India, known for its vibrant democracy, is home to a myriad of political parties that play a significant role in determining the country’s fate.
India’s political system is characterized by a profusion of organizations and political parties because it is the world’s largest democracy. So, let us look at the history, relevance, and significance of India’s numerous political parties that have emerged and collapsed.
Let us analyze the intricate fabric of India’s political spectrum, examining the formation, classification, and extensive list of political parties in the country.
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Formation of Political Parties in India
Political parties in India date back to the pre-independence era, when personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and others played crucial roles in shaping the political landscape. Following independence, the need for organized political representation resulted in the establishment of political parties, each with its own ideology, vision, and aim.
A political party is a group of people who work together to achieve a shared political objective and seek government. To run in the Indian elections, all political parties must register with the Election Commission of India (ECI). In general, all members of a political party work toward the same goal. A political manifesto describes such goals.
List of Political Parties in India
Some Indian parties developed as a result of the independence struggle, while others arose to shape the new India and liberate it from the shackles of corruption. At the same moment, many of the country’s most prominent and significant political groups raised their hands, despite the fact that the country was in a state of emergency!
Examine the large and diverse spectrum of political parties in India. This section gives an overview of the key political entities shaping the country’s democratic structure, ranging from well-established giants to new actors.
3 Types of Political Parties
There are three types of political parties, in India.
- National Parties
- State Recognized parties
- Unrecognized Parties
A) National Parties
National parties are those that have a nationwide presence and are well-known on a national scale. These parties usually have a broader agenda that extends beyond regional borders, allowing them to play a significant role in national politics.
If the following conditions are satisfied, a registered party with the Election Commission of India is proclaimed a national party:
- If it wins 2% of Lok Sabha seats from at least three unique states;
- If it is recognized as a state party in at least four states; and
- If it wins 6% of the votes cast in the last Parliamentary or Legislative Assembly election, in addition to four Lok Sabha seats.
There are seven national parties in India. Take a look at the list of these parties, along with their inception year.
- The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), founded in 1980.
- The Indian National Congress (INC), founded in 1885.
- The Communist Party of India (Marxist), formed in 1964.
- The Communist Party of India (CPI), founded in 1925.
- The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), founded in 1984.
- The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), founded in 1999.
- AITC (All India Trinamool Congress), founded in 1998.
B) State-Recognized Parties
As the name indicates, state-recognized parties operate on a state-by-state basis. While their influence is limited to a certain geographic area, they play a significant part in state administration and contribute to the larger political climate.
- A political party must achieve any of the following qualifications to be called a state political Party.
- The political party must win at least 3% of the total number of legislative assembly seats, as well as at least one of the Lok Sabha’s 25 seats. Alternatively, it must win a share of the funding allocated to that State.
- The political party must earn at least 6% of the total valid votes cast in the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assembly general election. Furthermore, in that election, it should win at least one Lok Sabha seat and two Legislative Assembly seats.
- Under the liberalized criteria, a political party must gather 8% or more of the total valid votes cast in the state if it does not win a seat in the State Legislative Assembly or the Lok Sabha in the general elections.
In India, there are 49 state-recognized parties. Here is a list of all the political figures:
- Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), founded in 2012 in Delhi, Punjab, by Arvind Kejriwal as an anti-corruption campaign.
- All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, founded in 1972 in Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, by M.G. Ramachandran (MGR).
- All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), formed in West Bengal in 1939 following disagreements with INC Subash Chandra Bose.
- All India Majlis-eIttehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), founded in Telangana in 1927.
- The All India N.R. Congress (AINRC), founded in Puducherry in 2011,
- All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), founded in Assam in 2004.
- All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), founded in Jharkhand in 1986.
- Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), established in Assam in 1985.
- Biju Janata Dal (BJD), founded in Odisha in 1997.
- Assam’s Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), founded in 1985.
- Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK), established in Tamil Nadu in 2005.
- C.N. Annadurai founded the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1949 in Puducherry, Tamil Nadu.
- Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC (BL)), founded in Haryana in 2007.
- Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), founded in Meghalaya in 1968.
- Chaudhary Devi Lal founded the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana in 1999.
- Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), founded in Kerala in 1948.
- Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), founded in Jammu and Kashmir in 1932.
- Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), founded in Jammu and Kashmir in 1982.
- Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (JKPDP), founded in Jammu and Kashmir in 1998.
