Whether Sanders or Trump, US elections value individuals over parties; India still miles behind

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The US presidential election this year is one of the most unpredictable in generations. After Ted Cruz's victory in Iowa Caucus on February 2, it was Donald Trump's turn to avenge the defeat in New Hampsire Primary where he was a distant first with over 34 per cent of vote share.

The same was visible in the Democratic camp as well as the "revolutionary" Bernie Sanders decisively beat former secretary of state Hillary Clinton (60 per cent to 39 per cent). Sanders came a close second to Hillary in Iowa, similar to the the script that unfolded in the Republican camp.


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The scenario suggests how disgusted the common Americans are with the prevailing political situation in the US and they are not hesitant to back men with drastic ideologies, be it on the Left or right. Both the dominant parties have been, as a result, equally split making it difficult for the experts to predict who will ultimately prevail as the nominated candidate to contest as Barack Obama's successor.

The contest will now head to Nevada and South Carolina. The contest is more interesting on the Republican side as a large number of candidates still survive in the race which makes it more challenging to predict a definite outcome. Veterans and experts on both side have expressed surprise over the way the run-up to this year's presidential election has turned out so far.

In US, it's many voices in the same party; something not seen in India

However, despite the uncertainty, one can still conclude that in the American style of democracy, it is the individuals who dominate over the parties. A number of individuals are contesting for the same party's nomination but have conflicting ideologies and stand. Be it Bernie Sanders versus Hillary Clinton in the Democratic camp or Donald Trump versus Ted Cruz in the Republican camp, it's the individual identity which is more significant that any collective stand.

In India, individual charisma is admired but it is the most influential who ultimately dominates

Just compare it with India. Here, individualism is often sacrificed at the altar of the collective/group identities called parties. True, the 2014 parliamentary election in the country was termed to be more presidential in nature but that was all because of the phenomenal rise of Narendra Modi in the BJP. But on the other side, Modi's overwhelming presence has reduced the entire saffron outfit to a one-man army, something which again can't be termed a suitable case for individualism.

The same goes for other parties as well. Indians have always admired individuals' charisma since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru but there is no tradition of contrasting individual thoughts co-existing in the same party, especially in the post-Nehru years.

Party bosses believe in "My way or highway" and differing voices have little place

Starting from the authoritatrian tendencies of Indira Gandhi, most or all political parties in India today loyally follow their supremos' "My way of highway" mantra. A party in India is essentially the fiefdom of its owner-leader and any differing voice there is destined to perish.

BJP & AAP had a different pattern to begin with but now they are one-man armies

The BJP and then the Aam Aadmi Party started as parties with a different pattern where one single individual never dominated in the beginning. But the onset of the Modi era in the BJP and the emergence of Arvind Kejriwal as the tallest leader in the AAP have also reduced the gap between these two parties and others drastically. The only exception is the Left which is more organisation-based but it is not that strong in national politics, may be because they lack even that one dominating individual.

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