• A political party is a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in government. They agree on some policies and programmes for society to promote collective good.
• Political parties reflect fundamental political divisions in society.
• A political party has three components: leaders, active members, and followers.
Functions of Political Parties
• Parties contest elections. In most democracies, elections are fought mainly among candidates put up by political parties.
• Political parties put forward different policies and programmes, and voters choose from them.
• Political parties play a decisive role in making laws for a country. Formally, laws are debated and passed in legislature. But since most of members belong to a party, they go by direction of party leadership, irrespective of their personal opinions.
• Political parties form and run governments.
• Those parties that lose in elections play role of opposition to parties in power, by voicing different views and criticising government for its failures or wrong policies.
• Political parties provide access to people to government machinery and welfare schemes implemented by governments.
Number of Political Parties
• In a democracy, any group of citizens is free to form a political party.
• In some countries, only one party is allowed to control and run government. These are known as one-party systems, for example, China.
• Any democratic system must allow at least two parties to compete in elections and provide a fair chance for competing parties to come to power.
• In some countries, power usually switches between two main parties. There may be a few more parties that run for office and win a few seats in national legislatures. But only two of major parties have a real chance of getting enough votes to form a government. A system with two parties is called a two-party system. Two-party systems can be seen in United States and United Kingdom.
• If several parties compete for power, and more than two parties have a reasonable chance of coming to power either on their own strength or in alliance with others, we call it a multiparty system. Thus, in India, we have a multiparty system.
• In a multi-party system, government is formed by various parties coming together in a coalition. When several parties in a multi-party system join hands to contest elections and win power, it is known as an alliance or a front.
• multiparty system often appears very messy and leads to political instability. At same time, this system allows a variety of interests and opinions to enjoy political representation.
• India has evolved a multiparty system because social and geographical diversity in such a large country is not easily absorbed by two or even three parties.
• Every party in country has to register with Election Commission. Commission treats all parties equally, it offers some special facilities to large and established parties. These parties are given a unique symbol.
• Parties that get this privilege and some other special facilities are ‘recognised’ by Election Commission for this purpose. That is why these parties are called, ‘recognised political parties.’
• Election Commission has laid down detailed criteria of proportion of votes and seats that a party must get to be a recognised party.
• A party that secures at least six percent of total votes in an election to Legislative Assembly of a State and wins at least two seats is recognised as a state party.
• A party that secures at least six percent of total votes in Lok Sabha elections or Assembly elections in four States and wins at least four seats in Lok Sabha is recognised as a national party.
• recognised national parties in India are:
Bahujan Samaj Party [BSP]
• It was made in 1984, and Kanshi Ram was in charge. It wants to represent Bahujan samaj, which is made up of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, and religious minorities, and get them power. This is based on what Sahu Maharaj, Mahatma Phule, Periyar Ramaswami Naicker, and Babasaheb Ambedkar said and did. It stands for cause of protecting rights and welfare of Dalits and other people who have been mistreated. Its main base is in state of Uttar Pradesh, and it has a strong presence in states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, and Punjab that are close by.
All India Trinamool Congress [AITC]
• It was launched on 1 January 1998 under leadership of Mamata Banerjee. It was recognised as a national party in 2016.
• party’s symbol is flowers and grass. This is committed to secularism and federalism. It has been in power in West Bengal since 2011. It has a presence in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur & Tripura.
Bhartiya Janata Party [BJP]
• It was founded in 1980 by reviving erstwhile Bhartiya Jana Sangh, formed by Syama Prasad Mukherjee in 1951. It wants to build a strong and modern India by drawing inspiration from India’s ancient culture and values; and Deendayal Upadhyaya’s ideas of integral humanism and Antyodaya.
• Cultural nationalism [or ‘Hindutva’] is an important element in its conception of Indian nationhood and politics. It wants full territorial and political integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India, a uniform civil code for all people living in country irrespective of religion, and a ban on religious conversions. Its support base increased substantially in 1990s.
Indian National Congress [INC]
• This is popularly called Congress Party. This is one of oldest parties in world. It was founded in 1885 and has experienced many splits. It has played a dominant role in Indian politics at national and state level for several decades after India’s Independence.
• Under leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, party sought to build a modern secular democratic republic in India.
• A Centrist party [neither rightist nor leftist] in its ideological orientation, party espouses secularism and welfare of weaker sections and minorities.
Communist Party of India [CPI]
• It was formed in 1925. It believes in MarxismLeninism, secularism and democracy. It opposed forces of secessionism and communalism. It accepts parliamentary democracy as a means of promoting interests of working class, farmers & poor. It became weak after split in party in 1964 that led to formation of CPI[M]. It has a significant presence in states of Kerala, West Bengal, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Its support base had gradually declined over years.
Communist Party of India – Marxist [CPI-M]
• It was founded in 1964. It believes in MarxismLeninism. It supports socialism, secularism and democracy and opposes imperialism and communalism. It accepts democratic elections as a useful and helpful means for securing objective of socio-economic justice in India.
Nationalist Congress Party [NCP]
• It was formed in 1999 following a split in Congress party. It espouses democracy, Gandhian secularism, equity, social justice and federalism.