The party member
23 January, 2008 Around the world the nature of membership to political parties seems to be divided into many categories, two of them broadly contrasting. In communist countries a party member seems to “submit” himself or herself to the party in his or her political as well as personal life. The member pays dues and obeys party instructions. In the west, membership seems to mean that the voter shares the ideology or political philosophy of a party and votes for the party but does not sign up or pay fees.
Then there are other supporters who lend their business and other infrastructure to help promote party candidates and party activities. In the west, it is common that high profile or wealthy supporters organize dinners where people pay large amounts to meet politicians informally. These are prominent people who, in some parts of the world, are suspected of contributing unknown and unacknowledged amounts of cash and other assets.In Bhutan, from a purely lay interpretation, a party member seems to mean the people who register as a party for two reasons: one to support the party with cash and other resources; the other to help organize and take part in party activities. We are talking about the members other than the political candidates themselves.
Our two parties, however, are recruiting membership beyond these interpretations. The network of tshogpas, meaning party workers, is becoming large and penetrative, in both urban and rural areas. And that invites speculation because many such members do not fit into the normal profile of a party member.
In the absence of party manifestos such a membership drive could take on a feudalistic approach where the loyalty of largely illiterate members could be traded off for patronage. In our case we know that, even when the manifestos are issued, they will not be widely read and understood.
That will have, and it is already visible, several undesirable consequences.
The electorate can be divided without any real political basis. Which could lead to many problems including regionalism as well as religious and ethnic division. If someone from one party does not purchase something he needs from a shop owned by a member of another party, both are losers.
A more immediate problem is that, if the populace is signed up in large numbers as party members, they are being deprived of the freedom of choice as voters. As members they are bound to the party and have no opportunity to understand the beauty of diversity that democracy represents.
In terms of party membership, therefore, our political parties must be urged to limit their membership drives to people who will have clear-cut responsibilities within the party. Let the average citizen be a voter who has been given the sacred responsibility to vote.
I am but a member of the human family
Source: Kuensel Editorial