Political Parties in India

Role of Political Parties in India

Political Advertising in India: A Tale of Communication, Competition &  Coercion


Political parties are non-profit organizations or organized groups of people who have similar political beliefs, attempt to acquireolitical power by constitutional means, and want to work for the common good.

In modern democratic states, there are four types of political parties: (I) reactionary parties that cling to old socioeconomic and political institutions; (ii) conservative parties that believe in the status quo; (iii) liberal parties that seek to reform existing institutions; and (iv) radical parties that seek to establish a new order by overthrowing existing institutions. Political scientists have placed radical parties on the left, liberal parties in the middle, and reactionary and conservative parties on the right in their classification of political parties based on ideologies.

In other terms, they are divided into three groups: leftists, centrists, and rightists. Leftist parties in India include the CPI and CPM, centrist parties include the Congress, and rightist groups include the BJP.

There are three types of party systems in the world: I one-party systems, in which only one ruling party exists and no opposition is permitted, as in former communist countries such as the USSR and other East European countries; (ii) two-party systems, in which two major parties exist, as in the United States and the United Kingdom; and (iii) multi-party systems, in which a number of political parties exist and coalition governments are formed, as in the United States and the United Kingdom.

India’s Political System
The following are characteristics of the Indian party system:

Multi-Party System

A significant number of political parties have sprung out as a result of the country’s continental size, the diverse nature of Indian society, the adoption of universal adult franchise, the unique style of political process, and other considerations. India, in reality, has the world’s biggest number of political parties.

There were 7 national parties, 52 state parties, and 2354 registered – unrecognised parties in the country on the eve of the seventeenth Lok Sabha general elections (2019). Furthermore, India has a diverse range of political parties, including left, centrist, and right-wing parties, as well as communal and non-communal parties. As a result, hung legislatures, hung assemblies, and coalition governments have become commonplace.

One-Dominant Party System

Despite the multiparty system, the Congress dominated the Indian political scene for a long time. As a result, noted political analyst Rajni Kothari prefers to refer to the Indian party system as the ‘one-party domination system’ or the ‘Congress system.’ With the advent of regional parties and other national parties like Janata Dal (1989) and the BJP (1991), the Congress’s dominant position has been eroding since 1967, resulting in the establishment of a competitive multi-party system.

lack of Clear Ideology.

All other parties, with the exception of the BJP and the two communist parties (CPI and CPM), lack a distinct philosophy. They (i.e., all other political parties) are ideologically similar. Their policies and programs bear a striking resemblance. Almost all political parties support democracy, secularism, socialism, and Gandhianism. Furthermore, every political party, including so-called ideological ones, is guided by only one factor: power grab. As a result, rather than being founded on philosophy, politics has become issue-driven, and pragmatism has replaced adherence to ideas.

Cult of Personality

Frequently, political parties are organized around a prominent leader who comes to dominate the party and its ideas. Rather than their program, parties are recognized for their leaders. It is undeniable that Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership contributed significantly to the Congress’ popularity. Similarly, MG Ramachandran and NT Rama Rao became synonymous with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the TDP in Andhra Pradesh, respectively. Several parties, such as the Biju Janata Dal, Lok Dal (A), Congress (I), and others, hold the name of their leader. As a result, it is argued that “political individuals exist in India rather than political parties.”

Based on Traditional Factors

Political parties in Western countries are created on the basis of socioeconomic and political programs. In India, however, a huge number of parties are founded based on religion, caste, language, culture, race, and other factors. Shiv Sena, Muslim League, Hindu Maha Sabha, Akali Dal, Muslim Majlis, Bahujan Samaj Party, Republican Party of India, Gorkha League, and so on are examples of political parties. These parties aim to advance community and sectional interests at the expense of the general public good.

Emergence of Regional Parties

The rise of a large number of regional parties, as well as their expanding prominence, is another notable element of the Indian party system. They have become the ruling parties in a number of states, including Orissa’s BJD, Tamil Nadu’s DMK or AIADMK, Punjab’s Akali Dal, Assam’s AGP, J&K’s National Conference, and Bihar’s JD(U). They were once restricted to regional politics alone. However, due to coalition governments at the center, they have recently begun to play a prominent role in national politics. The TDP was elected as the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha in the 1984 elections.

Factions and Defections 

Factionalism, defections, splits, mergers, fragmentation, polarization, and other factors have all played a role in the functioning of Indian political parties. Politicians have left their party to join another or form a new one because of their desire for power and material motives. After the fourth general elections in 1967, the practice of defections became more popular. This phenomena resulted in political instability at the federal level and in the states, as well as party breakup. Two Janata Dals, two TDPs, two DMKs, two Communist Parties, two Congresses, three Akali Dals, three Muslim Leagues, and so on.

Insufficient Effective Opposition

An effective Opposition is critical to the efficient operation of India’s parliamentary system. It checks the ruling party’s dictatorial tendencies and provides an alternative government. In the last 50 years, however, an effective, strong, organized, and viable national opposition has only appeared in flashes. The opposition parties are not united, and their stances on the ruling party are frequently contradictory. They have failed to contribute positively to the operation of the political system and the process of nation-building.

National and State Parties are Recognized

The Election Commission registers political parties for election purposes and recognizes them as national or state parties based on their poll results. The other parties are simply labeled as “registered-unrecognized.”

