Home   »   Indian Polity   »   Party System in India

Party System in India, Feature, Importance and Function

Political parties are the cornerstone of democratic governance, serving as vehicles for political participation, representation, and governance. They are voluntary associations or organized groups of individuals who share similar political views and aspire to influence government policies and gain political power through constitutional means. In modern democratic states, political parties come in various forms and serve different ideological and organizational purposes. Know the definition, types, characteristics, and party systems prevalent in contemporary politics in this article.

Party System in India

A political party is a collection of people who band together to advance a specific agenda and work to use legal means to take control of the government to carry out that programme. In the current democratic era, the power struggle is open and not veiled. Political parties now have a distinct relevance as a result. Political parties ‘ responsibilities include election preparation, political information dissemination, campaigning, and legislator election.

Characteristic Description
Multi-Party System India has a diverse array of political parties representing various ideologies and interests.
One-Dominant Party Systems Historically, the Indian National Congress dominated politics, but its influence has waned.
Lack of Clear Ideology Many parties lack distinct ideological positions, with pragmatism often guiding their actions.
Personality Cult Parties often revolve around charismatic leaders who wield significant influence.
Emergence of Regional Parties Regional parties have gained prominence, representing state-specific interests and identities.
Factionalism and Defections Factionalism, defections, and party splits are common, contributing to political instability.
Lack of Effective Opposition Internal divisions and conflicting agendas hinder the ability of opposition parties to unite.

Definition and Types of Political Parties

Political parties are organized groups of individuals with shared political ideologies and objectives. They strive to gain political power through elections and influence government policies to align with their beliefs. There are four main types of political parties:

  1. Reactionary Parties: These parties advocate for the preservation of traditional socio-economic and political institutions. They resist change and often seek to revert to previous societal norms and values.
  2. Conservative Parties: Conservative parties support the maintenance of the status quo or gradual changes in society and governance. They prioritize stability, traditional values, and incremental reforms.
  3. Liberal Parties: Liberal parties aim to promote individual freedoms, equality, and progressive social reforms. They advocate for civil liberties, social justice, and the expansion of democratic rights.
  4. Radical Parties: Radical parties seek to fundamentally transform existing societal structures and institutions. They advocate for revolutionary changes and may pursue the overthrow of established systems.

Ideological Classification

Political parties are also classified based on their ideological positions. Traditionally, political scientists have placed parties on a spectrum ranging from left to right:

  • Leftist Parties: These parties advocate for social equality, economic redistribution, and government intervention in addressing social and economic disparities. Examples include socialist and communist parties.
  • Centrist Parties: Centrist parties occupy a moderate position on the political spectrum, combining elements of both left and right-wing ideologies. They often prioritize pragmatic solutions and compromise.
  • Rightist Parties: Rightist parties uphold conservative values, free-market principles, and limited government intervention. They prioritize individual liberties, free enterprise, and traditional social values.

Party system in India: History

The history of the party system in India is a rich tapestry woven with diverse political ideologies, regional dynamics, and sociocultural factors. Let’s explore the evolution of India’s party system over time:

Period Key Features
Pre-Independence Era
  • Indian National Congress (INC) founded in 1885.
  • Advocated for self-rule and social reforms.
Post-Independence (1947-67)
  • Congress dominance at national and state levels.
  • Implemented socialist economic policies.
Emergence of Opposition (1967-89)
  • Rise of regional parties and fragmentation of Congress dominance.
  • Janata Party’s brief stint in power (1977-80).
Coalition Politics (1990s)
  • Era of coalition governments.
  • BJP’s rise as a significant political force.
Contemporary Landscape (2000s-present)
  • Continued coalition politics.
  • Rise of regional parties challenging national parties.

Party system in India: Main Feature

India’s political landscape is marked by a robust multi-party system, attributed to the vastness and diversity of the nation, universal adult franchise, and unique political processes. With the highest number of political parties per capita globally, India sees a plethora of communal and non-communal, left, center, and right-wing parties. The result is a norm of coalition governments, hung legislatures, and assemblies.

Multi-Party System in India

  • Diversity and Fracture: India’s vast size, societal diversity, and universal adult franchise have led to a multitude of political parties, making it the country with the highest number of political parties per capita globally.
  • Quantitative Overview: Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, India had 7 national parties, 52 state parties, and 2354 registered unrecognized parties.
  • Coalition Politics: The presence of communal and non-communal parties, as well as left, center, and right-wing groups, results in frequent coalition governments, hung legislatures, and assemblies.