- Janata Dal (Secular) (JD (S)), founded in Karnataka and Kerala in 1999.
- Nitish Kumar founded the Janata Dal (United) (JD (U)) in Bihar in 1999.
- Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), founded in Jharkhand
- Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) (JVM (P)), founded in Jharkhand in 2006.
- Kerala Congress (M) (KC (M)) was founded in 1979 in Kerala.
- Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), founded in Bihar in 2000.
- Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), founded in Maharashtra in 2006.
- Maharashtra Gomantak Party (MGP), founded in Goa in 1963.
- Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP), founded in 1997.
- Mizo National Front (MNF), founded in Mizoram in 1959.
- Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC), founded in Mizoram in 1972.
- Naga People’s Front (NPF), founded in Manipur, Nagaland, in 2002.
- National People’s Party (NPP), founded in Meghalaya in 2013.
- Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), founded in Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, in 1989.
- The People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), founded in Arunachal Pradesh in 1987.
- Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), founded in 1997 by Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar and Jharkhand.
- Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), founded in Uttar Pradesh in 1996.
- Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), founded in Bihar in 2013.
- The Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), founded in Kerala, West Bengal, in 1940.
- Mulayam Singh Yadav founded the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh in 1992.
- Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), founded in 1920 in Punjab by Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak.
- Shiv Sena (SS) backs pro-Maratha philosophy Bal Thackrey in Maharashtra in 1966.
- Chamling formed the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) in 1993 in Sikkim.
- Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), formed in Sikkim in 2013.
- Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), formed in Telangana in 2001.
- Telugu Desam Party (TDP), established in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 1982.
- E.K. Mawlong formed the United Democratic Party (UDP) in Meghalaya in 1972.
- YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), established in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 2011.
- Uttar Pradesh-based Samajwadi Janata Party (Rashtriya) (SJP).
- Tamil Nadu-based All India Public Freedom Party (AIPFP).
C) Unrecognized Parties
Unrecognized parties are those that have not gained formal recognition from the Election Commission of India. Despite their lack of formal registration, these parties can influence local politics and contribute to political diversity.
An unrecognized political party is one that lacks the legal authority to contest elections under its own banner. This party must choose one symbol from a list of ‘free symbols’ given by the polling panel.
There are nearly a hundred unrecognized political parties in India, among them:
- Bhartiya Gramin Samaj Party
- Amra Bangali
- Bhartiya Minorities Suraksha Mahasangh
- Hindustani Awam Morcha
- Indhiya Jananayaga Party
- Indian Bold Citizen Party
- Jan Samaikyanshra Party
- Jan Adhikar Party Loktantrik
- Jana Sena Party
- Kerala Congress (Jacob)
- Kerala (B)
- Kongynadu Makkal Desia Katchi
- Namathu Kongu Munnetra Kalagam
- Kisan Party of India
- Lok Satta Party
- Manipur Peoples Party
- Manithaneya Makkal Katchi
- Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam
- Janta Dal
- Odisha Janmorcha
- Param Digvijay Dal
- Peace Party of India
- Puthiya Tamilagam
- Rashtriya Samaj Paksha
- Rashtriya Ulama Council
- Rashtriya Parirakshana Samiti
- Social Democratic Party of India
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United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA)
- The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is a coalition of state and regional political parties that backs the Indian National Congress in the Lok Sabha.
- The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is a coalition of state and regional parties that supports the BJP in the Lok Sabha.
The 7 National/Mainstream Political Parties of India
Now, let us take an overview of the ideology, formation, leadership, programs, electoral success, criticism, and disputes of these seven important Indian political parties.
1. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a prominent political party in India, well known for its support for Hindu nationalism and conservative policies.
Here is some further information on the BJP:
Formation and Establishment
The Bharatiya Janata Party was formed on April 6, 1980. It evolved from the Bharatiya Janata Sangh, a political party founded in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mukherjee, and subsequently merged with a number of other political groups, most notably the Janata Party.
The Ideological Basis
Hindutva, a cultural and nationalist interpretation of Hinduism, serves as the BJP’s ideological foundation. The party strives to preserve and strengthen Hindu culture and values, with the goal of creating a Hindu-majority India.
The BJP has had a number of notable leaders over the years. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a founding member of the party, served as Prime Minister of India from 1998 to 2004. Narendra Modi, another famous BJP member, was elected Prime Minister in 2014 and was re-elected in 2019.
