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Chapter 6 Political Parties Class 10 Civics NCERT Notes
Why do we need political parties?
A political party is a group of people who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government. They agree on some policies and programmes for the society with a view to promote the collective good. Thus, a party is known by which part it stands for, which policies it supports and whose interests it upholds.
A political party has three components:
- The leaders
- The active members
- The followers
Functions of a Political Party
- Parties contest elections
- Parties put forward different policies and programmes and the voters choose from them.
- A party reduces a vast number of opinions into a few basic positions which it supports.
- Parties play a decisive role in making laws for a country.
- Parties form and run governments.
- Those parties that lose in the elections play the role of opposition to the parties in power, by voicing different views and criticising government for its failures or wrong policies.
- Parties shape public opinion. They raise and highlight issues.
- Parties provide people access to government machinery and welfare schemes implemented by governments.
The Necessity of Political Parties
We need political parties because they perform all the functions which are mentioned above. If there were no political parties then every candidate in the elections will be independent. So no one will be able to make any promises to the people about any major policy changes.
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.
How many parties should we have?
More than 750 parties are registered with the Election Commission of India. But not all these parties are serious contenders in the elections.
There are three types of party system a country can have:
One Party System
Only one party is allowed to control and run the government.
One-party system as a good option because this is not a democratic option.
Any democratic system must allow at least two parties to compete in elections and provide a fair chance for the competing parties to come to power. Example: In China, only the Communist Party is allowed to rule.
Two Party System
Power usually changes between two main parties.
Several other parties may exist, contest elections and win a few seats in the national legislatures. But only the two main parties have a serious chance of winning majority of seats to form government. Example: The United States of America and the United Kingdom.
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.
The multiparty system often appears very messy and leads to political instability.
At the same time, this system allows a variety of interests and opinions to enjoy political representation. Example: India (the National Democratic Alliance, the United Progressive Alliance and the Left Front).
Which Party system is better?
Party system is not something any country can choose. It evolves over a long time, depending on the nature of society, its social and regional divisions, its history of politics and its system of elections.
For example, India has evolved a multiparty system because the social and geographical diversity in such a large country is not easily absorbed by two or even three parties.
No system is ideal for all countries and all situations.
Every party in India has to register with the Election Commission. The Commission treats every party as equal to the others, but it offers special facilities to large and established parties. They are given a unique symbol and are called, “recognised political parties.
A party that secures at least six per cent of the total votes in Lok Sabha elections or Assembly elections in four States and wins at least four seats in the Lok Sabha is recognised as a national party.
There were seven national recognised parties in the country in 2019.
A party that secures at least six per cent of the total votes in an election to the Legislative Assembly of a State and wins at least two seats is recognised as a State party.
All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)
Launched on 1 January 1998 under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee. Recognised as a national party in 2016. The party’s symbol is flowers and grass. Committed to secularism and federalism. Has been in power in West Bengal since 2011.
Also has a presence in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura.
In the General Elections held in 2019, it got 4.07% votes and won 22 seats, making it the fourth largest party in the Lok Sabha.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
Formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram. Seeks to represent and secure power for the bahujan samaj which includes the dalits, adivasis, OBCs and religious minorities. Draws inspiration from the ideas and teachings of Sahu Maharaj, Mahatma Phule, Periyar Ramaswami Naicker and Babasaheb Ambedkar.
It has its main base in the state of Uttar Pradesh and substantial presence in neighbouring states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Punjab.
Formed government in Uttar Pradesh several times by taking the support of different parties at different times.
In the Lok Sabha elections held in 2019, it polled about 3.63 percent votes but did not secure seat in the Lok Sabha.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Founded in 1980 by reviving the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh, formed by Syama Prasad Mukherjee in 1951. Cultural nationalism (or ‘Hindutva’) is an important element in its origination of Indian nationhood and politics.
Wants full territorial and political integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India. A uniform civil code for all people living in the country irrespective of religion and a ban on religious conversions. Its support base substantially increased in the 1990s.
