Political parties are not like companies

Source: The post is based on an article “Political parties are not like companies” published in The Hindu on 7th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Governance

Relevance: reforms required in political parties

News: Political parties have started being compared like corporations these days which is misleading and is not a feature of politics.

How are political parties different from corporations?

Political Parties: Political parties have claimants and volunteers while a company has employees. The purpose of a political party is to capture state power through raising social agendas. A party is itself seen as the part of the society which has individuals as volunteers rather than paid employees like companies.

Multiple claimants for every position often affect the party’s operations. Due to the public nature of political parties, it is not possible to exclude claimants from participation in the organisation’s functioning.

Further, internal conflicts of interest have a direct bearing on a party’s ability to perform, especially in a competitive electoral landscape.

For example, contradictory statements made by party functionaries during important campaigns has a cascading effect on all aspects of the party’s operations from outreach to fundraising.

So, it is not easy for a political party to fire any political functionaries like the companies because political functionaries don’t just perform a role but also serve as representatives of some or other interests.

In a political party, power is more informal and dynamic than in a corporation. Therefore, elements of a corporation such as hierarchy, discipline and accountability do not fit within a political party.

Corporations: Most private companies operate in a narrowly defined and apolitical space selling goods and services. Politics that deals with societal aspects is not part of the companies. Some sort of political judgment in the functioning of the corporation is exercised at the top level rather than employees.

A corporation is staffed by paid employees performing well-defined, non-overlapping roles with required professional skills for their works.

However, recent trends show that political parties are now being taken towards corporatization and professionalization.

What is the recent trend?

Political parties have now started to give political judgment from various positions which are different from the actual decision-making authority.

Chief Ministers are using the bureaucracy to bypass Ministers and political consultants to bypass the party organization. These are examples of professionalization of political parties.

However, instead of improving efficiency, this has resulted in further degradation of overall public purpose. 

Further. the reduction in political discretion from individuals has made them act like employees and less capable of negotiating the party’s internal power structures. This reduces the overall credibility of the political space.

Therefore, competence and accountability from political functionaries should be sought but not through the corporatization of political parties.


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