The party emphasizes nationalism and national development. The BJP has been an outspoken supporter of economic growth, infrastructure development, and a strong national defense. The BJP has pursued free-market economic policies that emphasize economic liberalization and change. The party’s mission is to develop industrialization, attract foreign investment, and provide job opportunities.
Victory in the Election, Controversy, and Criticism
The BJP has achieved significant political success at both the state and national levels. The party has formed governments in several states and dominated national politics, winning several Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) elections.
The BJP has faced criticism from political opponents and civil society on a number of fronts. Some critics argue that the party’s emphasis on Hindutva throws India’s secular foundation into question. Religious intolerance and freedom of expression have been contentious national issues.
The BJP’s association with Hindutva has sparked fears about majoritarianism, with detractors fearing the marginalization of religious and cultural minorities. In contrast, the party expresses its support for the Constitution and pluralistic views.
Expansion and Coalition Politics
The BJP has actively promoted both growth and coalition politics outside of its traditional strongholds. In order to win elections in several states, it has formed alliances with other regional parties.
2. Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress (INC), founded in 1885, is one of India’s oldest and most influential political parties. It was critical in the country’s struggle for freedom from British colonial rule. The Indian National Congress (INC) was created at a session of the Indian National Congress in Bombay (now Mumbai) with the objective of creating a place for Indians to speak their political thoughts and aspirations.
The following are pivotal moments in the history of the Indian National Congress:
Formation and The Early Years (1885-1947)
The INC’s original members were A.O. Hume, Dada Bhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Wacha, and Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee. The party first focused on constitutional amendments and Indian representation in the British-run administration. Over time, it evolved into a vehicle for India’s independence fight, with figures such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Patel playing pivotal roles.
Role in the Independence Movement
The INC rose to prominence in the anti-British colonial struggle. The party chose nonviolent civil disobedience as a main strategy under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership, culminating in acts such as the Salt March and Quit India. The devotion of the INC to the cause of freedom gained widespread support, and it became a symbol of the Indian struggle for independence.
Post-Independence Period (1947 to the Present)
Following India’s independence in 1947, the INC had a key role in shaping the country’s political landscape. Jawaharlal Nehru, a prominent INC leader, became India’s first Prime Minister and served many terms. The party, which was once associated with socialist ideology and secularism, went through numerous leadership and ideological phases.
Members of the Nehru-Gandhi family have held major leadership positions in the INC over the years, giving the perception of dynastic politics. Among them are Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi. The issue of dynasty has aroused debate both within and beyond the party.
In order to adapt to changing political realities, the INC has undergone ideological shifts. It has embraced economic liberalization and globalization, giving up some of its past socialist goals. Furthermore, the party has promoted social justice, inclusive development, and secularism.
3. Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M)
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), sometimes known as the CPI (M), is a prominent political party in India that supports Marxist-Leninist ideas.
Here is some further information on the party:
Formation and Ideological Basis
The Communist Party of India (M) split from the Communist Party of India (CPI) in 1964, giving rise to the CPI (M). The main reason for the split was ideological differences, with the CPI (M) advocating a more revolutionary and class-oriented policy based on Marxist concepts.
A central committee governs the party’s leadership and organization, and decisions are made through democratic centralism, a Marxist-Leninist doctrine. The Politburo is the highest decision-making body of the central committee. Harkishan Singh Surjeet, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Jyoti Basu, and Prakash Karat have all played significant roles in the history of the party.
The CPI (M) adheres to Marxist principles, emphasizing the importance of societal socialist revolution. It advocates for the rights of the working class, peasants, and other socially disadvantaged people. The party believes in government control of the economy, secularism, and an independent foreign policy.
Role in Indian Politics
The CPI (M) has been politically active in India, particularly in West Bengal, Kerala, and Tripura. It has been a part of several coalition administrations at the state and national levels. The party has a strong presence in labor unions and has been associated with large-scale protests on issues like agricultural reform, labor rights, and social justice.
The CPI (M) has long held power in West Bengal and Kerala. Until 2011, the party ruled West Bengal alongside its Left Front partners for more than three decades. In Kerala, the CPI (M) has been a part of many coalition governments.
The CPI (M) continues to play an important role in Indian politics, but its electoral dominance varies by region. The party adheres to Marxist principles and is involved in political and social issues.
4. Communist Party of India (CPI)
The Communist Party of India (CPI) is an Indian Marxist political organization that goes back to the early 1920s.
