New Delhi: Political parties draft their constitution very carefully. The challenge to leadership and other disputes are taken to the Election Commission and courts of law. For adjudication, both EC and courts rely on what has been laid down in the constitutions of the party under dispute.
Powers of a party president, thus, are meticulously spelt to avoid any contention or disputes. Parties even seek to define un-ambiguously who would be in command if the president were to resign or is not in a position to oversee the day-to-day working of the organisation.
In the Bahujan Samaj Party, for instance, the national vice-president is the undisputed number 2 in the party. In fact, the party constitution allows for only one vice-president. Earlier this week, BSP chief Mayawati anointed her brother Anand Kumar to the post.
A decade back, speaking at a rally in Lucknow, Mayawati had announced her successor would be from the ‘Jatav’ community. And most importantly, the chosen — she underscored — would not come from her immediate family.
Interestingly, for many years within and outside BSP circles, it was widely speculated that Raja Ram, a young party MP in Rajya Sabha, fitted the bill. Ram was also appointed BSP vice-president in the later years; a post held by Mayawati herself when Kanshi Ram was active in politics. Not many know about Raja Ram’s current status in the BSP.
Apart from lending political leadership to the party, the president is generally the authority to sign the Election Commission documents by way of which party symbols are allocated to candidates. The Rashtriya Janata Dal faced this problem in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls as party chief Lalu Prasad was serving term in the fodder scam.
The RJD found a way around this hurdle by nominating Lalu’s wife and former CM Rabri Devi as the signing authority for B-form, which is the legal document seeking allocation of party symbol to the candidate.
For the first time since its metamorphosis from Jan Sangh to the BJP, the current ruling party has a working president. This makes JP Nadda a clear number two in the organisational hierarchy.
An interesting situation evolved during NDA-I when the then party president Bangaru Laxman was accused of accepting bribes in a sting operation. As the controversy snowballed, Laxman called up Atal Bihari Vajpayee, offering to put in his papers. “Please send it to Jana ji” was the terse response from Vajpayee.
Jana Krishnamurthy was the senior-most general secretary of the party who would take charge of affairs till an alternative arrangement was made.
Laxman complied, Krishnamurthy worked as party chief in the interim till LK Advani’s Kamaraj plan in the BJP. Two senior ministers were pulled out of the government and sent back to the organisation to prepare for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Venkaiah Naidu thus became BJP president and Pramod Mahajan returned to party as general secretary.
The Congress, after the second consecutive defeat, is trying to find its feet and a successor to Rahul Gandhi who thus far has remained steadfast on his decision to quit as party chief. Earlier, Sonia Gandhi was elected as leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party, a post with powers to appoint leaders in both Houses of Parliament.
In the last one month, most of the decisions in absence of an acting president have been through signed communique by General Secretary in-charge of organisation K Venugopal.
In the CPM, general secretary is the top political post in the party echelons. The General Secretary is chosen for three years by the party Congress. If the general secretary resigns, the daily affairs of the party are conducted by the Politburo till the time 90-odd members of the central committee meet to elect a new general secretary.
The Samajwadi Party witnessed a prolonged internecine war within the family two years ago. The matters between Akhilesh Yadav and uncle Shivpal went to the Election Commission.
Politically and technically, Mulayam was the party president. The number two was not defined. The transfer of power to Akhilesh Yadav was thus planned meticulously. He was elected party president in a hurriedly called national convention at Lucknow on new year day in 2018. The papers were well in order. The resolutions signed and passed in media glare.
Interestingly, all along Mulayam Singh claimed to have stood by his brother Shivpal.
Akhilesh’s election was later challenged in the EC. The son won the case and leadership of the party, while the challenger in uncle Shivpal had to quit and form his own outfit.