How rich is the Indian National Congress

India

Klaus Julian Voll

Dr. Klaus Julian Voll was a diplomat and head of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in India as well as a lecturer at the Free University of Berlin. Today he advises the Foundation for European Progressive Studies in Brussels and the Fraunhofer MOEZ in Leipzig on India and South Asia.

India's party landscape

In India there are so far only two parties with national reach - the Congress Party and the Hindu nationalist Indian People's Party BJP. All others have at best a regional or usually only a national presence. However, a new political actor could fundamentally change the Indian political landscape: the Aam Aadmi Party. After her success in the capital region of Delhi, she will run for the first time nationwide in the 2014 general election.

Parliamentary elections will be held in India from April 7th to May 16th. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

Political parties in India are very different from those in Europe. They have practically no internal party democracy, dynastic principles dominate. There are around 120 such political dynasties across the country. Elections are also expensive. According to estimates by economists and political observers, more than two billion euros were used in the general election in 2009 - that is more than in the election campaign for the US presidency. A large part of this comes from illegal sources Hawala money the political class, which among other things from (foreign) business with so-called Kickbacks (Bribes) originates.

The Mantras, with which India is repeatedly referred to as the "greatest democracy in the world", often prevent a realistic view of these facts - the realities of political operations reveal the obvious plutocratic and sometimes also criminal component of Indian democracy. Former Cabinet Secretary T. S. R. Subramanian once called India's politics "the greatest private business". That is the main reason why politicians have no interest in change.

One consequence of this is increasing dissatisfaction in parts of the population, leading to the establishment of the in 2012 Aam Admi Party (analogously: party of the common people, AAP) has led. It emerged from an anti-corruption movement and, among other things, has committed itself to reforming the political system.

Political instability and fragmentation

After India gained independence on August 15, 1947, the Congress Party dominated political events for decades. This dominance was not lastingly broken until the end of the 1980s. The result was political instability, which manifested itself in a total of six general election between 1989 and 2004 - normally enough for a period of 30 years. Five minority governments, the political decline of the Congress Party and the rise of the Hindu nationalist Indian People's Party BJP as well as the establishment of regional parties and an obvious fragmentation of the parliament with over 40 parties finally led to the coalition governments of the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP between 1998 and 2004 (National Democratic Alliance, NDA). From 2004 the Congress Party took over the helm again with coalition governments of the so-called United Progressive Alliance (United Progressive Alliance, UPA). (See also History of India after 1947)

Brief portraits of the most important political parties

The Congress Party

Rahul Ghandi with supporters before the election (& copy picture-alliance / AP)
Review: The Congress Party, named Indian National Congress in 1885 (Indian National Congress, INC), is the oldest Indian party and can look back on diverse transformations in its history. She spearheaded the Indian independence movement with prominent figures in her ranks including Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, father of the Indian constitution and revered leader of the "untouchables". Then there are such prominent politicians as Jawaharlal Nehru, India's visionary first prime minister from 1947 to 1963.

In 1977 the congress party's monopoly of power, which had previously been taken for granted, began to falter. Morarji Desai took over the post of prime minister as the leader of a congressional split-off as well as an alliance of socialists, peasant leaders and Hindu nationalists after the end of the state of emergency imposed by Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi (1975-77). In 1980, however, he had to surrender power back to the "iron lady" who ruled until she was murdered four years later. Indira Gandhi had previously been Prime Minister from 1969 to 1977. Her son Rajiv Gandhi, who ruled between 1984 and 1989, is also part of the legacy of this great political movement.

Born in Italy, Sonia Gandhi, widow of Rajiv Gandhi, is now continuing the legacy of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty. It is considered the "glue" that holds the party, which is by no means on safe feet, together as its president and has so far protected it from disintegrating into individual components. Sonia Gandhi now tries to pass the baton on to her son Rahul.

Ideology: Originally datedFabian Socialism Social and economic policy objectives (democracy, socialism, secularism) inspired and predominantly formulated by Jawaharlal Nehru increasingly concealed the true interests of a democratically legitimized post-colonial state class. These interests rejected fundamental social and land reforms. The state supported the large and medium-sized peasants, who have been increasingly represented in parliaments since the 1990s, through subsidies. Through the public sector, sections of the political class, top officials and functionaries of party-political unions were able to acquire certain privileges due to obvious corruption and nepotism.