One-Party Dominance

  • Historical Context: The Indian National Congress held centralized power from Independence until the late 1970s, both nationally and in most states.
  • Era of Pluralism: Since 1989, one-party rule has dissolved, witnessed in elections from 1989 onwards, with various parties assuming power at different levels.

Personality Cult

  • Leader-Centric Politics: Parties often revolve around prominent leaders, with their personalities overshadowing party principles.
  • Examples: Nehru, Indira, and Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership significantly contributed to the popularity of the Congress Party, while leaders like MG Ramachandran and NT Rama Rao gained recognition for the AIADMK and TDP, respectively.

Lack of Opposition

  • Ineffective Opposition: Despite the end of one-party dominance, a cohesive, strong national opposition has rarely emerged, with opposition parties often lacking unity and coherent strategies.
  • Consequences: Weak opposition impedes parliamentary democracy’s checks and balances, hindering effective governance and accountability.

Lack of Proper Organization and Ideology

  • Organizational Challenges: Many parties struggle to maintain organizational structures, with power dynamics overshadowing ideological coherence.
  • Ideological Vacuum: While parties often espouse democratic, secular, and socialist values, pragmatism and pursuit of power dominate over clear ideological positions.

Factionalism and Groupism

  • Internal Division: Factionalism within parties leads to frequent splits, mergers, and realignments, impacting party stability and coherence.
  • Examples: Congress and Janata Dal experienced numerous splits, reflecting the pervasive influence of factionalism.

Extra-Constitutional Means of Power Acquisition

  • Unethical Practices: Parties resort to illegal tactics alongside legitimate means, including violent protests and populist rhetoric, to consolidate power.
  • Populist Appeals: Populist slogans and programs, such as “Garibi Hatao,” have been used to garner popular support, often at the expense of substantive policy discourse.

Lack of Discipline and Communalism

  • Discipline Deficit: Party members frequently disregard rules and engage in opportunistic behavior, switching parties or forming new ones for personal gain.
  • Communal and Caste Politics: Political parties exploit caste and religious identities for electoral gains, undermining the broader public interest.

Recognition of National and State Parties

The Election Commission of India grants recognition to political parties based on their electoral performance. National parties must meet certain criteria, including securing a minimum percentage of votes and winning a designated number of seats in parliamentary elections. State parties are recognized based on their performance in state-level elections.

Recognition as a national or state party entitles parties to various privileges, such as exclusive use of party symbols and access to state-owned media for political broadcasts.

Importance of Party System in India

The party system in India plays a pivotal role in the functioning of democracy and governance, serving several important functions:

Representation and Governance

  • Political parties field candidates in elections to represent the interests of the public and formulate policies to address their needs and concerns.
  • Parties develop manifestos and policies to appeal to voters, contributing to informed electoral choices.

Legislative Function

  • Ruling parties enact laws and policies, while opposition parties scrutinize and critique government actions, ensuring accountability and transparency.
  • Debates and discussions in Parliament allow for the exchange of ideas and perspectives, leading to informed decision-making.

Formation of Public Opinion

  • Parties engage in political discourse and mobilize public opinion on various issues, shaping public discourse and influencing policy agendas.
  • They provide platforms for citizens to express their views and participate in the democratic process.

Party System in India UPSC

Political parties play a vital role in shaping democratic governance and representing diverse societal interests. Understanding the types, characteristics, and party systems prevalent in modern democracies is essential for analyzing political dynamics and policy outcomes. In India, the multi-party system, dominance of regional parties, and challenges of factionalism and ideological coherence underscore the complexities of democratic politics. As political landscapes evolve, parties continue to adapt to changing societal dynamics, presenting both opportunities and challenges for democratic governance.

Sharing is caring!

Party System in India FAQs

What do you mean by party system in India?

A party system is a concept in comparative political science concerning the system of government by political parties in a democratic country.

What is one-party system?

A one-party system is a form of government where the country is ruled by a single political party, meaning only one political party exists and the forming of other political parties is forbidden.

How many parties India has?

As per latest publication dated 23 September 2021 from Election Commission of India, and subsequent notifications, the total number of parties registered was 2858 including 6 national parties, 56 state parties and 2796 unrecognised parties.

Is India a two-party system?

Examples of nations with multi-party systems include Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Ukraine, Spain, Sweden and Thailand.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *