction and criticism has focused on four problem areas in the working of political parties. Political parties need to face and overcome these challenges in order to remain effective instruments of democracy.
- The first challenge is lack of internal democracy within parties. All over the world there is a tendency in political parties towards the concentration of power in one or few leaders at the top. Parties do not hold organizational meeting, and do not conduct internal elections regularly. Ordinary members of the party do not get sufficient information on what happens inside the party. They do not have the means or the connections needed to influence the decisions.As a result the leaders assume greater power to make decisions in the name of the party.Since few leaders exercise paramount power in the party, those who disagree with the leadership find it difficult to continue in the party. More than loyalty to party principles and politics, personal loyalty to the leader becomes more important.
- The second challenge of dynastic succession is related to the first one. Since most political parties do not practice open and transparent procedures for their functioning, there are very few ways for an ordinary worker to rise to the top in a party. Those who happen to be the leaders are in a position of unfair advantage to favour people close to them or even their family members. In many parties, the top positions are always controlled by members of one family.This is also bad for democracy, since people who do not have adequate experience or popular support come to occupy positions of power. This tendency is present in some measure all over the world, including in some of the older democracies.
- The third challenge is about the growing role of money and muscle power in parties, especially during elections. Since parties are focused only on winning elections, they tend to use short cuts to win elections. They tend to nominate those candidates who have or can raise lots of money. Rich people and companies who give funds to the parties tend to have influence on the policies and decisions of the party. In some cases, parties support criminals who can win elections. Democrats all over the world are worried about the increasing role of rich people and big companies in democratic politics.
- The fourth challenge is that very often parties do not seem to offer a meaningful choice to the voters. In order to offer meaningful choice, parties must be significantly different In recent years there has been a decline in the ideological differences among parties in most part of the world For example, the difference between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party in Britain is very little. They agree on more fundamental aspects but differ only in details on how policies are to be framed and implemented In our country too, the differences among all the major parties on the economic policies have reduced Those who want really different policies have no option available to them. Sometimes people cannot even elect very different leaders either, because the same set of leaders keep shifting form one party to another.
How can parties be reformed?
In order to face these challenges, political parties need to be reformed The question is: Are political parties willing, what has prevented them from reforming so far? If they are not willing, is it possible to force them to reform? Citizens all over the world face this question. In a democracy, the final decision is made by leaders who represent political parties. People can replace them, but only by other set party leaders. If all of them do not wish to reform, how can anyone force them to change?
Let us look at some of the recent efforts and suggestions in our country to reform political parties and its leaders:
- The Constitution was amended to prevent elected MLAs and MPs from changing parties. This was done because many elected representatives were indulging in defection in order to become ministers or for cash rewards. Now the law says that if any MLA or MP changes parties, he or she will lose the seat in the legislature.This new law has helped bring defection down. At the same time has made any dissent even more difficult MPs and MLAs have to accept whatever the party leaders decide.
- The Supreme Court passed an order to reduce the influence of money and criminals. Now, it is mandatory for every candidate who contests elections to file an affidavit giving details of his property and criminal cases pending against him.This information is now available to the public. But there is no system to check if the information given by the candidates is true. As yet we do not know if it has led to decline in the influence of the rich and to decline in the influence of the rich and the criminals.
- The Election Commission passed an order making it necessary for political parties to hold their organizational elections and file their income tax returns. The parties have started doing so but sometimes it is mere formality. It is not clear if this step has led to greater internal democracy in political parties.
Suggestions made to reform political parties :
- A law should be made to regulate the internal affairs of political parties. It should be made compulsory for political parties to maintain a register of its members to follow its own constitution, to have an independent. authority, to act as a judge in case of party disputes, to hold open election to the highest posts.
- It should be made mandatory for political parties to give a minimum number of tickets, about one-third, to women candidates.Similarly, there should be a quota for women in the decision-making bodies of the party.
- There should be state funding of elections. The government should give parties money to support their election expenses. This support could be given in kind: petrol paper, telephone etc. Or it could be given in cash on the basis of the votes secured by the party in the last election.
There are two other ways in which political parties can be reformed
- One, people can put pressure on political parties.This can be done through petitions, publicity and agitations. Ordinary citizens, pressure groups and movement and the media can play an important role in this. If political parties feel that they would lose public support by not taking up reforms, they would become more serious about reforms.
- Two, political parties can improve if those who want to join political parties are pro- reform. The quality of democracy depends on the degree of public participation. It is difficult to reform politics if ordinary citizens do not take part in it and simply criticize it from the outside. The problem of bad politics can be solved by more and better politics. But we must be very careful about legal solutions to political problems. Over-regulation of political parties can be counter-productive.This would force all parties to find ways to cheat the law. Besides, political parties will not agree to pass a law that people not like.
