New Delhi: The question of Rahul Gandhi who is all here to drink made many blush at a meeting of heads of the Congress of States a fortnight ago. It was in keeping with his old position that denying party membership to someone who drinks – a condition that had been in the constitution of Congress since pre-independence days – was impractical and obsolete. Typical of Congress, a decision on this issue has remained pending as the party launched its membership campaign from November 1.
So if you are an aspiring politician and occasionally enjoy the company of Bacchus and his supporters, Congress is not the party for you right now. Lalu Yadav either Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). These two political parties stipulate in their membership clause that to be a member, one must abstain from consuming alcohol. Incidentally, those who aspire to become members of the RJD should also support Prohibition, even though the party has called for a review of the law in Bihar.
ThePrint examines the constitutions of different parties to see the “commitments”, “conditions” and other requirements that an aspiring politician must meet to become a member.
Promises and commitments galore
As it stands, the easiest parties to join seem to be the SP, BSP, AIMIM, NCP and Trinamool Congress while the most tedious are CPI and CPI (M).
The common condition for joining all parties is that the applicant is 18 years old. The only exception is the RJD, where the minimum age is 15. Another common condition posed by most parties is that the applicant must not be a member of any other political party (or “communal” party in the case of the PS).
For membership in left-wing parties, a candidate must be recommended by two members of the party’s judiciary, after which the candidacy is passed to a higher committee. The candidate then goes through a probationary period as a âcandidate memberâ of one year for the CPI (M) and six months for the CPI, during which he receives a âbasic educationâ on the constitution, party values ââand policies. At the end of the year, the CPI (M) committee decides whether the person is ready and worthy to be a party member. In the case of the CPI, the six-month elementary education period may be extended for an additional six months if the party is not satisfied with the applicant’s progress.
If joining CPI (M) was not difficult enough, all members should also commitment “Strive to live up to the ideals of communism and selflessly serve the working class, the toiling masses and the country, always placing the interests of the party and the people above personal interests”.
The membership process is much simpler for Congress and BJP, but they require a lot of commitment from aspiring members. Besides the pledge not to drink or consume alcohol, Congress has eight other “conditions” for membership in its constitution. The candidate must be a “certified khadi habitual weaver”, believe in an integrated society regardless of religion or caste, be committed to performing tasks including manual labor, not have property exceeding legal limits and must promote the principles of secularism, socialism and democracy. Moreover, the applicant must not practice untouchability.
Speaking to ThePrint, top congressional leader and congressman Manish Tewari said the party’s constitution was drafted at a different time in history and things have changed rapidly over the past century. âThere is a need to update the constitution of the party,â he said.
Hinting at the provision of abstaining from alcohol and weaving khadi and participating in manual labor, Tewari also said the party needs to rethink the viability of many arrangements as social realities have changed. âAt that time, khadi was inserted because it had a very different connotation. We need to modernize the party constitution as a whole, âhe said.
The BJP, which claims to be the largest party in the world with 18 million members, also expects a lot from its members, but more in terms of beliefs than lifestyle adjustments.
The BJP’s eight-point ‘commitment’ in its membership application form includes belief in positive secularism (sarv dharma sama bhava) and integral humanism (the candidate must understand this philosophy even before joining), commitment to nationalism and national integration. The candidate must subscribe to the Gandhian approach to socio-economic issues, leading to the establishment of an egalitarian society. The applicant must also believe in a values-based policy and subscribe to the concept of the secular state and nation not based on religion. An aspiring BJP member should also not believe in discrimination based on caste, gender or religion.
Speaking to ThePrint, BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal said integral humanism, the concept proposed by Deendayal Upadhyaya, was essential for the party because it put the human being at the center of all concerns.
âAny party motivated by an ideology will want its members and cadres to follow certain ideals. BJP stands for non-appeasement, non-corruption and justice for all. We follow our ideology in written form as well as in practice, âhe said. “The BJP is consistent in its convictions, unlike Congress, which vacillates from cover to cover with no specifics on what it believes in.”
