Affidavit : A signed document submitted to an officer , where a person makes a sworn statement regarding her personal information.
An Alliance: When several parties in a multi-party system join hands for the purpose of contesting elections and winning power, it is called an alliance or a front.
Bi-party system: Bi-party system is a type of system in which power alternates between two parties only. The party that gets the majority forms the government and the other party forms opposition.
Coalition government: A coalition government is generally formed in a multi-party system, when no single party wins a majority of seats then many parties get together based on compromise and tolerance.
Election: An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.
Mono-party system: Mono-party system is a political system in which only one party controls and runs the government.
Multi-party system: It is a system in which several parties compete for power and more than two parties have a reasonable chance of coming into power either on their own or in alliance with others.
Opposition : The political party or a group of parties that is a part of the Legislature , but not a part of the government.
Political party : A political party is a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government.
Partisanship : A tendency to take a side and in ability to take a balanced view on an issue.
National party: A party that secures at least 6% of the total votes in Lok Sabha elections or wins four seats in the Lok Sabha is recognized as a national party.
Regional party: All parties, other than the six national parties, are classified as state parties by the Election Commission of India. They are also called regional parties.
- 1 Political Parties
- 2 Different Political Parties
- 3 Coalition of Parties
- 4 Types of Political Parties
- 5 National Parties
- 6 Some Important National Political Parties of India
- 7 State Parties
- 8 Status of State Parties
- 9 Challenges to Political Parties
- 10 Role of money and muscle power among Political Parties during Elections
- 11 Reformation of Political Parties
- 12 Defection
- 13 Effective Measures to reform Political Parties are :
Political parties are one of the most visible institutions in a democracy. For the ordinary citizens, democracy is equal to political parties. It is important to know the nature and working of political parties.
Meaning of Political Parties
A political party is a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government.
All political parties have some policies and programmes for the society with a view to promote the collective good. They try to persuade people why their policies are better than others. They seek to implement their policies by winning popular support through elections.
Political parties reflect fundamental political divisions in a society. All the parties favour certain part of the society and thus they involve partisanship.
A party is known by which part it stands for, which policies it supports and whose interests it upholds.
Components of Political Parties
(i) The Leaders: A political party consists of leaders, who contest elections and if they win they, perform the administrative job.
(ii) The Active Members: They are the ones, who climb a ladder from being the follower and become the assistant of the leaders to gain knowledge about politics.
(iii) The Followers: They are simply the ardent followers of the leaders and work under the able guidance of the active members.
Functions of Political Parties
(i) Candidates are put forward by political parties to contest elections. These candidates may be chosen by the top leaders or by members of the party. In some countries like USA, members and supporters of a party choose its candidate. In India top party leaders choose candidates for contesting elections.
(ii) Parties put forward their policies and programmes for voters to choose from them.
(iii) Political parties play a major role in making laws for the country. No law can become a bill unless majority parties support it. Laws are debated and passed in the Legislature.
(iv) Political parties form and run governments. The big policy decision taken by political executive come from the political parties. Parties recruit leaders, train them and make them ministers.
(v) Parties that lose election, play the role of opposition to the party in power. They criticise government for their wrong policies and mobilise opposition to the government.
(vi) Parties shape public opinion. They raise and highlight issues. Parties have large number of members and activists spread all over the country. Many of the pressure groups act as extension of political parties. Parties sometimes also launch movements for the resolution of the problem faced by the people.
(vii) Political parties provide people access to government machinery and welfare schemes. It is easy for the public to approach their local party leader than a government officer. The local party leader has to listen to people’s need and demands, otherwise people can reject them in the next elections.
Necessity of Political Parties
Political parties are needed because they perform variety of functions. Modern democracies cannot exist without political parties. Without existence of parties, following situations may occur :
(1) Every candidate in the elections will be independent. No one will be able to make any promises to the people about any major policy changes.
(2) The government may be formed, but its utility will remain ever uncertain. Elected representatives will be accountable to their constituency for what they do in the locality. But no one will be responsible for how the country will be run.
(3) The non-party based elections to the Panchayat occur in many states of India. Here the parties do not contest formally. It is generally noticed that the village gets split into more than one group, each of which puts up a ‘panel’ of its candidates. This creates need for the political party.