Pressure Group is any group that attempts to influence legislative or governing institutions on behalf of its own special interests or interests of a larger public that it represents. They influence Governments decision in their favour without participating in politics as such. It acts as a liaison between government and its members.
- Prof Finer characterized them as anonymous empires. To Lambert these are unofficial government which implies that no government can run without them into consideration.It organizes itself around a common interest, of a section of population.
- There are protective pressure groups, i.e., those protecting the interest of the group like FICCI.
- On the other hand promotional pressure groups tries to promote their interest like caste association, trade unions etc.
- Pressures group act behind the seen as they do not try to capture power. They support their candidate, parties in elections to ensure winning candidate backed by them represent their interest in related bodies. They give collective expression to the groups demand and also ensure thatthe demand should be met. They change their political alliance quickly as to suit their conditions.
- Pressure group’s demands can be functional or dysfunctional for society. Presences of anomic pressure groups like terrorist organizations have negative impact Thus it can be said that presence of pressure group shows pluralism in political system which can be functional as well as dysfunctional.
Role of pressure groups in democracy
- According to Anthony Giddens, pressure groups are the carriers of democracy. With the increase in industrialization division of labour also increases, thus emerged various sections with specialized interest But modern democracy demands harmonization of interest due to which minority or sectional interest tend to get ignored Pressure groups represent this interest
- Its presence shows existence of pluralism making power dispersed and decentralized into the political system.
- Pressure groups also aggregate and articulate interest, thus making government aware of public opinion and interest and working for them.
- The participation of all sections in governance is indirectly achieved
- Pressure groups can work in anonymity out of the glare of public. So they may provide public censure.
- They may use imitative, educative, non-formal methods to protect and promote their interests.
But in modern democracy they can be dysfunctional too, as by representing sectional interest at times other interests gets marginalized It may be possible that sectional interest goes contrary to national interest. Certain economic pressure groups have also emerged using illegal methods e.g. terrorists organizations. Thus, being inevitable phenomena in democracy pressure groups have strengthened and weakened democracy side by side.
There are many pressure groups in India. But, they are not developed to the same extent as in the US or the western countries like Britain, France, and Germany and so on. The pressure groups in India can be broadly classified into the following categories.
- Business Groups : The business groups include a large number of industrial and commercial bodies.They are then most sophisticated the most powerful and the largest of all pressure groups in India.They include:
- Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), major constituents are the Indian Merchants Chamber of Bombay Indian Merchants Chamber of Calcutta and South Indian Chamber of Commerce of Madras. It broadly represents major industrial and trading interest.
- Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), major constituents are the Bengal Chamber of Commerce of Calcutta and Central Commercial Organization of Delhi.
- Federation of All India Foodgrain Dealers Association (FAIFDA). FAIFDA is the sole representative of the grain dealers.
- All India Manufacturers Organization (AIMO). AIMO raises the concerns of the medium-sized industry.
- Trade Unions:The trade unions voice the demands of the industrial workers.They are also known as labour groups.A peculiar feature of trade union of India is that they are associated either directly or indirectly with different political parties.They include:
- All India Trade Union Congress (INTUC) – affiliated to the CPI;
- Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) – affiliated to the Congress (1);
- Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) – affiliated to the CPM, and
- Hind Mazdoor Parishad (HMP) – affiliated to the BJP.
- Agrarian Groups : The agrarian groups represent the farmers and the agricultural labour class. They
- Bharatiya Kisan Union (under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Tikait, in the wheat belt of North India)
- All Indian Kisan Sabha (the oldest and the largest agrarian group)
- Revolutionary Peasants Convention (organized by the CPM in 1967 which gave birth to the Naxalbari Movement)
- Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (Gujarat)
- R.V.Sangham (led by CN Naidu in Tamil Nadu)
- Hind Kisan Panchayat (controlled by the Socialists)
- All India Kisan Sammelan (led by Raj Narain)
- United Kisan Sabha (controlled by the CPM)
- Professional Associations : These are associations that raise the concerns and demands of doctors, lawyers, journalists and teachers. Despite various restrictions, these associations pressurize the government by various methods including agitations for the improvement of their service conditions. They include:
- Indian Medical Association (IMA).
- Bar Council of India (BCI)
- Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ)
- Progressive Students University and College Teachers (AIFUCT).
