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India: Congress Election and an Angry Yogi in Tirupati

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

gods and a demi goddess kathmandu post 05.09.10
Kathmandu Post 05.09.10

As it is preparing for its 12th general convention next week, the Nepali Congress is witnessing intense competition among its leaders who want to lead it. Several factions have come up and no one knows who is on which side. Also unclear is who among the three contenders for the post of president commands a majority. Seems like a messy democracy in action in the oldest party of Nepal.

The oldest party of India, on the other side of the border, selected its leader last week without any signs of acrimony. Sonia Gandhi, the incumbent, was reelected president for a record fourth time. No one challenged her. Instead, there was competition among her supporters to propose her name for the post on the last day of filing nominations on Thursday. All in all 55 nomination papers were filed on her behalf.

Rival Bharatiya Janata Party was quick to point out the ‘lack of democracy’ and ‘family domination’ in the Congress organisation. The BJP earlier this year unanimously elected Nitin Gadkari its leader. That election wasn’t without criticism. It was said that the BJP didn’t elect Gadkari but he was imposed upon the party by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a cultural and religious organisation. The RSS is considered the head of a family of Hindu nationalist organisations of which the BJP is a member.

Two of the largest political parties of the largest democracy in the world may not be entirely democratic when it comes to selecting their top leadership. The domination of the Gandhi family and inheritance of leadership from one member of the family to another has been the tradition of the Congress for long.  Similarly the influence of the RSS in the affairs of the BJP is no secret. But vibrant discussions do take place in their organisations and opposing views get enough space to create healthy internal debates. The most impressive part of Indian democracy can be witnessed at the moments of crisis when opposing political parties come together, thrash out differences, and move the nation forward. It is because they have realised that democracy is the biggest asset and weapon that India has to face its grave challenges. For example, in the recently concluded summer session of the parliament the government worked closely with the main opposition party, the BJP, to pass some key bills. Continue reading India: Congress Election and an Angry Yogi in Tirupati