Political Parties in India

You might have heard the opposition parties holding summit in Bengaluru wherein 26 opposition political parties of India unite against BJP’s 38-party NDA in bid to win Lok Sabha elections 2024. Similar instances can be observed in India quite frequently. Here are the facts you must know about political parties in India.

Political parties…

Political parties are voluntary associations or organised groups of individuals who share the same political views and try to gain political power through constitutional means and who desire to work for promoting the national interest. India has the largest number of political parties in the world. On the eve of 17th Lok Sabha general elections (2019), there were 7 national parties, 52 state parties and 2354 registered unrecognised parties in the country. India has all categories of parties-left parties, centrist parties, right parties, communal parties, non- communal parties and so on. Consequently, the hung Parliaments, hung assemblies and coalition governments have become a common phenomenon in India.


Types of political parties

There are four types of political parties in the modern democratic states-

  1. Reactionary parties which cling to the old socio-economic and political institutions (right);
  2. Conservative parties which believe in the status-quo (right);
  3. Liberal parties which aim at reforming the existing institutions (centre);
  4. Radical parties which aim at establishing a new order by overthrowing the existing institutions.

In India, the CPI and CPM are the examples of leftist parties, the Congress of centrist parties and the BJP is an example of rightist parties.

Three kinds of party systems in the world

(i) One party system in which only one ruling party exists and no opposition is permitted. For example, former communist countries like the USSR and other East European countries;
(ii) Two-party system in which two major parties exists. For example, in USA and Britain
(iii) Multi-party system in which there are a number of political parties leading to the formation of coalition governments, For example India, France, Switzerland and Italy.

Party system in India

The Indian party system is Multi-Party System having following features:

  • The continental size of the country, the diversified character of Indian society, the adoption of universal adult franchise, the peculiar type of political process, and other factors have given rise to a large number of political parties.
  • In spite of the multiparty system, the political scene in India was dominated for a long period by the Congress.The dominant position enjoyed by the Congress has been declining since 1967 with the rise of regional parties and other national parties like Janata (1977), Janata Dal (1989) and the BJP (1991) leading to the development of a competitive multi-party system. At present, Indian politics is dominated by Bhartiya Janta Party.
  • Except the BJP and the two communist parties (CPI and CPM), all other parties do not have a clear-cut ideology. All other parties) are ideologically closer to each other. Almost every party advocates democracy, secularism, socialism and Gandhism.
    Therefore, Indian politics has become issue- based rather than the ideology and pragmatism has replaced the commitment to the principles.
  • There is a personality cult as the parties are organised around one eminent leader who becomes more important than the party and its ideology. Parties are known by their leaders rather than by their manifesto. It is a fact that the popularity of the Congress was mainly due to the leadership of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. BJP is swapping all other parties on the name of Narendra Modi. Hence, it is said that "there are political personalities rather than political parties in India".
  • In the western countries, the political parties are formed on the basis of socio-economic and political programme. On the other hand, a large number of parties in India are formed on the basis of religion, caste, language, culture, race and so on. For example, Shiv Sena, Muslim League, Hindu Maha Sabha, Akali Dal, Muslim Majlis, Bahujan Samaj Party, Republican Party of India, Gorkha League and so on. These parties work for the promotion of communal and sectional interests and thereby undermine the general public interest.
  • Indian Political party system is the emergence of a large number of regional parties and their growing role. They have become the ruling par ties in various states like BJD in Orissa, DMK or AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Akali Dal in Punjab, AGP in Assam, National Conference in J&K, JD(U) in Bihar and so on.
  • Factionalism, defections, splits, mergers, frag mentation, polarisation and so on have been an important aspect of the functioning of political parties in India. Lust for power and material considerations have made the politicians to leave their party and join another party or start a new party. Thus, there are two Janata Dals, two TDPs, two DMKS, two Communist Parties, two Congress, three Akali Dals, three Muslim Leagues and so on. Recently, Ajit Pawar left NCP and joined BJP-sena government..
  • Political parties have failed to play a constructive role in the functioning of the body politics and in the process of nation building. In the last 50 years, an effective, strong, organised and viable national opposition could never emerge except in flashes.

Recognition of Political Parties:

Election Commission grants them recognition on the basis of their poll performance as –
• National parties or
• State parties.
The other parties are simply declared as registered- unrecognised parties.

Symbols of Parties:

• Every national party is allotted a symbol exclusively reserved for its use throughout the country.
• Similarly, every state party is allotted a symbol exclusively reserved for its use in the state or states in which it is so recognised.
• A registered-unrecognised party can select a symbol from a list of free symbols.

List of National Parties in India:

  1. Indian National Congress (INC)
  2. Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP)
  3. Communist Party of India (CPI)
  4. Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI)
  5. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)
  6. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
  7. All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)
  8. National People’s Party (NPP)

Conditions for recognition as a National Party:

At present (2019), a party is recognised as a national party if any of the following conditions is fulfilled":
1. If it secures six per cent of valid votes polled in any four or more states at a general election to the Lok Sabha or to the legislative assembly; and, in addi- tion, it wins four seats in the Lok Sabha from any state or states; or
2. If it wins two per cent of seats in the Lok Sabha at a general election; and these candidates are elected from three states; or
3. If it is recognised as a state party in four states.

Conditions for Recognition as a State Party

At present (2019), a party is recognised as a state party in a state if any of the following conditions is fulfilled-
1. If it secures 6% of the valid votes polled in the state at a general election to the legislative assembly of the state con- cerned; and, in addition, it wins 2 seats in the assembly of the state concerned; or
2. If it secures six per cent of the valid votes polled in the state at a general election to the Lok Sabha from the state concerned; and, in addition, it wins 1 seat in the Lok Sabha from the state concerned; or
3. If it wins three per cent of seats in the legislative assembly at a general election to the legislative assembly of the state concerned or 3 seats in the assembly, whichever is more; or
4. If it wins 1 seat in the Lok Sabha for every 25 seats or any fraction thereof allotted to the state at a general election to the Lok Sabha from the state concerned; or
5. If it secures eight per cent of the total valid votes polled in the state at a General Election to the Lok Sabha from the state or to the legislative assembly of the state. This condition was added in 2011..


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