Different Political Parties
The different countries around the world opt different party systems. Broadly, political party system can be divided into following three categories :
(a) Not to vote at all or
(b) write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ against the name of the candidates nominated by the party.
This system has been popular in Communist countries and other authoritarian regimes, e.g., China, North Korea and Cuba. This system was also prevalent in USSR till Communism collapsed.
(b) Two-Party System : Power changes between two major, dominant parties. In this system, to win elections, the winner has to get a maximum number of votes, but not necessarily a majority of votes. The smaller parties usually merge with the bigger parties or they drop out of elections. This parliamentary system prevails in Great Britain and the United States of America, in which only two parties hold significant numbers of seats. Supporters of this system believe that this prevents dangers of fragmentation (too many parties winning seats from different constituencies) and the government can run smoothly.
(c) Multi-Party System : It is the most common type of party system. In this system, more than two parties have the capacity to gain control of the government separately or in the coalition. When no party gains a majority of the legislative seats in a multi-party parliamentary system, then several parties join hands and form a coalition government. Supporters of this system point out that it allows more points of views to be represented in the government. Critics of this system point out that the multi-party system sometimes leads to political instability.
Functions of the Ruling Parties
(i) They play a major role in making laws for the country.
(ii) They form the government and run the country.
(iii) They recruit leaders, train them and then make ministers to run the government.
Functions of the Opposition Parties
(i) They oppose the government by voicing different views.
(ii) They criticise the government for its failure and wrong policies.
(iii) They mobilise opposition to the government.
Role of political parties in shaping public opinion as :
(i) They raise and highlight issues.
(ii) They form pressure groups as an extension.
(iii) They launch movement for the resolution of problems faced by the people.
(iv) They have lakhs of members and activists.
Coalition of Parties
In India, government is formed by various parties coming together in a coalition. When several parties in a multi party system join hands for the purpose of contesting and winning, it is called alliance or front.
For example, the National Democratic Alliance(NDA)and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in India.
Main features of two-party system :
(i) Power usually changes between two parties, several other parties may exist.
(ii) In such a system, people get a clear choice.
(iii) The party that wins the majority forms the government and the other sits in opposition.
(iv) Strong opposition is good for democracy.
(v) Prompt decisions are taken and implemented.
(vi) More development and less corruption.
Multi-party system: 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 multi-party system.
India adopted a multi-party system because:
(i) There is social and geographical diversity in India.
(ii) India is such a large country, which is not easily absorbed by two or three parties.
(iii) The system allows a variety of interests and opinions to enjoy political representation.
(i) This system allows a variety of interests and opinions to enjoy political representation.
(ii) People can make a choice between several candidates.
(i) No one party is likely to gain power alone. Therefore, it leads to difficulty in formation of the government.
(ii) Leads to political instability and often appears to be very messy.
Ideal Party System
Party system evolves over a long time , depending on the nature of society , its social and regional divisions and history of politics.
The social and geographical diversity of our country is not easily absorbed by two or even three parties. Thus, India has a multiparty system.
Types of Political Parties
(i) State Parties : Parties that are present in only one of the federal units.
(ii) National Parties : Parties that are present in several or all units of the federation.
In India, there are both National and State parties. Every party in the country has to register with the Election Commission.
“Political parties are a necessary condition for a democracy” because :
(i) Without political parties, democracies cannot exist.
(ii) If we do not have political parties, in such a situation every candidate in elections will be independent.
(iii) No one will be able to make any promises to the people about any major policy changes.
(iv) The government may be formed but its utility will remain uncertain.
(v) Elected representatives will be accountable to their constituency for what they do in their locality.
(vi) But no one will be responsible for how the country will run.
(vii) The role of an opposition party in a democracy necessitates the existence of political parties.
(viii) As societies become large and complex, they also need some agencies to gather different views on various issues and to present these to the government, that’s why, political parties are needed.(Any
A party that secures at least 6% of the total votes in Lok Sabha elections or Assembly elections in 4 states and wins at least 4 seats in the Lok Sabha, is recognised as a National Party.
The commission treats all parties equally, but it offers some special facilities to large and established parties. These parties are given a unique symbol. Only the official candidates of that party can use that election symbol.
Parties that get this privilege and some other special are ‘recognised’ by the Election for this purpose . That is why, these are called recognised political parties.
(i) Cultural nationalism or ‘Hindutva’ is an important element in its conception of Indian nationhood and politics.
(ii) The party wants full territorial and political integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India.
(iii) A uniform civil code for all people living in the country irrespective of religion and ban on religious conversions.
(iv) Its support base increased substantially in 1990s.
Some Important National Political Parties of India
b) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – Created in 1980, it champions the socio-religious values of India. Since its formation, the BJP has been a strong rival of the Indian National Congress. It is now in government, and the leading party within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
c) Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – The Bahujan Samaj Party is a party formed to represent the OBCs, SCs, STs and religious minorities, those at the bottom of India’s caste system. The BSP was formed in 1984 by two leaders, Kanshiram and Mayawati. It draws inspiration from the teachings of Sahu Maharaj, Mahatma Phule, Periyar Ramaswami Naicker.
d) Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M)-The Communist Party of India (Marxist), usually known as CPI-M, split from the Communist Party of India in 1964. It believes in Marxism-Leninism and supports socialism, secularism and democracy. It opposes imperialism and communalism. Its supporters are farmers, agricultural labourers and intelligentsia.
e) Communist Party of India (CPI) – It was formed in 1925, believes in Marxism-Leninism, secularism and democracy. It is opposed to the forces of communalism and secessionism. It believes that parliamentary democracy helps the interests of farmers, the working class, and the poor.
State Parties with National Level Organisation
Some of the regional parties are all India parties have succeeded only in some states. Parties like the Samajwadi Party, Samata political Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal have national political organisation with units in several states.
Some of these parties like Biju Janata Dal, Sikkim Democratic Front and Mizo National Front are conscious about their state identity. The difference between a state and a national party can be identified as follows :
(i) In a state party, the party members aim to highlight regional interests. On the other hand, a national party gives due importance to national interests.
(ii) A state party can contest in elections only in a particular state, whereas a national party can contest in elections all across the country.
(iii) Example: BJP and Congress are national parties, whereas Akali Dal and Trinamool Congress are state-level parties.
Six ‘regional political parties’ of the four southern states of India are
Tamil Nadu — AIADMK (All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), DMK
Andhra Pradesh — Telugu Desam, Lok Satta
Kerala — Kerala Congress (Joseph)
Puducherry — AINRC (All India N. R. Congress)
Status of State Parties
The three challenges faced by political parties in India are :
(i) Lack of internal democracy.
(ii) Challenge of dynastic succession.
(iii) Growing role of money and muscle power.
(iv) Often parties do not seem to offer a meaningful choice to the voters.
Situations which display a lack of internal democracy within a political party –
(i) Parties do not keep membership registers, do not hold organisational meetings, and do not conduct internal elections regularly.
(ii) Ordinary members of the party do not get sufficient information on what happens inside the party.
(iii) They do not have the means or the connections needed to influence the decisions. As a result, the leaders assume greater power to make decisions in the name of the party.
(iv) Since one or a few leaders exercise paramount power in the party, those who disagree with the leadership find it difficult to continue in the party.
(v) More than loyalty to party principles and policies, personal loyalty to the leader becomes more important.
Challenges to Political Parties
(a) Lack of Internal Democracy within Parties
In most of the political parties, the power is concentrated in the hands of one or few leaders at the top. Parties do not keep membership registers, do not hold organisational meetings and do not conduct internal elections regularly.
Ordinary members of the party do not get sufficient information about the happenings inside the party. The leaders assume greater power to make decisions in the name of the party.
(b) Dynastic Succession
The top positions in many political parties are generally controlled by members of one family.
Leaders on the top have unfair chance of favouring their families and friends. This is also bad for democracy, since people who do not have adequate experience or popular support, come to occupy positions of power.
This tendency is present in all over the world, including some older democracies.Dynastic succession is one of the most serious challenges before the political parties because :(i) Most political parties do not practice open and transparent procedures for their functioning. (ii) There are few ways for an ordinary worker to rise to the top of a party.(iii) In many parties, the top positions are always controlled by members of one family.(iv) This practice is unfair to other members of that party and is also bad for democracy. (v) People who do not have adequate experience or popular support come to occupy a position of power.
