You have read that there are a number of political parties at the national as well as state levels. Every political party pronounces its policies and programmes as a commitment to the electorate.
These are normally included in a document known as Manifesto. As you may be aware, Manifestoes are published by political parties during elections. We may discuss the major policies of the following political parties.
- National Political Parties
- Indian National Congress: Founded in Bombay in 1885, the Indian National Congress (now the Congress) played a leading role in India’s freedom struggle. After independence, the Congress emerged as the leading party of governance and ruled at the Centre and in almost all the States till 1967. The first two decades in India’s political history were dominated by the Congress and the period came to be described as the ‘Congress System’. The dominance of Congress decreased gradually. Now it depended on a coalition of political parties to come to power in the Centre. Congress is committed to democracy, secularism, and socialism. It is, in a way, a centrist political party. While it champions the policy of liberalization, privatization, globalization called “LPG” on the one hand; it also works for the welfare of the weaker sections of society. It advocates both agrarian-based Indian economy and industrialization. It seeks to strengthen grassroots institutions at the local level and claims to play a vital role in international institutions, especially in the United Nations.
- The Bharatiya Janata Party: Founded in 1980 after distancing itself from the then Janata Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party is the new incarnation of its erstwhile formation, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS). BJP is an important political party both at the Centre as well as in some of the States. The BJP stands for (a) nationalism and national integration, (b) democracy, (c) positive secularism, (d) Gandhian socialism, and (e) value-based politics. Tilted towards the right in the initial stages, the BJP is as centrist as is the Congress now. The party has formed governments in a number of states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Uttrakhand. The party is trying to expand its base in South and North-East India.
- The Communist Parties: The major communist parties in India are the Communist Party of India (CPI), founded in 1925 and the Communist Party of India, Marxist (CPI M) which came into being after the split in the Communist Party of India in1964. Over the years, the CPI(M) became relatively more powerful than the CPI. The CPI (M) and the CPI had been in power in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. The Communist Parties are workers’ and peasants’ parties. Based on the ideology of Marxism and Leninism, the Communist Parties stand for socialism, socialist ownership of industries, agrarian reforms, rural upliftment and a self-reliant economy. They are opposed to capitalism, imperialism and globalization.
- The Bahujan Samaj Party: Founded in 1984 by Kanshi Ram, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) claims to be the party of the deprived sections of the Indian society, especially the poor, the landless, the unemployed and the Dalits who constitute the majority in the Indian population. It draws inspiration from the teachings of Sahu Maharaj, Jyotiba Phule, Ramaswami Naicker and Dr B.R. Ambedkar. Ms Mayawati is leading the party at present. The BSP works on the principle of ‘Sarvajan Hitay, Sarvajan Sukhay!’ (Welfare and Happiness for All). It formed the government in Uttar Pradesh for two terms – once as an alliance with the BJP and later as an independent ruling party in the State.
- Nationalist Congress Party: The Nationalist Congress Party is a breakaway group of the Indian National Congress. The trio who formed the party in 1999 included Sharad Pawar, P A Sangma and Tariq Anwar. The party’s policies are more or less the same as that of the Congress. It has a major support base in Maharashtra. It has been a coalition partner of the Congress-led UPA since 2004.
- The Rashtriya Janata Dal: The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is another party which came into existence after the disintegration of the Janata Dal in 1997. The party was formed by Lalu Prasad Yadav. The party stands for socialist programmes and social justice for the backward castes and minorities. It had been in power in Bihar for nearly a decade. It was also a coalition partner of the Congress-led UPA in 2004.
- Regional Political Parties: Regional political parties have emerged to fulfil regional aspirations. They became quite popular in their respective States that they have even begun dominating state politics and capturing power in their respective States. Their enhanced political positions helped the national political parties form coalition governments at the Centre. It is because of the regional political parties that our party-system has been federalized. The Centre has begun to address their problems and respond to their aspirations through accommodation. The evolving nature of our party system has strengthened the cooperative trends of our federal system.
Registered (unrecognized) Parties: A large number of political parties are registered at the Election Commission, without having been recognized as National or State parties. You may be surprised to know that in 2009, 363 parties contested elections. Some independents were also in the fields. Most of the political parties were registered (unrecognized) parties. The classifications of political parties in 2009 may be asunder: z National Parties - 7 (Congress, BJP, CPM, CPI, BSP, Nationalist Congress Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal) z State Parties - 34 z Registered (unrecognized) Parties - 322