- Student Organizations: Various unions have been formed to represent the student community. However, these unions, like the trade unions, are also affiliated to various political parties. These are:
- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) (affiliated to BJP)
- All India Students Federation (AISE) (affiliated to CPI)
- National Students Union of India (NSUI) (affiliated to Congress (I))
- Progressive Students Union (PSU) (affiliated to CPM).
- Religious Organizations:The organizations based on religion have come to play an important role in Indian politics.They represent the narrow communal interest. They include:
- Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS)
- Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)
- Anglo-India Association
- Associations of the Roman Catholics
- All-India Conference of India Christians
- Parsi Central Associations
- Shiromani Akali Dal.
“TheShiromani Akali Dal should be regarded as more of religious pressure groups than a political party in view of the fact that it has been concerned more with the mission of saving the Sikh community from being absorbed into the ocean of Hindu society than with fighting for the cause of a Sikh homeland”.
- Caste Groups: Like religion, caste has been an important factor in Indian politics. The competitive politics in many states of the Indian Union is in fact the politics of caste rivalries: Brahmin versus Non-Brahmin in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, Rajputs versus Jat in Rajasthan, Kainmas versus Reddy in Andhra, Ahir versus Jat in Haryana, Baniya Brahmin versus Patidars in Gujarat, Kayastha versus Rajputs in Bihar, Nair versus Ezhavas in Kerala and Lingayats versus Okkaligas in Karnataka. Some in the caste-based organizations are:
- Nadar Caste Association in Tamil Nadu
- Marwari Association
- Harijan Sevak Sangh
- Kshatriya Maha Sabha in Gujarat
- Vanniyakul Kshatriya Sangham
- Kayastha Sabha.
- Tribal Organizations: The tribal organizations are active in MP, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand West Bengal and the North Eastern States of Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland and so on. Their demands range from reforms to that of secession from India and some of them are involved in insurgency activities. The tribal organizations include:
- National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)
- Tribal National Volunteers (TNU) in Tripura
- People’s Liberation Army in Manipur
- All-India Jharkhand
- Tribal Sangh of Assam
- United Mizo Federal Organization.
- Linguistic Groups: Language has been so important factor in Indian politics that it became the main basis for the reorganization of states. The language along with caste, religion and tribe has been responsible for the emergence of political parties as well as pressure groups.Some of the linguistic groups are :
- Tamil Sangh
- Anjuman Tarrak-i-Urdu
- Andhra Maha Sabha
- Hindi Sahitya Sammelan
- Nagarik Pracharani Sabha
- Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha.
- Ideology Based Groups: In more recent times, the pressure groups are formed to pursue a particular ideology, i.e., a cause, a principle or a programme. These groups include:
- Environmental protection groups like Narmada Bachao Andolan and Chipko Movement
- Democratic rights organizations
- Civil liberties associations
- Gandhi Peace Foundation
- Woman rights organizations.
- Anomic Groups:Almond and Powell observed:”By anomic pressure groups we mean more or less a spontaneous breakthrough into the political system from the society such as riots, demonstrations, associations and bureaucratic elite, over-whelmed bythe problem of economic development and scarcity of resources available to them, inevitably acquires a technocratic and anti-political frame of mind, particularistic demands of whatever kinds are denied legitimacy. As a consequence interest groups are alienated from the political system”. Some of the anomic pressure groups are:
- All India Sikh Student’s Federation
- Nava Nirman Samiti of Gujarat
- Naxalite Groups
- Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF)
- All Assam Student’s Union
- United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)
- Dal Khalsa.
Social and political elites
Elite are the most influential and prestigious stratum in a society. The ‘elite’ are those persons who are recognized as outstanding leaders in given field Thus, there are political, religious, scientific, business and artistic elite.
- Wright Mills has described them as “those who make decisions having major consequences, who are able to realize their will even if other resist, and who have the most of what there is to havemoney, power and prestige”.
- Parry Geraint has defined elite as “small minorities who play an exceptionally influential part in the affairs of society in specific fields”.
- Nadel maintains that elite are “those who have an influence over the fate of the society because of their superiority”. The members of an elite group have important influence in shaping the values and attitudes held by their segment of society.
Ram Ahuja has described elite through four features
- A dominant group which possess distin-ctiveness and exclusiveness,
- The term does not apply to any one person but refers to a plurality, a collectivity of persons, however small it may be,
- This identifiable collectivity has certain attributes and skills which give it not only a certain superiority but also power of decision-making and influencing others.
- Elite is a relative term. A group is identified as an elite group in a particular field in which it is ‘power exerciser, influential, or commands ‘excellence’, but in other groups, these elite may be considered as ‘ordinary’ members.
On this basis, the term ‘political elite’ maybe defined as “a group of high stratum decision-makers in political culture or concrete political structure which monopolizes political power, influences major political policies and occupies all important posts of political command”. If we were to operationalise this term, we could say, political elite include those who are elected/ nominated to central and state legislatures, who occupy important position in national or state-level political parties, individuals who do not hold any formal positions either in the government or in political parties but are still considered as persons of great political prestige and power because they control powers exercisers e.g., Gandhi, Jaya Prakash Narayan.
Elite in Post-Independence India
According to Ram Ahuja growth of political elite can be analyzed in different phases. Political elite can be analyzed by classifying growth of the political elite into five phases:
- Immediately after independence phase i.e.,1947 to April 1952, in which there was no longer any struggle between the people and the government and in which though the interests of the people and the power elite were one and indivisible (i.e., rebuilding the society),the latter were more preoccupied with the problems of restoration of law and order after partition, refuge resettlement, maintenance of communal peace, and the controversy over the redistribution of territories between various states.
- Consolidation phase (i.e., April 1952 to March 1962 or MPs, MLAs and party office-holders elected in April 1952 and April 1957 elections), in which the political elite worked for the economic uplift and social development through the Five Year Plans.
- Chaotic phase i.e., April 1962 to March 1971or individuals elected in April 1962 and March 1967 elections, in which non-congress and coalition governments came into power in several states affecting its interstate and state-centre relations.
- Authoritarian phase (i.e., March 1971 to November 1989 or individuals elected in March 1971, March 1977, January 1980, December 1984, and November 1989 elections) in which one person was catapulted to the position of supreme national leadership, first Indira Gandhi for 16 years (excluding period from march 1977 to January 1980) and then Rajiv Gandhi for five years and the power-holders came to believe in the personality cult, and in which all plans for change and development of society were centralized.
- Multiple-party phase i.e., December 1989 till April1999 in which except in Narsimha Rao’s period multiple hands to rule the country on a common programme basis (V.P. Singh ministry for llmonths, Chandra Shekhar ministry for about eight months, Atal Bihari Vajpayee ministry for 13 days. United Front governments of Deve Gowda for 11 months and I.K. Gujral for one year and BJP led government of A.B. Vajpayee).
- In the first phase those were the elite who had a stable economic background were highly educated mostly belonged to the upper castes, and were committed to societal interests. Their socio-political ideology was based on nationalism, liberalism and religio-cultural reforms. This first generation of power-wielders in free India had earned their reputation for courage, vision and action, and acquired their charisma before they stepped into office as inheritors of political power and earned it more through functioning in office.
- The elite in the second (consolidation) phase, particularly those elected in the 1952 elections, some of whom had only part-time interests in politics. They wanted rewards in the form of a political office for participating in the national struggle for independence.These elite caused a certain amount of disequilibrium in the beginning in their party structures but their pressures for active participation in politics were pitched in such a low key that they were soon integrated in their party systems.
- Then came the 1957 elections when the long established dominance of the so-called political suffers was broken and political power was placed in the hands of a new breed of elite who were either petty landholders or traders, businessmen, professional persons, small industrialists or social workers. These elite were not as highly politicized as their older counter parts. They thought that since they could trust the integrity of old professional politicians, they need not concern themselves quite so directly with politics.
- Over the years, yet newer elite further down the social scale appeared in the 1962 elections representing the intermediate and lower castes, middle-class professions, small farmers, industrial workers, or even obscure religious and social sects, to name a few, seeking entry into the political decision-making processes. Though these elite came to seek a greater role in policy formulation, the older elite still retained their influence. There was thus toleration on the part of the new and accommodation on the part of the old elite. Both old and new elite revised their values to fit situations and establish new relationships. This type of interaction between the old and the new elite implies a dilution of the pure force theory group of elite or that the position of the old elite depended upon some sort of bargain. We can thus say that change in the elite structure up to 1967 was slow and ‘peaceful’, not involving any ‘conflict’ in Marxian terminology.
- In the 1967, 1971, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1996 and 1998 elections, emerged the elite amongst whom many were found to have politics as their major source of livelihood According to Ram Ahuja, they believed more in using the ties of kinship, caste and language to smoothen the way through the corridors of power. They were blind to the practicalities of the plans and believed in seeking cooperation of the masses by coining attractive slogans and speaking half-truths.They posed as democrats; even their slogans were democratic but their actions belied their utterances. Democracy as a way of life was foreign to their nature and nurture.
- According to Ahuja, ideologically, there were four types of elite functioning in 1967-1971,1971-1989, and 1989-1999 phases: traditionalists, rationalists, moderates and synthetics.The second and the third types had two sub-variations,
- Those who reflected secular but vested national ideology, and
- Those that professed a neo-secular and vested parochial ideology.
- Since these elite with different ideologies functioned within the party, the variation in their ideologies led to segmentation of the party which affected the functioning of both the party and its elite at various levels. The new political elite who were brought into power first in December 1989 election and then in May 1996and March 1998 elections got public votes not because of their rationalist liberal ideologies or because their radicalism was greatly appreciated but because people wanted to throw out the government of the day dominated by one political party for about four decades and also the weak political front. United Front government which was based on factions. Even the BJP led government of A.B. Vajpayee which came in power in March 1998 proved unstable because of constant threats from 3 or 4 of its constituent parties.
- Using this description for comparing the ‘new’ elite with the ‘old’ elite and for identifying the present structure of political elite, we could say,
- The ‘intellectual committed politics’ of first phase were replaced by ‘mediocre, uncommitted partisan’ elite in the following phases.
- The last one decade political elite are characterized not only by a plurality of structural background but ideologically also they manifest varied shades.
- Their political affiliations are guided more by their particularists’ loyalty rather than by their ideological commitment.
- The old elite wielded power independently, i.e., in their own right as intellectuals, whereas the present day elite are incapable of exercising independent political power.
- Barring a few activity, most of the present elite do not believe in militating against the status quo. As such, the task of social engineering becomes far more difficult for those few activist revolutionary elite who are really committed to modernization and believe in economic radicalism, political democratization and social growth.
- Referring to changing elite structure Yogendra Singh has stated that “Among the political elite, there existed a high degree of cultural and status homogeneity before Independence.All of them came from upper castes and had an urban, middle-class background of English education. The top group was exposed to foreign culture and was educated there; hence their self-image in terms of expected roles was also that of a generalist rather than a specialist Following independence, this pattern of elite composition has considerably changed” According to Yogendra Singh,
- There is increasing influence of rural-based political leaders;
- There is slight decrease in the influence of leaders drawn from various professions,
- There is significant increase in the number of persons belonging to the middle class;
- There is greater articulation of regional and interest-oriented goals in political cultural ideologies, and
- There is slight breakdown in the exclusiveness or upper castes to the elite position. And what was stated by Yogendra Singh 25 years ago is true even today.
According to Ram Ahuja, in India, the govern-ing’ elite at a higher political culture base (say national level) are recruited not from the ‘non-governing’ elite at the same level but from the governing elite functioning at a lower political cultural base (say state, district or block levels). These elite of lower political base are found holding important posts in state legislatures or state political parties, etc., before becoming office-holders at the higher political base. Once these elite rise from state or district level they never go back to the ok!level but continue to function at the higher political level as long as they remain active in politics.This, however, does not mean that they cease to take interest in politics at the level from which they have moved up in the hierarchy. This means, there is no circulation but only an upward movement of the elite. However, if Pareto’s theory refers to a process in which one member of the elite group is replaced by another within the group of governing elite, we may concede that his theory does explain the political phenomenon of ‘movement of the elite’ in the context of our society also. Bottomore maintains that both conceptions are to be found in Pareto’s work, although the former predominates.
According to Ahuja there are two types of movements (not circulations) :
- Movement from lower to higher strata of governing elite both functioning at macro-level and
- Movement from sub-category functioning at micro-structural level to sub-category functioning at macrostructural level.
In the former, he found circulation between ‘oligarchic’ (dominant) and ‘subjacent’ (dominated) elite and between ‘radical activists and ‘passive’ activists.Activists functioning at micro-level ultimately joined the ranks of activists at the macro-level with the result that some of the activists already functioning at this level were deprived of their monopoly of power. This elite mobility may be explained in terms of,
- The rise of new political interests, and
- The rise of new elite with more manipulating qualities.
Therefore, both individual and structural factors (caste etc.) are important in the social ascent or social
descent of the elite. Schumpeter also believed that both the individual qualities and the social factor are important in the circulation of elite.
The Marxian approach, which is basically non-elitist, views the relations between the elite (privileged class which commands power and wealth) and non-elite (classes which do not possess either of these) as based on conflict, in which effort is made to overthrow the ‘power elite’ to occupy its position. Ram Ahuja in his study revealed that the process of overthrowing the elite in power and succeeding them is not always based on conflict, but that it involves manipulation, toleration, accommodation, compromise and bargain too. It could, therefore, be maintained that we can neither draw from Pareto’s theory of ‘circulation of elite’, nor from Karl Marx’s theory of ‘class struggle’ to understand the changing character of political elite in India. We have to use different approach for analyzing the recruitment and the changing structure of elite in India.