Why single-person parties are the political norm in India

We are not good at institution building.

 |  1-minute read |   27-05-2016
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The reason why the single-person led political party is such a common phenomenon in India is because we are not good at institution building.

Single-person parties are led by charismatic people who, by definition, are averse to institutional discipline.

Think of it this way.

A godman is a single person phenomenon, but a church is an institution with routinised ways of functioning.

This is why, all too often, when the charismatic godman dies, the church flounders and if it does survive, it is because of a strong institutional push.

Often, such set ups are taken over by heirs, but they too resist an institutional takeover and hope to capitalise on the blood charisma.

mamata--and--jayalal_052716103328.jpg Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa are the centre-points of their respective parties.

Also, look at most NGOs.

Barring a few, once again we find that most of them are led by single individuals and have a weak organisational base.

I said, most NGOs, but not all.

The examples I gave you was just to flesh out the argument that in India we are not institution builders. As our institutions, the way they are, function inefficiently it makes charismatic party leaders, godmen and NGOs attractive options. At least something gets done.

In other words, I am asking you to look at single-person led political parties in a wider conceptual framework where charismatic leadership triumphs on account of institutional incompetence and failure. I have heard Mamata Banerjee's and Jayalalithaa's followers say that there is so much clarity in their respective parties as they face no institutional considerations and the lines of communication, and the relaying of work modules, because everything flows from one person.

What better evidence do you want to explain why charisma works where institutional depth is wanting?


Dipankar Gupta Dipankar Gupta

The author is an Indian sociologist and public intellectual.

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