(c) Money and Muscle Power
Role of money and muscle power among Political Parties during Elections
(i) Since parties are focussed only on winning elections, they tend to use shortcuts to win elections.
(ii) They tend to nominate those candidates who have or can raise lots of money.
(iii) Rich people and companies who give funds to the parties tend to have an influence on the policies and decisions of the party.
(iv) In some cases, parties support criminals who can win elections.
(v) Democrats all over the world are worried about the increasing role of rich people and big companies in democratic politics.
It states that very often parties do not seem to offer a meaningful choice to the voters. In order to offer meaningful choice, parties must be significantly different. For example, in India, the differences among all the major parties on the economic policies have reduced. Those who want really different policies have no option available to them. Sometimes people cannot even elect very different leaders as the same set of leaders keep shifting from one party to another.
Reformation of Political Parties
(1) Anti-Defection Law: According to this law, MLAs or MPs cannot change the party after the election. If any MLA or MP changes parties, he or she will lose the seat in the Legislature. This was done because many elected representatives were involved in defection3 in order to become ministers or for cash rewards.
(2) Details of Property and Criminal Cases : In order to reduce the influence of money and criminals, the Supreme Court of our country passed an order. Now, it becomes mandatory for every candidate who contest elections to file an Affidavit giving details of his property and criminal case spending against him. But there is no system to check if the information given by the candidate is true or not.
(3) File an Income Tax Return: The Election Commission passed an order making it necessary for political parties to hold their organisational elections and file their income tax returns. The parties have started doing so, but sometimes, it is only formality.
Besides these suggestions, many other suggestions are often made to reform political parties.
These are as follows
(1) A law should be made to regulate the internal affairs of political parties. It should be made compulsory for political parties to maintain a register of its members, to follow its own Constitution, to have an independent authority, to act as a judge in case of party disputes and to hold open elections to the highest posts.
(2) It should be made mandatory for political parties to give a minimum number of
(3) There should be state funding of elections. The government should give parties money to support their election expenses. This support could be given in kind like petrol, paper, telephone, etc or it could be given in cash on the basis of the votes secured by the party.
(4) We must be very careful about legal solutions to political problems. Over-regulation of political parties can be counter-productive.
(1) People can put pressure on political parties through petitions, publicity and agitations. If political party feels that it would lose public support, it would become more serious about reforms.
(2) Political parties can improve if those who want this, join political parties. The quality of democracy can be improve by the public participation. If ordinary citizens do not take part in politics then reforming politics is impossible.
(ii) It means changing party allegiance from the party in which a person got elected.
(iii)The Constitution was amended to prevent elected MLA’s and MP’s from changing parties. Now, the law says that if any MLA and MP changes parties, he or she will lose seat in the legislature.(iv)The new law has brought defection down and has made dissent even more difficult.
Institutional amendments made by different institutions to reform political parties and their leaders.
(i) The Constitution was amended to prevent elected MLA’s and MP’s from changing parties. This was done because many elected representatives were indulging in defection in order to become ministers or for cash rewards. Now, if any MLA or MP changes parties, he or she will lose the seat in the legislature.
(ii) The Supreme Court passed an order to reduce the influence of money and criminals. Now, it is mandatory for every candidate who contests elections to file an affidavit giving details of his property and criminal cases pending against him. The new system has made a lot of information available to the public. But there is no system of a check if the information given by the candidates is true.
(iii) The Election Commission passed an order making it necessary for political parties to hold their organisational elections and file their income tax returns.
(iv) The parties have started doing so but sometimes it is a mere formality. It is not clear if this step has led to greater internal democracy in political parties.
Effective Measures to reform Political Parties are :
(i) A law should be made to regulate the internal affairs of political parties.
(ii) It should be made compulsory for political parties to maintain a register of its members.
(iii) It should be made mandatory for political parties to give a minimum number of tickets, about 1/3rd to its women candidates.
(iv) There should be a quota for women in the decision making bodies of the party.
(v) There should be state funding of elections.
(vi) The government should give parties money to support their election expenses in kind: petrol, paper, telephone, etc., or in cash.
(vii) Vote casting should be made compulsory in each election. (viii)Data regarding caste and religion, OBC, SC, ST should not be utilized during election period in any form.