Meaning and Types
olitical parties are voluntary associations or organised groups of individuals who share the same political views and who try to gain political power through constitutional means and who desire to work for promoting the national interest. There are four types of political parties in the modern democratic states, viz., (i) reactionary parties which cling to the old socio-economic and political institutions; (ii) conservative parties which believe in the status-quo; (iii) liberal parties which aim at reforming the existing institutions; and (iv) radical parties which aim at establishing a new order by overthrowing the existing institutions. In their classification of political parties on the basis of ideologies, the political scientists have placed the radical parties on the left and the liberal parties in the centre and reactionary and conservative parties on the right. In other words, they are described as the leftist parties, centrist parties and the rightist parties. 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.
There are three kinds of party systems in the world, viz., (i) one party system in which only one ruling party exists and no opposition is permitted, as for example, in the former communist countries like the USSR and other East European countries; (ii) two-party system in which two major parties exists, as for example, in USA and Britain1; and (iii) multi-party system in which there are a number of political parties leading to the formation of coalition governments, as for example, in France, Switzerland and Italy.
Party System in India
The Indian party system has the following characteristic 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 fact, India has the largest number of political parties in the world. On the eve of sixteenth Lok Sabha general elections (2014), there were 6 national parties, 47 states parties and 1593 registered – unrecognised parties in the country2. Further, 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 phenomena.
One-Dominant Party System
In spite of the multiparty system, the political scene in India was dominated for a long period by the Congress. Hence, Rajni Kothari, an eminent political analyst, preferred to call the Indian party system as ‘one party dominance system’ or the ‘Congress system’3. 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.
Lack of Clear Ideology
Except the BJP and the two communist parties (CPI and CPM), all other parties do not have a clear-cut ideology. They (i.e., all other parties) are ideologically closer to each other. They have a close resemblance in their policies and programmes. Almost every party advocates democracy, secularism, socialism and Gandhism. More than this, every party, including the so-called ideological parties, is guided by only one consideration—power capture. Thus, politics has become issue-based rather than the ideology and pragmatism has replaced the commitment to the principles.
Quite often, the parties are organised around an 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. Similarly, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and TDP in Andhra Pradesh got identified with MG Ramachandran and NT Rama Rao respectively. Interestingly, several parties bear the name of their leader like Biju Janata Dal, Lok Dal (A), Congress (I) and so on. Hence, it is said that “there are political personalities rather than political parties in India”.
Based on Traditional Factors
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.
Emergence of Regional Parties
Another significant feature of the Indian party system is the emergence of a large number of regional parties and their growing role. They have become the ruling parties 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. In the beginning, they were confined to the regional politics only. But, of late, they have come to play a significant role in the national politics due to coalition governments at the Centre. In the 1984 elections, the TDP emerged as the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
Factions and Defections
Factionalism, defections, splits, mergers, fragmentation, 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. The practice of defections gained greater currency after the fourth general elections (1967). This phenomenon caused political instability both at the Centre and in the states and led to disintegration of the parties. Thus, there are two Janata Dals, two TDPs, two DMKs, two Communist Parties, two Congress, three Akali Dals, three Muslim Leagues and so on.
Lack of Effective Opposition
An effective Opposition is very essential for the successful operation of the parliamentary democracy prevalent in India. It checks the autocratic tendencies of the ruling party and provides an alternative government. However, in the last 50 years, an effective, strong, organised and viable national Opposition could never emerge except in flashes. The Opposition parties have no unity and very often adopt mutually conflicting positions with respect to the ruling party. They have failed to play a constructive role in the functioning of the body politic and in the process of nation building.
Recognition of National and State Parties
The Election Commission registers political parties for the purpose of elections and grants them recognition as national or state parties on the basis of their poll performance. The other parties are simply declared as registered-unrecognised parties.
The recognition granted by the Commission to the parties determines their right to certain privileges like allocation of the party symbols, provision of time for political broadcasts on the state-owned television and radio stations and access to electoral rolls.
Further, the recognized parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination. Also, these parties are allowed to have forty “star campaigners” during the time of elections and the registered–unrecognized parties are allowed to have twenty “star campaigners”. The travel expenses of these star campaigners are not included in the election expenditure of the candidates of their 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, on the other hand, can select a symbol from a list of free symbols. In other words, the Commission specifies certain symbols as ‘reserved symbols’ which are meant for the candidates set up by the recognised parties and others as ‘free symbols’ which are meant for other candidates.
Conditions for Recognition as a National Party
At present (2016), a party is recognised as a national party if any of the following conditions is fulfilled4:
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 addition, 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 (2016), a party is recognised as a state party in a state if any of the following conditions is fulfilled5:
1. If it secures six per cent of the valid votes polled in the state at a general election to the legislative assembly of the state concerned; 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.
The number of recognised parties keeps on changing on the basis of their performance in the general elections. On the eve of the sixteenth Lok Sabha general elections(2014), there were 6 national parties, 47 state parties and 1593 registered-unrecognised parties in the country6. The national parties and state parties are also known as all-India parties and regional parties respectively.
Table 67.1 Recognised National Parties and State Parties (First to Sixteenth General Elections)
|General Elections (Year)||Number of National Parties||Number of State Parties|
|Sl.No.||Name of the Party (Abbreviation)||Symbol Reserved|
|1.||Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)||Elephant*|
|2.||Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)||Lotus|
|3.||Communist Party of India (CPI)||Ears of Corn and Sickle|
|4.||Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM)||Hammer, Sickle and Star|
|5.||Indian National Congress (INC)||Hand|
|6.||Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)||Clock|
|7.||All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)||Flowers and Grass|
* – In all States / U.T.s except in Assam, where its candidates will have to choose a symbol out of the list of free symbols specified by the Election Commission.
