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Party System in India, Feature, Importance and Function

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 in order to carry out that programme. In the current democratic era, the struggle for power is open and not veiled. Political parties now have a distinct relevance as a result. Election preparation, political information dissemination, campaigning, and legislator election are all responsibilities of political parties.

Party system in India Introduction

Political parties are voluntarily organised groups of people who share a common political ideology, seek political power through legal means, and fight to advance their country’s interests. There are four different political party kinds in contemporary democracies:

  • Republican parties that support the status quo; Conservative parties that support the status quo; Liberal parties that attempt to alter current institutions; Reactionary parties that adhere to antiquated socioeconomic and political institutions;
  • Radical parties that aim to oust established institutions in order to establish a new order.

Political parties have been categorized by political scientists according to their ideologies. Radical parties are located on the left, liberal parties are located in the middle, and reactionary and conservative parties are located on the right. To put it another way, they can be categorised as rightist parties, centrist parties, and leftist parties. In the world, there are three different kinds of party systems:

  • One-party regimes, in which there is only one ruling party and no room for an opposition. USSR and East European nations, for instance
  • Two-party systems in which there are two main parties. United States and the United Kingdom, for instance.
  • Multi-party systems, where a variety of political parties coexist and coalition administrations are formed. France, Switzerland, and Italy, for instance.

Party system in India Main Feature

Multi-Party System

Due to the breadth of the nation’s continent, the diversity of Indian society, the adoption of the universal adult franchise, the distinctive style of the political process, and other factors, a sizable number of political parties have emerged. In actuality, India has the most political parties per capita in the entire globe.

On the eve of the 17th Lok Sabha general elections (2019), there were 7 national parties, 52 state parties, and 2354 registered but unrecognized parties in the nation. Additionally, India has a wide variety of political parties, including communal and non-communal parties, as well as left, centre, and right-wing groups. As a result, coalition governments, hung legislatures, and hung assemblies have become the norm.

The recognized National Parties are:

  • Bahujan Samaj Party.
  • Bharatiya Janata Party.
  • Communist Party of India.
  • Communist Party of India (Marxist)
  • Indian National Congress.
  • Nationalist Congress Party.
  • Aam aadmi Party

One-Party Dominance

The end of one-party rule is another aspect of the Indian political system. The Congress party had centralised power since Independence up until 1977, and in majority of the states between 1980 and 1989. The one-party era, however, has come to an end as evidenced by the elections of 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004, and the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th Lok Sabha.

In several states, coalition governments are also running smoothly. However, a single party (BJP) was able to form the government with an absolute majority after a 30-year absence by winning 282 seats in the 16th Lok Sabha election.

Personality Cult

Parties frequently revolve around a well-known leader who ends up taking centre stage over the party and its principles. More people know about parties because of their leaders than because of their platforms. The popularity of the Congress Party was largely due to Nehru, Indira, and Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership.

In a similar vein, MG Ramachandran and NT Rama Rao were connected to the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the TDP in Andhra Pradesh. It’s interesting how several parties, like the Biju Janata Dal, Lok Dal (A), and the Congress (1), include the name of their leader. As a result, “India has more political individuals than political parties.”

Lack of Opposition

The smooth running of India’s parliamentary system depends on an effective opposition. It offers an alternate form of government and restrains the totalitarian tendencies of the ruling party. A viable, strong, organised, and successful national opposition, however, has only occasionally surfaced during the past 50 years.

A single party has controlled since independence until 1977, and then again from 1980 to 1989, with scant opposition. Even though the era of one-party control came to an end in 1989, the opposition is still small. The opposition parties lack unity and frequently make statements against the ruling party that are mutually incoherent. They have not helped the political system or the process of developing a nation in any way.

Lack of Proper Organisation and Ideology

The lack of structure in the Indian party system is another characteristic. Organisation is the life or death of a political party. Numerous Indian political parties, however, have had difficulty maintaining their organisational structure at the provincial level. Almost all political parties are in favour of Gandhianism, socialism, secularism, and democracy.

Furthermore, power grab is the only factor influencing all parties, even so-called ideological ones. As a result, politics have moved away from being ideological and towards being issue-based, with pragmatism replacing ideology. But many Indian political parties have had trouble maintaining their organisation at the regional level.

Groupism inside India’s party structure

Groupism is a serious issue for all political parties in India. A party’s unity is shattered by groupism, which leads to the formation of numerous factions. The Congress party experienced division in 1969, 1978, 1995, and 1999. The Janata Dal was established in 1989, however between 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1997, it saw five splits.

The operation of political parties in India has been impacted by a variety of variables, including factionalism, defection, splits, mergers, fragmentation, polarisation, and others. Politicians who wanted more power and money often abandoned their party to join another or start a new one. Defections increased in frequency following the fourth general election in 1967.