The parties’ right to certain privileges, including as the allocation of party insignia, time for political broadcasts on state-owned television and radio stations, and access to electoral rolls, is determined by the Commission’s recognition of them.

Furthermore, only one proposer is required for the nomination to be filed by recognized parties. Additionally, during election season, these parties are allowed to have forty “star campaigners,” whereas registered-unrecognized parties are allowed to have twenty. The travel expenses of these high-profile campaigners are not included in the campaign spending of their parties’ candidates.

Every national party is given a symbol that is exclusive for their usage across the country. Similarly, each state party is given a symbol that is only to be used in the state or states where it is recognized. A registered-unrecognized party, on the other hand, has the option of choosing a symbol from a list of available symbols. In other words, the Commission designates some symbols as “reserved symbols” for candidates nominated by recognized parties, while others are designated as “free symbols” for all other candidates.

Conditions for Recognition as a National Party

Currently (2019), a party is recognized as a national party if one or more of the following criteria are met:
1. If it wins 6% of valid votes in any four or more states in a general election to the Lok Sabha or legislative assembly; and, in addition, it wins four Lok Sabha seats from any state or states; or 2. If it wins 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha in a general election; and these candidates are elected from three states; or 3. If it is recognized as a state paternity.

Conditions for Recognition as a State Party

A party is recognized as a state party in a state at the moment (2019) if one or more of the following conditions are met:
1. If it receives 6% of the valid votes cast in the state at a general election for the legislative assembly of the state concerned, and it also obtains two seats in the assembly of the state concerned; or
2. If it gets 6% of the valid votes cast in the state in a general election to the Lok Sabha from the state in question; and it also wins one Lok Sabha seat from the state in question; or
3. If it wins 3% of seats in the legislative assembly of the state concerned in a general election, or 3 seats in the assembly, whichever is higher; or

4. If it wins 1 Lok Sabha seat for every 25 seats or fraction thereof allotted to the state in a general election to the Lok Sabha from the state concerned; or 5. If it wins 8% of the total valid votes cast in the state in a general election to the Lok Sabha from the state or to the state’s legislative assembly. In 2011, this criterion was added.

The number of recognized parties fluctuates depending on how well they performed in general elections. There were 7 national parties, 52 state parties, and 2354 registered-unrecognized parties in the country on the eve of the seventeenth Lok Sabha general elections (2019). All-India parties and regional parties are terms used to describe national and state parties, respectively.


Recognised National Parties and State Parties

General Elections (Year) Number of National Parties Number of State Parties
First (1952) 14 39
Second (1957) 4 11
Third (1962) 6 11
Fourth (1967) 7 14
Fifth (1971) 8 17
Sixth (1977) 5 15
Seventh (1980) 6 19
Eighth (1984) 7 19
Ninth (1989) 8 20
Tenth (1991) 9 28
Eleventh (1996) 8 30
Twelfth (1998) 7 30
Thirteenth (1999) 7 40
Fourteenth (2004) 6 36
Fifteenth (2009) 7 40
Sixteenth (2014) 6 47
Seventeenth (2019) 7 52

Recognised National Parties and their Symbols (2019)

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
8. National People’s Party (NPP) Book

*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.

 Recognised State Parties and their Symbols (2019)

Sl. No. Name of the State / Union Territory Name of the State Party (Abbreviation) Symbol Reserved
1. Andhra Pradesh 1. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS ) Car
2. Telugu Desam (TDP) Bicycle
3. Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) Ceiling Fan
2. Arunachal Pradesh 1. People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) Maize
2. Janata Dal (United) (JD(U) ) Arrow
3. Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S) ) A Lady farmer carrying Paddy on her head
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. Chhattisgarh Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) Farmer Ploughing (within square)
6. Goa 1. Maharashtrawadi Gomantak (MAG) Lion
2. Goa Forward Party (GFP) Coconut
7. Haryana Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) Spectacles
8. 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
9. 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
10. Karnataka Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S) ) A Lady Farmer carrying Paddy on her head
11. 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
12. Maharashtra 1. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) Railway Engine
2. Shiv Sena (SHS) Bow and Arrow
13. Manipur 1. Naga People’s Front (NPF) Cock
2. People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) Crown
14. Meghalaya 1. United Democratic Party (UDP) Drum
2. Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) Lion
3. People’s Democratic Front (PDF) Candles
15. Mizoram 1. Mizo National Front (MNF) Star
2. Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) Electric Bulb
3. Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) Sun (without rays)
16. Nagaland 1. Naga People’s Front (NPF) Cock
2. Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) Globe
17. N.C.T. of Delhi Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Broom
18. Odisha Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Conch
19. 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
20. Punjab 1. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Scales
2. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Broom
21. Rajasthan Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) Bottle
22. Sikkim 1. Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) Umbrella
2. Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) Table Lamp
23. 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
24. 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
25. Tripura Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) Dao
26. Uttar Pradesh 1. Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Hand Pump
2. Samajwadi Party (SP) Bicycle
27. West Bengal 1. All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) Lion
2. Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) Spade & Stoker

Formation of Political Parties (Chronological Order)

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. Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) 2009
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
48. Goa Forward Party (GFP) 2016
49. Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) 2016
50. People’s Democratic Front (PDF) 2017
51. National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) 2018
52. Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) 2018

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