Table 67.3 Recognised State Parties and their Symbols (2016)
|Sl. No.||Name of the State / Union Territory||Name of the State Party (Abbreviation)||Symbol Reserved|
|1.||Andhra Pradesh||1. Telugu Desam (TDP)||Bicycle|
|2. Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP)||Ceiling Fan|
|2.||Arunachal Pradesh||People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA)||Maize|
|3.||Assam||1. All India United Democratic Front (AUDF)||Lock & Key|
|2. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)||Elephant|
|3. Bodoland People’s Front (BPF)||Nangol|
|4.||Bihar||1. Janata Dal (United) (JD(U))||Arrow|
|2. Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP)||Bungalow|
|3. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)||Hurricane Lamp|
|4. Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP)||Ceiling Fan|
|5.||Goa||Maharashtrawadi Gomantak (MAG)||Lion|
|6.||Haryana||1. Haryana Janhit Congress (BL) (HJC(BL))||Tractor|
|2. Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)||Spectacles|
|7.||Jammu & Kashmir||1. Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC)||Plough|
|2. Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP)||Bicycle|
|3. Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (JKPDP)||Ink Pot & Pen|
|8.||Jharkhand||1. All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU)||Banana|
|2. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)||Bow & Arrow|
|3. Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) (JVM(P))||Comb|
|4. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)||Hurricane Lamp|
|9.||Karnataka||Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S))||A Lady Farmer carrying Paddy on her head|
|10.||Kerala||1. Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S))||A Lady Farmer carrying Paddy on her head|
|2. Kerala Congress (M) (KEC(M))||Two Leaves|
|3. Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)||Ladder|
|4. Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP)||Spade & Stoker|
|11.||Maharashtra||1. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)||Railway Engine|
|2. Shiv Sena (SHS)||Bow and Arrow|
|12.||Manipur||1. Naga People’s Front (NPF)||Cock|
|2. People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA)||Crown|
|13.||Meghalaya||1. United Democratic Party (UDP)||Drum|
|2. Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP)||Lion|
|3. National People’s Party (NPP)||Book|
|14.||Mizoram||1. Mizo National Front (MNF)||Star|
|2. Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC)||Electric Bulb|
|3. Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP)||Sun (without rays)|
|15.||Nagaland||Naga People’s Front (NPF)||Cock|
|16.||N.C.T. of Delhi||Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)||Broom|
|17.||Odisha||Biju Janata Dal (BJD)||Conch|
|18.||Puducherry||1. All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) or (AIADMK)||Two Leaves|
|2. All India N.R. Congress (AINRC)||Jug|
|3. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)||Rising Sun|
|4. Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK)||Mango|
|19.||Punjab||1. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)||Scales|
|2. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)||Broom|
|20.||Sikkim||1. Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF)||Umbrella|
|2. Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM)||Table Lamp|
|21.||Tamil Nadu||1. All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) or (AIADMK)||Two leaves|
|2. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)||Rising Sun|
|3. Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK)||Nagara|
|22.||Telangana||1. All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)||Kite|
|2. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)||Car|
|3. Telugu Desam (TDP)||Bicycle|
|4. Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP)||Ceiling Fan|
|23.||Uttar Pradesh||1. Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD)||Hand Pump|
|2. Samajwadi Party (SP)||Bicycle|
|24.||West Bengal||1. All India Forward Bloc (AIFB)||Lion|
|2. Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP)||Spade & Stoker|
|Sl. No.||Name of the Party (Abbreviation)||Year of Formation|
|1.||Indian National Congress (INC)||1885|
|2.||Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)||1920|
|3.||Communist Party of India (CPI)||1925|
|4.||Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC)||1939|
|5.||All India Forward Bloc (AIFB)||1939|
|6.||Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP)||1940|
|7.||Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)||1948|
|8.||Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)||1949|
|9.||Mizo National Front (MNF)||1961|
|10.||Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MAG)||1963|
|11.||Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM)||1964|
|12.||Shiv Sena (SHS)||1966|
|13.||Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC)||1972|
|14.||Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)||1972|
|15.||All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)||1972|
|16.||Kerala Congress (M) (KEC (M))||1979|
|17.||Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)||1980|
|18.||Telugu Desam Party (TDP)||1982|
|19.||Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)||1984|
|20.||Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)||1985|
|21.||People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA)||1987|
|22.||Samajwadi Party (SP)||1992|
|23.||Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF)||1993|
|24.||Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD)||1996|
|25.||Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP)||1997|
|26.||Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)||1997|
|27.||Biju Janata Dal (BJD)||1997|
|28.||All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)||1998|
|29.||Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)||1998|
|30.||Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP)||1999|
|31.||Janata Dal (United) (JD (U))||1999|
|32.||Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S))||1999|
|33.||Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)||1999|
|34.||Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP)||2000|
|35.||Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)||2001|
|36.||Naga People’s Front (NPF)||2002|
|37.||All India United Democratic Front (AUDF)||2004|
|38.||Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK)||2005|
|39.||Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)||2006|
|40.||Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) (JVM – P)||2006|
|41.||Haryana Janhit Congress (BL) (HJC – BL)||2007|
|42.||Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP)||2011|
|43.||All India N.R. Congress (AINRC)||2011|
|44.||Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)||2012|
|45.||National People’s Party (NPP)||2013|
|46.||Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP)||2013|
|47.||Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM)||2013|
Note:Adopted from J. C. Johari: Indian Government and Politics, Vishal, 13th Edition (2001), P. 607.