Mittal also looked at the constitution of Congress, saying a party constitution is not a static document but a dynamic one, and therefore should change from time to time.
âCongress has outlived its usefulness. The party is now very different from what it was when its constitution was drafted. He’s trying to cash in on the legacy of the freedom movement and there are a lot of things that are no longer relevant, âMittal said.
Read also : Prashant Kishor’s prediction on the BJP is correct. India’s opposition has a lot to do with it
What are the other parties doing
MMost political parties demand allegiance to the Constitution of India and its principles such as socialism, secularism and democracy. Regional or state parties demand a promise of development from the region and from the people of the state.
For example Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu mandates promoting the Tamil language, culture and values, and adhering to Mr. Karunanidhi’s five slogans. Biju Janata Dal, in the power of Odisha affirms build an Odisha that uplifts all Odias and their self-respect and work for a state free of corruption and well-being.
A person can join the Nationalist Congress Party “journey” by making a donation, while anyone aged 18 or over can enter the Trinamool Congress, as it has no conditions or commitments.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which is now looking to make inroads in states such as Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat after Delhi, also has a detailed constitution. This stands for its stipulation that a person is only eligible to be a member of the party if he has “not been convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude”. It also provides that “a person’s membership ceases if he has been convicted by a court of a crime involving moral turpitude”.
Somnath Bharti, one of the founding members of AAP, told ThePrint that moral turpitude means a person accused of something that is not acceptable in society – “an offense related to women, corruption, murder, etc. “
âOur party was born out of the fight against corruption and related crimes, so we take these offenses very seriously,â he said.
Citing examples of Sandeep Kumar, Asim Ahmed Khan and Jitender Singh Tomar, who were withdrawn from the party, Bharti said all of their offenses were against moral turpitude.
Tomar was caught in a controversy of false degree; Kumar, a former Delhi government minister was suspended for a “reprehensible CD” which showed him in a compromising position with a woman; while Khan was suspended allegations to take a bribe to allow construction in his constituency.
Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is one of the most flexible parties in its membership rules, which has no fixed requirements. Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party mandates that all members work for the development of Andhra Pradesh and the elevation of Andhraites.
“Party constitutions like a crazy puzzle”
Speaking to ThePrint, sociologist Shiv Visvanathan explained that across parties, individual constitutions looked more like a crazy puzzle that was not normative and had no vision.
âToday, party politics and their constitutions are totally disappointing. There is no vision, no imagination and no normativity. And you need all three for a cohesive weave, âhe said.
Speaking of Congress in particular, Visvanathan called its constitution a “costume ball at a fancy dress party.” Emphasizing the provisions of khadi and manual labor, he said that at present these are either “too ideological or too cosmetic”.
Speaking of the NCP and TMC and how their constitutions appear to be “more flexible,” Visvanathan said Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee “are desperate for power” and opt for a more tactical and pragmatic approach.
Deciphering the working style of the BJP and the constitution of his party, Visvanathan said: âBy making the RSS a mirror of civil society, the BJP has destroyed civil society. For the BJP, there is only the State and the RSS.
AAP has now become a thin ice dance party, according to Visvanathan. He explained that the moral turpitude clause is to fight a lifestyle that evokes corruption. âRight now there is no party or political constitution that looks promising,â he said.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
Read also : Rahul Gandhi’s imminent return as president is a win-win for Congress and BJP
Why the news media is in crisis and how to fix it
India is all the more in need of free, fair, uninhibited and questioning journalism as it is facing multiple crises.
But the news media are in a crisis of their own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, giving in to crass spectacle in prime time.
ThePrint employs the best young reporters, columnists and editors. Supporting journalism of this quality requires smart, thoughtful people like you to pay the price. Whether you live in India or abroad, you can do it here.
Support our journalism