Extra-constitutional ways of gaining power

Political parties have the legal right to acquire political power through legal channels, which they do through running for office, holding public rallies to win over voters, and disseminating their ideas through radio, television, newspapers, and other media. These processes are all of a legal nature. Political parties, however, are not afraid to use illegal techniques in addition to legal ones to obtain political dominance.

They engage in violent protests, dharnas, Punjab or Bharat bandhs, and they frequently set fire to buses and trains as well as other forms of public property. These political parties’ actions show that they are more focused on furthering their own political goals than defending the interests of the country.

Political Parties’ Populist Tendency

The populist bent of political parties in India is another feature of the party system. Political parties frequently use populist tactics to seize power in India, as is widely known. They promote populist slogans, deceive the public, and unfairly profit from people’s compulsions and emotions. As an illustration, the Congress created a 20-point programme to win popular support in 1975 and used the word “Garibi Hatao” in 1971.

Lack of Discipline among Political Party Members

Political party members have been seen to be uninterested with party rules and instead prefer to throw mud at one another. When a political figure gets passed over for a party ticket, he leaves his own party and joins another, or he founds a new one.

Political Parties’ Communal and Caste Characteristics

India’s population is impacted by caste and religion, and they feel a great sense of loyalty to these groups. As a result, clever politicians established political parties based on caste and religion, and they manipulate voters’ caste and religious sentiments to win elections.

Numerous political parties in India were created on the basis of factors such as race, language, culture, caste, and religion. Examples of political organisations include the Shiv Sena, Muslim League, Hindu Maha Sabha, Akali Dal, Muslim Majlis, Bahujan Samaj Party, Republican Party of India, Gorkha League, and more. These parties undermine the general public interest by advancing local and sectarian goals.

Party system in India Importance

Any political party’s main duty is to run candidates in elections in an effort to gain a majority. For each region, the party members pick a candidate who will best represent their interests and garner the most support from the wider public. They create their own programmes and policies while adhering to the rules set forth by the government and electoral commission. To increase their chances of winning, their manifesto should be compelling.

The political parties in India play a crucial role in forming laws for the country. The ruling party can make such decisions, while the opposition parties can support or oppose the laws in the parliamentary sessions. Under the party system in India, another major function of the political parties is to form public opinion on various issues faced by the country and the world.

Party system in India Function

In the absence of political parties, elections would be run by independent candidates. Any significant policy change for the public cannot be ensured by one person, who is insufficient or less capable. The government could become chaotic and unstable as a result of this circumstance. They give candidates a platform from which to run for office with the full backing of party members and experts. Due to the government’s majority, they can effectively represent a strong viewpoint or topic in the Parliament.

Party system in India & Recognition

Based on their polling data, the Election Commission acknowledges political parties as national or state parties and registers them for electoral use. Only “registered unrecognised parties” are used to describe the remaining parties. A party’s eligibility for certain privileges, including as the distribution of party emblems, the allotment of time for political broadcasts on state-owned television and radio stations, and access to electoral registers, is determined by the Commission’s recognition of the party.

The recognised parties also just need one proposer to submit the nomination. Additionally, during election season, these parties are entitled to have forty “star campaigners,” as opposed to twenty for registered-unrecognized parties. These celebrity campaigners’ travel costs are not included in the election expenses of their party’s candidates.

Each national party is granted a unique symbol that it uses exclusively across the nation. Similar to this, each state party is given a symbol that can only be used in the state or states where it has been acknowledged. On the other hand, a registered-unrecognized party has the option of selecting a free symbol from a list. In other words, the Commission designates some symbols as “free symbols” for other candidates and others as “reserved symbols” for candidates affiliated with recognised parties.

Party system in India & Recognition as a National Party

Currently, a party qualifies as a national party if at least one of the following conditions is met: If it wins 6% of the votes cast in any four or more states in a general election for the Lok Sabha or legislative assembly, and if it also wins four seats from any state or states; or If it wins 2% of the seats in a general election for the Lok Sabha with candidates chosen from three states, and if it is recognised as a state party in four states.

Party system in India & Recognition as a State Party

Currently, a party is recognised as a state party in a state if it meets one of the following criteria:  If it receives 6% of the valid votes cast in the state during a general election for the legislative assembly of the state concerned, and it also wins 2 seats in the assembly of the state concerned; or  If it receives 6% of the valid votes cast in the state during a general election to the Lok Sabha from the state concerned, and in addition, it wins 1 seat; or

if it receives 8% of the total valid votes cast in the state at a general election to the Lok Sabha from the state concerned; or  if it wins 1 seat in the Lok Sabha for every 25 seats or any portion thereof allocated to the state. This standard was introduced in 2011.

Party system in India UPSC

The political system in India is distinct. It does not fall within any of the categories that are frequently used to group party systems. It is marked by the peculiar features of Indian politics on the one hand and the dynamics between the state and society on the other. Over the past 20 years, there has been a substantial shift in both the nature of politics and the relationship between the state and society. Since India gained its independence, major social, economic, and political changes have taken place, leading to numerous changes in the country’s party system.

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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.

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