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Tarun Khaitan Killing a Constitution with a Thousand Cuts: The Incremental Fusion of Party and State in India

This paper presents a conceptual account of the accountability mechanisms that liberal democratic constitutions impose on the political executive, viz electoral accountability, institutional accountability and discursive accountability. While the political executive typically controls or is controlled by its parent political party, these accountability ensure a measure of separation between the state and the ruling party. The paper will further show how the Bharatiya Janata Party that came to power in India since 2014 has sought to erase the distinction between the party and the state by incrementally, but systemically, seeking to undermine or capture these accountability mechanisms. It has rationalised its agenda of fusing the party and the state by targeting its political opponents and independent discursive civil society institutions as ‘anti-national’, and state institutions as corrupt, inefficient or ineffective. The final section briefly identifies the possible route any reform agenda must undertake, including a move away from the first-past-the-post electoral system to one of preferential voting, a robust constitutional recognition of opposition rights, greater independence of and multi-partisan appointments for fourth branch institutions and a smaller docket of the Supreme Court that can focus on its role of constitutional defence.

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