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Meaning and Types

Political parties are voluntary associations or organized groups of individuals who share the same political views and who try to gain political power through constitutional means and who desire to work to promote the national interest.

In modern democracies, parties are categorized as reactionary (preserving old institutions), conservative (upholding the status quo), liberal (aiming at reform), and radical (seeking a new order). Political scientists classify them as leftists, centrists, and rightists. In India, CPI and CPM are leftist, Congress is centrist, and BJP is rightist. Party systems include one-party (sole ruling party, no opposition), two-party (two major parties, as in the USA and Britain), and multi-party (numerous parties, as in France, Switzerland, and Italy).

Political Parties in India Political Parties in India 

Party System in India

The Indian party system has the following characteristic features:

1. Multi-Party System

India's vast size, diverse society, universal adult franchise, unique political processes, and other factors have led to formation of multiple of political parties. It holds the record for the highest number of political parties globally, encompassing various ideologies such as left, center, right, communal, and non-communal. As a result, hung Parliaments, assemblies, and coalition governments are commonplace.

2. One-Dominant Party System

Despite the existence of a multi-party system in India, the political landscape was predominantly controlled by the Congress for an extended period. Renowned political analyst Rajni Kothari referred to the Indian party system as a 'one-party dominance system' or the 'Congress system.' However, the Congress's dominance began to wane from 1967 onward, giving way to the emergence of regional and other national parties such as Janata (1977), Janata Dal (1989), and the BJP (1991), ultimately leading to the establishment of a competitive multi-party system.

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3. Lack of Clear Ideology

Except for the HJP and the two communist parties (CPI and CPM), most other political parties in India don't have a clear ideology. They are very similar in their ideas and plans. Almost every party supports democracy, secularism, socialism, and Gandhism. But, above all, every party, even those claiming to have strong beliefs, is mainly focused on gaining power. So, politics has become more about specific problems rather than sticking to certain principles, and effectiveness has taken over dedication to ideals.

4. Personality Cult

Many times, political parties in India revolve around a prominent leader who becomes more significant than the party itself and its beliefs. The parties are recognized by their leaders rather than their stated goals. This is why people say there are more political personalities than actual political parties in India. In simpler terms, the focus often shifts from party principles to the influence of individual leaders.

5. Based on Traditional Factors 

In Western countries, political parties are usually created based on social, economic, and political ideas. However, in India, many parties are formed around factors like religion, caste, language, culture, and race. These parties often focus on advancing the interests of specific communities, which can weaken the overall public interest.

6. Emergence of Regional Parties 

A notable aspect of the Indian party system is the rise of numerous regional parties and their increasing influence, with many now leading state governments. Initially confined to regional politics, these parties have gained prominence on the national stage, especially in coalition governments at the center.

7. Factions and Defections

In India, political parties often face issues like factionalism, defections, and splits, mainly driven by the desire for power and material gains. This trend became more common after the fourth general elections in 1967, causing political instability at both the national and state levels. The frequent changes and shifts in party affiliations have led to the fragmentation and disintegration of political parties.

8. Lack of Effective Opposition

A strong Opposition is crucial for the functioning of India's parliamentary democracy, serving as a check on autocratic tendencies within the ruling party and offering an alternative government. Unfortunately, due to a lack of unity and frequent conflicting positions, political parties have struggled to contribute constructively to the nation-building process.

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Conditions for Recognition as a National Party

At present (2016), a party is recognized as a national party if any of the following conditions is fulfilled:

  • If it secures six percent 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
  • If it wins two percent of seats in the Lok Sabha at a general election; and these candidates are elected from three states; or
  • If it is recognized as a state party in four states.

Conditions for Recognition as a State Party

At present (2016), a party is recognized as a state party in a state if any of the following conditions is fulfilled:

  • If it secures six percent 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
  • If it secures six percent 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
  • If it wins three percent 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
  • 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
  • If it secures eight percent 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 document Laxmikanth Summary: Political Parties | Indian Polity for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course Indian Polity for UPSC CSE.
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FAQs on Laxmikanth Summary: Political Parties - Indian Polity for UPSC CSE

1. What is the meaning of party system in India?
Ans. The party system in India refers to the political structure and organization of political parties in the country. It encompasses the different political parties, their ideologies, strategies, and interactions within the Indian political landscape.
2. What are the types of party systems in India?
Ans. The types of party systems in India include the single-party system, multi-party system, and coalition party system. In a single-party system, one party dominates the political scene. In a multi-party system, multiple parties exist with no single party having a clear majority. In a coalition party system, two or more parties form an alliance to gain a majority and form a government.
3. What are the conditions for recognition as a national party in India?
Ans. The conditions for recognition as a national party in India are as follows: 1. The party must secure at least 6% of the valid votes polled in any four or more states in a general election to the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assembly. 2. The party must win at least 4 seats in the Lok Sabha from any state or states. 3. The party must secure at least 2% of the total seats in the Lok Sabha.
4. What are the conditions for recognition as a state party in India?
Ans. The conditions for recognition as a state party in India are as follows: 1. The party must secure at least 6% of the valid votes polled in a State Legislative Assembly election. 2. The party must win at least 9 seats in the State Legislative Assembly. 3. The party must win at least 1 seat in the Lok Sabha from the concerned state or states.
5. What is the summary of Laxmikanth's book on Political Parties for UPSC exam?
Ans. The book "Political Parties" by M. Laxmikanth provides a comprehensive understanding of the functioning, structure, and role of political parties in India. It covers topics such as the formation of political parties, their ideologies, party systems, party organization, and the importance of political parties in the Indian democratic system. The book is a valuable resource for candidates preparing for the UPSC exam as it provides in-depth knowledge about the political party system in India.
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