|Political parties and Party system in India|

Political parties are voluntary associations for organised groups of individuals who share the same political views and who try to gain political power through constitutional means and who decide to work for promoting the national interest. 

There are four types of political parties in the modern democratic states : Reactionary parties which cling to the old social economic and political institutions, conservative parties which believe in the status quo, liberal parties which aim at reforming the existing institutions and radical parties which aim at establishing a new order by overthrowing the existing institutions.

Characteristics of party system in India:

Multi party system- The continental size of the country, the diversifying character of Indian society, the adoption of Universal adult franchise, the particular type of political process and other factors have given rise to a large number of political parties. In fact, India has the largest number of political parties in the world.

One dominant party system- In spite of the multi party system the political scene in India was dominated for a long time by the Congress, hence Rajni Kothari an eminent political analyst prefers to call the Indian party system as “one party dominance system” or the “Congress system”.

Lack of clear ideology- Except the BJP and two Communist Parties (CPI and CPM), all the parties do not have a clear cut ideology. They are ideologically closer to each other. They have a close resemblance in their policies and programmes.  Almost every party advocates democracy, secularism, socialism and Gandhism.

Personality cult- Quite often, the parties are organised around an eminent leader who becomes more important than the party and its ideology. Parties are known by their leaders rather than by their manifesto. It is a fact that the popularity of Congress was mainly due to the leadership of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Based on traditional factors- In the western countries, political parties are formed on the basis of socio-economic and political programmes. On the other hand, a large number of parties in India are formed on the basis of religion, caste , language , culture , race and so on. 

Emergence of Regional parties- Another significant feature of Indian party system is the emergence of a large number of Regional parties and their growing role. They have become the ruling parties in various states like BJD in Odisha, Akali Dal in Punjab and so on.

Factions and defections- Factionalism, defections, splits, mergers, fragmentation, polarization and so on have been an important aspect of the functioning of political parties in India. The passion for power and material considerations have made politicians leave their party and join other party or start a new party.

Lack of effective opposition- An effective opposition is very essential for the successful operation of the parliamentary democracy prevalent in India. It checks the autocratic tendencies of the ruling party and provides an alternative government. However, in the last 50 years an effective, strong, organised and viable natural or position could never emerge except in flashes.

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