Revision Notes for Class 10 Political Science – Chapter 4 Political Parties

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Political parties act as vehicles of federal sharing of political power and as negotiators of social divisions in the arena of Democratic politics. They are easily one of the most visible institutions in a Democracy.

Political Party

  • It 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.
  • They try to persuade people that their policies are better than others. They seek to implement these policies by winning popular support through elections.
  • They reflect fundamental political divisions in a society. Parties are about a part of the society and thus involve partisanship.
  • Components of a Political Party: Leaders, Active members and Followers.

Functions of Political Parties

It fills political offices and exercise political power by performing a series of functions such as:

  • To contest Elections: In most Democracies, elections are fought mainly among the candidates put up by political parties.
  • To put forward different Policies and Programme: A party reduces a vast multitude of opinions into a few basic positions which it supports. A Government is expected to base its policies on the line taken by the Ruling party.
  • To play a decisive role in law-making: Formally, Laws are debated and passed in the Legislature but since most of the members belong to a party and go by the direction of their party leadership.
  • To form and run the Government: The big policy decisions are taken by political executive that comes from the political parties. Parties recruit leaders, train them and then make them ministers to run the government in their own way.
  • To provide voice for different opinions: Those parties that lose in the elections play the role of opposition by voicing different views and criticizing government for its failures or wrong policies.
  • To shape Public opinion: They raise and highlight issues. Many of the Pressure groups are the extensions of political parties among different sections of society. They also launch movements for the resolution of problems faced by people.
  • To enable easy access to the Public: For an ordinary citizen, it is easy to approach a local party leader than a Government officer. Parties have to be responsive to people’s needs and demands.

Necessity of Political Parties

Situation without Political Parties:

  • Every candidate in the elections will be independent and 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.

Emergence of the Representative Democracies

  • Large societies need representative democracy: As societies became large and complex, they also needed some agency to gather different views on various issues and to present these to the Government.
  • They needed a mechanism to support or restrain the government, make policies, justify, or oppose them.

Party System

A party system is a concept concerning the system of government by political parties in a democratic country. It could vary from country to country.

Evolution of the Party system

A Party system evolves over a long period of time. It depends on the nature of society, social and regional divisions, history of politics and system of elections.

  • Each country develops a party system that is conditioned by its special circumstances.
  • Example: India has evolved a multiparty system because the social and geographical diversity in such a vast country is not easily absorbed by two or even three parties.

Types of Party System

One-Party system:

  • When only one party is allowed to control and run the Government. For example, In China, only the Communist Party is allowed to rule.
  • Though legally people are free to form political parties, but it does not happen because the electoral system does not permit free competition for power.
  • Drawback: This is not a democratic option as 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.

Two-Party system:

  • In some countries, the power usually changes between two main political 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 the Government. For example, USA, United Kingdom.

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. For example, India.
  • Advantage: It allows a variety of interests and opinions to enjoy political representation.
  • Disadvantage: It often appears very messy and leads to political instability.

Kinds of Political Parties in Federal System

  • Parties that are present in only one of the federal units.
  • Parties that are present in several or all units of the federation.

National Parties

In India, there are some countrywide parties known as ‘National Parties’. These parties have their units in various states but by and large, all these units follow the same policies, programmes and strategy that is decided at the National level. Following are some procedures regarding Political parties in India:

  • Every party has to register with the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • While the ECI treats all parties equally, it offers some special facilities to large and established parties:
    • They are given a Unique symbol and only the Official candidates of that party can use that election symbol.
    • Parties that get this privilege and some other special facilities are ‘recognised’ by the Election Commission for this purpose. That is why these parties are called, ‘Recognised Political Parties’.
  • Conditions laid down by the ECI to be as a recognized party:
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • According to this classification, there were seven recognised national parties in the country in 2018:

Recognised Political Parties in India (in 2018)

