By Promod Puri
Do political parties under a democratic structure need to base themselves on their distinctive ideologies, or can they do away with that and solely project themselves as suppliers of good governance?
Healthcare, education, employment, housing, transportation, efficient and corrupt-free bureaucracy, and an uninterrupted supply of water, gas, electricity, etc., constitute the primary supplies that establish the credentials of good governance people expect from a ruling political party.
In that case, does the ideological concept that guides and represents the political nature of a party faces its demise? At the same time, is good governance the only priority that meets the people’s primary concerns?
In a democracy, receiving the bottom-line needs is not a charity that a benevolent government gives to its people.
Besides food, shelter, healthcare, etc., other earnest urges key to human nature must be available in free societies. The right to express, protest, explore, google, communicate, travel, educate, learn and earn is fundamental in a democratic setup inscribed in its ideological guidelines.
When some or most of these freedoms are denied or retracted, the ideological face of a political party’s image gets blurred.
It has happened in Cuba, Venezuela, China and many more countries running as socialist or communist regimes withholding to their citizens the liberties we usually expect in free societies.
On the contrary, in the United States, the Republicans and the Democrats retain palpable ideological demarcation in their thinking and behaviour toward the nation’s major issues, gun control and abortion are examples.
The same ideological preservation we come across in Canada within the three national parties, the Liberal, the Conservative, and the New Democratic Party.
In Britain’s oldest democratic tradition, the ideological identifications clearly distinguish between the dominant parties, the Conservative and the Labour.
In many other prominent and vast democratic countries like India, political parties do show clear-cut ideological differentiations. But in reality, their political tenets or principles get quite often abandoned in the pragmatic of power politics.
In these democracies, party cadres and leaders jump brazenly back and forth from one party to another. The crossover is a standard open practice from the Left to Right of the political and religious spectrum or for personal aims and gains.
This trend represents neat political opportunism. In these democracies, the ideological concept that distinguishes political parties from each other looks irrelevant.
The good-government approach, while supplying social goods, make the availability of fundamental freedoms paltry. But the strategy does pave the way to grab power.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in India follows this principle that is more in the supply of social goods than committing to conventional percepts based on ideological guidance. For the record, the party brutally kicked out Yogendra Yadav, carrying the socialist bag, in the early years of its formation.
“We are aam aadmis. If we find our solution on the Left, we are happy to borrow it from there. If we find our solution in the Right, we are happy to borrow it from there”, according to Arvind Kejriwal, the leader and the founder of AAP.
The statement appeals to the people who have elected the AAP three times in the Delhi election and won the recent New Delhi municipal poll without any ideological roadmap or protocol.
But the AAP does not get into ideological fundamentals like the national ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which has a clear dogmatic agenda under the Hindutva framework.
The BJP walks on a bigoted path to achieve its committed goal of transforming India into the so-called “Hindu nation.” But this commitment does not guarantee governance in the diverse nature of the nation with its religious, linguistic and cultural pluralities.
While keeping its “Hindu nation” agenda intact, the BJP, through the state-run propaganda machinery, deceivably projects itself as a caring and compassionate government that supplies social goods.
But strategically, to get into governing power, BJP can quickly make strategic alliances that conflict with its political ideology. It has done it both at the provincial and national levels. For example, in Kashmir, the party formed an “unholy” coalition government in 2018 with the Peoples Democratic Party that seeks “self-rule,” meaning independence from India.
Worldwide, coalition politics means getting into governing powers while bypassing fundamental ideological differences. Emerging political order shows how easily the far-Left and the far-Right can join forces, as happened in October 2022 poll in Sweden.
An overview trend in most democratic nations indicates the priority for power over ideology. It is the direction globally where basic surviving needs as social goods receive fair or appeasing provisions while fundamental liberties face annihilation.