The Election Commission of India wants the Representation of People’s Act of 1951 to be amended so as to enable them to regulate the registration of political parties in India. That this is indeed a serious problem can be seen from these statistics: we now have 50 (yes, you read that right!) registered recognised political parties and 900 registered unrecognised political parties.

Check out this article.

The EC has a two-stage system for recognising political parties. Stage I is registration. This means that only registered parties can be recognised. Stage II – to move from registered unrecognised to registered recognised depends on whether or not the party in question can demonstrate political activity of some kind for five continuous years. There are also some quantitative benchmarks based on the percentage of votes polled. Considering 50 parties have made the grade, I guess the quantitative benchmarks are not very stringent.

Then there’s this whole to-do about the RTI Act and the sources of political funding. Obviously, the political parties do not want the act to apply to them. So what’s new? Political parties, in time, will make sure that no laws apply to them and their members. They will be, one fine day, legally above the law.

What is interesting is how these two aspects tie-in, courtesy another news item that points out how unknown parties attract huge amounts in funds, and there’s no accounting for this money. In other words, it’s a money laundering racket!

Here’s another interesting piece of news.

We are like this only. What do we expect when any sub-caste of a sub-caste, or a small enclave within a small district within a state becomes the basis for yet another political party? The fragmentation of our politics is an inevitable outcome in a place where linguistic identity, caste or sub-caste affiliation and religious distinctiveness take precedence over lack of development, farmers’ suicides, inflation, lack of education, lack of healthcare, lack of water, lack of nutrition, lack of electricity, lack, in fact, of a basic minimum standard of living.

Is that a good thing or bad? It is both. What is good is that it has enabled marginalised voices to be heard. On the flip side, it has ensured that the fear of the other, the outsider becomes the sole force binding such groups, and everything else then takes a backseat. Because any failure is then the fault of the others. And the sad fact is that this clout and immunity is used as a front for a whole host of illegal activities such as money-laundering, among others.

Is this going to change in a hurry? I don’t think so. If anything, it’s going to get worse, and as smaller and smaller groups embrace the politics of identity and distinctiveness, we may soon have neighbourhood political parties. Like the Mylapore Dravida Nadar Catholic Kazhagam, or the Nizamuddin East Punjabi Hindu Khatri Janata Vikas Manch.

Oh well. At least we can be proud that everyone has a voice in this country. And equal opportunity to launder money!

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