Here is some further information on the party:
Early Development and Ideological Basis
On December 26, 1925, various socialist and communist groups merged to create the CPI in Kanpur. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia had an influence on the party, which sought to address issues about workers, peasants, and colonial exploitation.
Initially affiliated with the Communist International (Comintern), the CPI had Marxist-Leninist beliefs. The party’s philosophy has evolved throughout time and has adapted to changing political conditions.
Position in the Independence Movement
The CPI played a prominent role in the Indian independence fight, advocating for workers’ and peasants’ rights and resisting British colonial rule. The Telangana and Tebhaga movements, in particular, were engaged in anti-British agitations and actions.
Following India’s independence in 1947, the Communist Party of India (CPI) got active in democratic politics, arguing about economic concerns, land reforms, and social justice. However, ideological disagreements within the party led to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), in 1964.
The CPI has been active in electoral politics at both the state and national levels. It has run in elections both on its own and as part of coalition governments with other left-wing parties.
Trade Unions and Popular Movements
The Communist Party of India (CPI) has been involved in mass movements and is well-represented in trade unions. The party has been active in agricultural fights and has advocated for worker and labor rights.
The Evolution of Ideology
Over time, the CPI has undergone doctrinal shifts, at times veering from its essential Marxist-Leninist viewpoint. The party has taken stances on a variety of issues, including social justice, secularism, and inclusive development.
The CPI is still a political force in India, but its influence and electoral results vary by region. The party is still addressing socioeconomic issues and engaging in political debates.
5. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is a well-known Indian political party that advocates for the rights of Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Here’s an extension of the BSP:
Foundation and Charter Towards Dalits
In 1984, Kanshi Ram founded the Bahujan Samaj Party. The party’s primary purpose is to assist disadvantaged and oppressed groups of society, notably Dalits (scheduled castes), Adivasis (scheduled tribes), and other backward communities.
Kanshi Ram and his successor, Mayawati, have been instrumental in charting the party’s direction. Mayawati, in particular, has served as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh many times.
“Sarvajan Hitay, Sarvajan Sukhay” may be translated as “For the Benefit of All and the Happiness of All.” This illustrates the BSP’s commitment to inclusive growth and the well-being of all societal groups.
The BSP has been notably prominent in northern Uttar Pradesh, where it has formed governments and played a significant role in state politics. In addition, the party has run for office in several states, with varying degrees of success.
Social Engineering and the Dalit-Bahujan Coalition
The BSP has employed social engineering to form coalitions of Dalits, Adivasis, and other marginalized groups. In order to establish a bigger political alliance, the party has also reached out to upper castes.
The BSP is well-known for employing Dalit empowerment symbols and imagery. The elephant is the party’s symbol, and elephant monuments figure regularly in BSP-led government projects in Uttar Pradesh.
The BSP is still a political force that participates in state and national elections. However, its influence has dwindled in recent years, and the party’s electoral performance has been patchy.
6. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is a political party in India formed in 1999. Here’s an update on NCP:
Sharad Pawar, P. A. Sangma, and Tariq Anwar, who were major members in the Indian National Congress (INC) but disagreed with the party’s leadership, founded the National Congress Party (NCP) on June 10, 1999.
Ideology and Principles
The NCP identifies itself as a centrist party focused on economic progress, secularism, and social fairness. The party advocates for equitable growth, agricultural reforms, and farmer well-being.
Sharad Pawar has been a key component of the NCP since its inception. He is a senior politician who has held a number of key positions in Indian politics, including Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Union Minister, and national political role.
Participation in Politics
The NCP has participated in coalition politics at both the national and state levels. It has been a part of a number of Maharashtra governments, typically in alliance with the Indian National Congress. In addition, the party has served in national coalition governments.
In the state of Maharashtra, the NCP has a major representation. It has been a member of state coalition administrations and has played a significant role in the creation of agricultural, rural development, and social welfare initiatives.
Election Results, Coalitions, and Challenges
The NCP has stood in elections both as an independent candidate and as part of a coalition. It has performed well in elections, most notably in Maharashtra, where it has secured seats in both state and national elections.
The NCP has faced internal strife as well as electoral rivalry from other political parties. Despite this, it has been able to maintain coalitions with a number of parties based on common policy objectives.