Earlier limited to North and West and to urban areas, the party expanded its support in the South, East, and the Northeast and to rural areas.
Came to power in 1998 as the leader of the National Democratic Alliance including several state and regional parties.
Emerged as the largest party with 303 members in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Currently leads the ruling NDA government at the Centre.
Communist Party of India (CPI)
Formed in 1925. Believes in Marxism-Leninism, secularism and democracy. Opposed to the forces of secessionism and communalism. Accepts parliamentary democracy as a means of promoting the interests of the working class, farmers and the poor. Became weak after the split in the party in 1964 that led to the formation of the CPI (M).
Significant presence in the states of Kerala, West Bengal, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Its support base has gradually declined over the years.
It secured less than 1 percent votes and 2 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M)
Founded in 1964. Believes in Marxism- Leninism. Supports socialism, secularism and democracy and opposes imperialism and communalism. Accepts democratic elections as a useful and helpful means for securing the objectives of socio-economic justice in India.
Enjoys strong support in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, especially among the poor, factory workers, farmers, agricultural labourers and the intellectuals.
Critical of the new economic policies that allow free flow of foreign capital and goods into the country.
Was in power in West Bengal without a break for 34 years.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it won about 1.75 percent of votes and 3 seats.
Indian National Congress (INC)
Popularly known as the Congress Party. Founded in 1885. Played a dominated role in Indian politics, at the national and state level for several decades after India’s Independence. Ruling party at the centre till 1977 and then from 1980 to 1989. After 1989, its support declined. A centrist party (neither rightist nor leftist) in its ideological orientation. The party supports secularism and welfare of weaker sections and minorities. Supports new economic reforms.
Leader of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from 2004 to 2014. Currently it is the principal opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)
Formed in 1999 following a split in the Congress party. Accepted democracy, Gandhian secularism, equity, social justice and federalism. Wants that high offices in government be confined to natural born citizens of the country.
A major party in Maharashtra and has a significant presence in Meghalaya, Manipur and Assam. Since 2004, a member of the United Progressive Alliance.
Other than these seven parties, most of the major parties of the country are classified by the Election Commission as ‘State parties’. Commonly referred to as regional parties.
Parties like the Samajwadi Party, Samata Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal have national level political organisation with units in several states.
Some parties like Biju Janata Dal, Sikkim Democratic Front and Mizo National Front are conscious about their State identity.
Over the last three decades, the number and strength of these parties has expanded. No one national party is able to secure on its own a majority in Lok Sabha. As a result, the national parties are compelled to form alliances with State parties.
Challenges to political parties
The first challenge is lack of internal democracy within parties. Parties do not keep membership registers, do not hold organisational meetings, and do not conduct internal elections regularly.
The second challenge of dynastic succession is related to the first one. Most political parties do not practice open and transparent procedures for their functioning n many parties, the top positions are always controlled by members of one family.
The third challenge is about the growing role of money and muscle power in parties, especially during elections Since parties are focused only on winning elections, they tend to use short-cuts to win elections. In some cases, parties support criminals who can win elections.
The fourth challenge is that very often parties do not seem to offer a meaningful choice to the voters. Sometimes people cannot even elect very different leaders either, because the same set of leaders keep shifting from one party to another party.
How can Parties be reformed?
Recent efforts and suggestions in India
- The Constitution was amended to prevent elected MLAs and MPs from changing parties because many elected representatives were indulging in defection in order to become ministers or for cash rewards.
- New law states that if any MLA or MP changes parties, he or she will lose the seat in the legislature.
- The Supreme Court passed an order to reduce the influence of money and criminals by making mandatory for every candidate who contests elections to file an affidavit giving details of his property and criminal cases pending against him.
- The Election Commission passed an order making it necessary for political parties to hold their organisational elections and file their income tax returns.
Some suggestions to reform political parties
- 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 in order to check and settle disputes.
- To give a minimum number of tickets, about one-third, to women candidates.
- There should be state funding of elections.
- The government should give parties money to support their election expenses.
- People can put pressure on political parties through petitions, publicity and agitations
- Political parties can improve if those who want this join political parties.