"Secularism", that is the equality of religions, is repeatedly brought into play by the Congress Party as a trademark of its form of rule and socio-political convictions in the disputes with the BJP. For its part, the BJP accuses the political opponent of causing a division of the population along religious lines.

The economic policy of the Congress Party, which for decades had focused on isolating the public sector and private companies from international competition, ended in 1991 in the financial oath of disclosure. As a result of the liberalization policy adopted afterwards under Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao (1991-96) and his finance minister Manmohan Singh, the party also verbally turned away from "socialism" and recognized the primacy of the private sector of the economy. (see India's economy)

Strata of the electorate: The Congress Party traditionally has a broad electorate. This includes the upper caste but also the lower caste groups of the "untouchables" (Scheduled castes, SC) and members of the native Indian population (Scheduled Tribes, ST). There are also religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians. However, the party no longer wins a disproportionate number of seats in the constituencies reserved for SC and ST, as it has for many decades.

The party leadership is therefore trying to better represent the interests of the socially and economically disadvantaged population groups. It tries to do this, for example, through numerous ambitious social and employment programs that were increasingly launched during the government period from 2004 to 2014.

In the general election in 2004 and 2009, the Congress Party was able to win a lot of support from the urban middle class. This could be caused by the occurrence of the Aam Admi Party, which both the Congress Party and the BJP voters dispute to fundamentally change in the future.

Present and outlook: The so-calledHigh Command, that is to say de facto Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, as well as a very small internal circle, have led to over-centralization within the Congress Party and to a large absence of strong political personalities in the individual states. The "family business" of the Gandhi dynasty in its current form is on the one hand dysfunctional, on the other hand a congress party threatens to disintegrate into its individual components without this dynasty, similar to the Indian socialists once did.

Rahul Gandhi has meanwhile declared the democratization of the party as well as more participation of its base to be his concern and has already accompanied this process in the youth and student organizations of the party in recent years. He has also declared war on corruption - not an easy undertaking in view of the massive corruption cases within the Congress Party and the coalition government it has led in recent years.

The Hindu nationalist BJP

Prime Minister candidate Narendra Modi (BJP) before the election (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)
The Indian People's Party (Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP), which formed the coalition of the National Democratic Alliance (National Democratic Alliance, NDA), was paralyzed by violent intra-party power struggles after their 2004 election defeat. Before the 2014 elections, these were largely pushed into the background - not least because of the BJP's confidence in victory.

Ideology: The BJP is run by top cadres of the National Volunteer Corps founded in 1925 (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, RSS) - the ideological and organizational backbone of Hindu nationalism - dominates. The party emphasizes a revival of Hindu identity, tradition and philosophy. Resolutely anti-Marxist, she rejects the supposedly Western concepts of socialism and Nehru secularism and strives for a "kingdom of the Hindus" (Hindu Rashtra) with the aim of an India dominated by (upper case) Hinduism and a "geo-cultural" unit of the subcontinent (Hindutva) at. Under the guise of "positive secularism" hides a negative attitude towards religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians. (see Hindu nationalism and the Hindu-Muslim conflict)

The BJP propagates an economic liberalization that particularly emphasizes the interests of national capital together with an openly propagated claim to great or even world power. Her "liberal wing" also favored an accelerated opening to the world market during her reign.

Strata of the electorate: Urban upper and middle classes favor the BJP. Through grassroots and social work by the RSS, the party also succeeded in gaining access to members of the SC and ST as well as the middle castes of the Other backward classes (OBC). Through your trade union confederation Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the strongest in terms of members among the party political unions, the BJP has access to parts of the skilled workers who often come from the middle cast. The party also speaks specifically to young voters and in particular Young professionals at. The mobilization of women has also contributed significantly to the successes in the past. Muslims and Christians traditionally do not support the BJP.

outlook: In the parliamentary elections in 2014, the BJP sends the Prime Minister of the economically successful state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, into the running as the top candidate. Modi propagates Gujarat as a successful model that can be transferred to all of India. He is promoting Good governance and economic growth. Because of his supposed willingness to make decisions, he is held in high regard by entrepreneurs.

Critics accuse Modi, however, that the social indicators in Gujarat are by no means as positive as they are shown and that the state is also highly indebted. The personality cult surrounding him and his authoritarian demeanor are also interpreted negatively by Modi. In addition, the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat from 2002 still cling to the politician. Modi himself successfully uses the map of his origins from simple social backgrounds to acquire sympathy points from large parts of the electorate.