Relationships on a National and International Scale
The NCP maintains national relations with numerous political parties and has engaged in policy discussions. It also maintains worldwide relationships in order to foster collaboration and idea exchange.
7. All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)
The All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) is a West Bengal-based Indian political party.
Here is some further information on the AITC:
Formation and Foundation
On January 1, 1998, Mamata Banerjee, a well-known West Bengal politician, founded the All India Trinamool Congress. The party originated as a splinter wing of the Indian National Congress (INC), formed in response to conflicts with the Congress leadership.
Mamata Banerjee has been the AITC’s unrivaled leader since its inception. She served as West Bengal’s Chief Minister and was influential in defining the party’s ideas and political strategy. The AITC describes itself as a centrist party focused on regional issues and development. It advocates for social justice, secularism, and democratic governance.
West Bengal Supremacy and Election Strategy
In West Bengal, particularly in the twenty-first century, the AITC has been a major political force. The party has won huge electoral victories, gaining control of the state government and transforming the political landscape.
The party is known for populist ideas and social programs that try to engage with the grassroots population. Mamata Banerjee’s charisma and vast popularity have been key to the party’s election success.
The AITC remains a powerful political force in West Bengal and is active in national politics. Its policies, leadership style, and electoral tactics continue to shape the political narratives of the state and the nation.
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Evolution of Political Parties in India Over Time
Since the country’s independence in 1947, political parties in India have changed tremendously. The INC initially controlled the political scene as the sole dominating party. However, regional and minor parties rose to prominence over time, resulting in a more diversified and fractured party structure.
National coalition administrations have also become more prevalent, involving alliances and partnerships between parties. Furthermore, new issue-based political parties have developed to reflect certain social, economic, or regional concerns.
The political spectrum in India is a fluid and ever-changing phenomenon that reflects many interests and perspectives of its vast population. The country’s democratic environment is defined by a profusion of political parties, each representing distinct philosophies, geographical interests, and socioeconomic opinions. This diversity illustrates India’s democratic fabric, in which varied voices actively contribute to the country’s progress and prosperity.
Political party formation in India is a fluid process influenced by historical, social, and economic factors. The diversity of political parties in India illustrates the country’s democratic nature. The multiplicity of voices in India’s political spectrum allows for an active exchange of ideas and policy approaches.
It ensures that political discourse takes into consideration the many interests and concerns of the people, from urban areas to rural villages, and from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
The political spectrum in India reflects the country’s democratic culture, which is marked by diversity, pluralism, and the active participation of various political parties. This complex tapestry of perspectives contributes to the country’s ongoing evolution of its political landscape, encouraging a democratic system that seeks to accommodate its residents’ different desires for the nation’s shared progress and advancement.
How Is A Political Party Formed in India?
Only a group or body of individual Indian citizens calling themselves a political party and wanting to employ the provisions of Part IV-A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (related to political party registration) must register with the Election Commission.
What Distinguishes National Parties from State-Recognized Parties?
In India, national political parties participate in elections across the country and must acquire significant influence in at least four states. They are granted a one-of-a-kind electoral insignia that they may only use in the country. These organizations deal with challenges on a national, regional, and global scale. Examples include the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Indian National Congress, and the Communist Party of India.
State/local political entities, on the other hand, concentrate their strength in one or two states and focus on state elections. They are only given a symbol inside the state in which they are recognized and lobby for regional and state causes. Two excellent examples are the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Samajwadi Party.
How Important Are Unrecognized Parties in Indian Politics?
Unrecognized political parties have challenges in terms of publicity, legitimacy, and electoral success in India. Unrecognized political parties may play a role in some local or regional contexts, influencing politics on a smaller scale. When compared to well-established, recognized political parties, their relevance is more localized and specialized.
In India, How Do Political Parties Compete in Elections?
In Indian elections, political parties nominate candidates that represent their party and philosophy. They undertake election campaigns that include public rallies, ads, media coverage, and other tactics to urge voters to vote for their candidates. The parties with the most parliamentary seats form the government and have the authority to make policy choices.
What Role Do Political Parties Have In the Overall Functioning of India’s Democracy?
In India, political parties are a vital component of a functioning democracy. They aid in the organization and mobilization of citizens, the representation of their interests, and the provision of a forum for varied views and perspectives. Citizens can pick their representatives through elections and engage in policy-making processes through political parties, providing a government that is responsible and responsive to the demands and ambitions of the people.