National PartyDetails
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.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)Formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram.
● The party's symbol is Elephant.
● 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.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)Founded in 1980 by reviving the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh, formed by Syama Prasad Mukherjee in 1951.
● Wants to build a strong and modern India by drawing inspiration from India's ancient culture and values, and Deendayal Upadhyaya's ideas of integral humanism and Antyodaya.
Communist Party of India (CPI)Formed in 1925.
● Believes in Marxism-Leninism, secularism, and democracy.
● Accepts parliamentary democracy as a means of promoting the interests of the working class, farmers, and the poor.
Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPIM)Founded in 1964.
Believes in Marxism-Leninism.
● Accepts democratic elections as a useful and helpful means for securing the objective of socioeconomic justice in India.
● Enjoys strong support among the poor, factory workers, farmers, agricultural labourers and the intelligentsia.
Indian National Congress (INC)Founded in 1885 and popularly known as the Congress Party.
● One of the oldest parties of the world.
● A centrist party (neither rightist nor leftist) in its ideological orientation.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)Formed in 1999 following a split in the Congress party.

State Parties

  • Other than these seven national parties, most of the major parties of the country are classified by the Election Commission as ‘State Parties’. These are commonly referred to as Regional Parties.
  • These parties need not be regional in their ideology or outlook. Some of these parties are all India parties that happen to have succeeded only in some states.

Journey of Regional parties

  • As over the last three decades, the number and strength of regional parties has expanded. It has led to bring more diversity in the Parliament.
  • Since 1996, nearly every one of the State parties has got an opportunity to be a part of one or the other National level coalition government.

Issues with Political Parties

  • Lack of Internal democracy within parties:
    • All over the world, there is a tendency in political parties towards the concentration of power in 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 on what happens inside the party.
  • Dynastic succession:
    • Since most political parties do not practice open and transparent procedures for their functioning, there are very few ways for an ordinary worker to rise to the top in a party.
    • In many parties, the top positions are always controlled by members of one family.
    • People who do not have adequate experience or popular support come to occupy positions of power.
  • Role of Money and Muscle power:
    • Parties tend to use short-cuts to win elections. They tend to nominate those candidates who have or can raise lots of money.
    • Rich people and companies who give funds to the parties tend to have influence on the policies and decisions of the party.
    • In some cases, parties support criminals who can win elections.
  • Lack of meaningful choices to the voters: In recent years there has been a decline in the ideological differences among parties in most parts of the world. 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.

Steps undertaken to reform Political Parties

  • Constitution amendment:
    • The Constitution was amended to prevent elected MLAs and MPs from changing parties as many elected representatives were indulging in defection in order to become ministers or for cash rewards.
    • Now, the Law says that if any MLA or MP changes parties, he or she will lose the seat in the legislature. But this has made any dissent even more difficult as MPs and MLAs have to accept whatever the party leaders decide.
  • Supreme Court (SC) orders: SC passed an order to reduce the influence of money and criminals. It is made mandatory for every candidate who contests elections to file an affidavit giving details of his property and criminal cases pending against him. But there is no system of check if the information given by the candidates is true.
  • Election Commission orders: It passed an order making it necessary for political parties to hold their organisational elections and file their income tax returns. Though the parties have started doing so but sometimes it is mere formality.

Measures 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 hold open elections to the highest posts etc.
  • It should be made mandatory for political parties to give a minimum number of tickets, about onethird, to women candidates.
  • There should be state funding of elections in the forms of kind such as petrol, paper, telephone etc. or in cash on the basis of the votes secured by the party in the last election.
  • People can put pressure on political parties through petitions, publicity and agitations. If political parties feel that they would lose public support by not taking up reforms, they will become more serious about the reforms.
  • Political parties can improve if those who want to improve the situation join political parties. The quality of Democracy depends on the degree of public participation.

Interesting points

  • Election Commission of India has officially banned wall-writing by parties during election times.
  • More than 750 parties are registered with the Election Commission of India.

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