For the BJP, the decisive factor in 2014 will be whether it can regain its former power base in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of around 200 million. Election forecasts assume that the BJP will do well - both in its traditional strongholds and in other states such as Bihar and Maharashtra.

AAP - a new phenomenon in Indian politics

Arvind Kejriwal, the chairman of the AAP, during an election campaign (& copy picture alliance / landov)
The Aam Aadmi Party (analogously: party of the common people, AAP) was founded in 2012 and emerged from a nationwide anti-corruption campaign. She achieved a spectacular success in the state elections in the Delhi capital region at the end of 2013. She immediately won 28 of 70 mandates. Party leader Arvind Kejrival was then elected Prime Minister of an AAP minority government, which, however, resigned after a few weeks due to a lack of support.

It is still largely unclear how this new political force should be classified and categorized. The classifications of the AAP range from "left-wing extremist and socialist" to a "left-wing copy" of the US Tea party movement. Party leader Kejriwal rejects the categorizations based on existing ideologies.

Nevertheless, the appearance of the AAP could significantly change the parameters and customs of previous Indian politics. The party wants to change the existing system permanently and is explicitly directed against the political establishment. She advocates the passing of an anti-corruption law. It is rather skeptical of a purely representative democracy, rather it advocates active participation of the people between the elections through citizens' and neighborhood assemblies as well as through referendums. She also uses social media in a targeted manner and with great success.

The AAP will run nationwide for the first time in the 2014 general election. Above all, it is given opportunities in the more than 200 urban and semi-urban constituencies (out of a total of 543), where the AAP appeals to the middle classes, who have turned away from politics in the last few decades, not least because of widespread corruption. Should the AAP establish itself, it could not only act as a catalyst for political change and a changed political style, but also force the other parties to change.

Left parties

Communist Party of India poster in Kerala
Photo: Stefan Mentschel
The most important left party in India is the Communist Party of India / Marxist (Communist Party of India / Marxist, CPI / M). Their traditional strongholds are the states of West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. However, it only rules in the small state of Tripura in the north-east of the country. In West Bengal, where it was the government for decades, and in Kerala in the south, it is now a leading opposition force. Otherwise it has only very selective influence nationwide.

Ideologically, the CPI / M is committed to Marxism. In government practice, however, it was characterized by a pragmatic and - as in the later phase of its rule in West Bengal - even by an extraordinarily business-friendly policy. At the same time the CPI / M is through the center of the Indian trade unions (Center of Indian Trade Unions, CITU) mainly among the privileged workers in the public sector and partly represented - for example by women's organizations - in the large informal sector of the economy.

Other parties belonging to the Left Front such as the Communist Party of India (Communist Party of India, CPI), the forward block (Forward Bloc, FB) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (Revolutionary Socialist Party, RSP) are only of marginal importance.

Regional parties

Regional parties seem to have become firmly established, with their direct spheres of influence largely confined to a single state. They represent the interests of influential caste alliances, farmers, and social and religious groups. On the other hand, they are also an expression of regional and subnationalist identities in the multiethnic state of India. However, its growth is also an expression of a "silent revolution" and a "democratic awakening" of the disadvantaged layers of Indian society over the past 25 years. The one founded in 1984 is an example of this Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which mainly represents a large part of the lowest castes and the religious minority of Muslims. This party was able to establish itself as a solid force in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh. In the state elections in 2007, the BSP even won an absolute majority there. Prime Minister Mayawati ruled for the full term, but was voted out of office in 2012. The BSP - recognized nationwide as a national party with almost 5 percent of the vote - has so far not been able to become as strong in other parts of India as in its home country Uttar Pradesh.

From the political and ideological legacy of the Indian socialists, other important regional parties were formed in northern India.This includes the one that has ruled Uttar Pradesh since 2012 Samajwadi party (SP) and the ruling body in Bihar Janata Dal United (JDU). On top of that comes with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) a party that determined the fortunes of Bihar for a long time. Its leaders primarily represent the interests of economically aspiring (middle) peasant castes, but also of Muslims. However, like the national and other regional parties operating in these states, they have a very pronounced criminal nexus.

In Tamil Nadu in southern India, the Dravidian ones alternate Parties Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which was excellently organized and which had survived long periods of opposition, and the more populist one All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the government. There are also strong regional forces in other parts of the country. In the eastern state of Orissa, for example, the Biju Janata Dal successful and has good prospects for the next elections. In Nagaland in the north-east of the country, the regional party is in charge Naga Peoples Front (NPF) has been in charge since 2003.