General Studies Paper 2
Context: The Election Commission of India recently made significant changes in the political landscape by recognizing the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a national party and revoking the national party status of Trinamool Congress (TMC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Communist Party of India (CPI). TMC is now considering legal options to challenge the EC’s decision. The decision impacts each party’s visibility, influence, and resources, reflecting the evolving dynamics of India’s political scenario.
What are the most recent modifications to political party status made by the election commission?
- The Election Commission recently conducted a periodic review, upgrading the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to a national party. This decision was based on AAP’s strong performance in Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat, and Goa.
- In contrast, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) lost their national party status. However, they were recognized as state parties in Nagaland and Meghalaya, respectively, due to their performance in recent assembly elections.
- Additionally, parties like Rashtriya Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh and Revolutionary Socialist Party in West Bengal had their state party status revoked. Furthermore, the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) was recognized as a state party in Nagaland, the Tipra Motha Party as a state party in Tripura, and the Voice of the People Party as a state party in Meghalaya.
About the history of national parties in India
- Early History of National Parties in India: In 1951-52, during the first general elections, there were 14 national parties, including the Indian National Congress, the Communist Party of India, and the All India Bharatiya Jan Sangh.
- After the first general elections, only four parties retained their national status: the Congress, the Praja Socialist Party, the Communist Party of India, and the Jana Sangh.
- Over the years, many parties have merged or ceased to exist, such as the Praja Socialist Party, which later merged with other parties to form the Janata Party.
- The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)was founded in 1980 and has become one of the major national parties in India. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which focuses on the upliftment of marginalized communities, emerged as a national party in 1984. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) became a national party in 1964, advocating for socialism, secularism, and democracy.
- The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP),founded in 2012, was recognized as a national party in 2023 due to its electoral performance in several states.
- Currently, there are six national parties in India: the BJP, the Congress, the CPI (Marxist), the AAP, the BSP, and the National People’s Party (NPP).
How does the EC recognize parties as either national or state parties?
- The Election Commission (EC) recognizes political parties as either national or state parties based on criteria laid down in the Representation of People Act 1951 and the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
- Parties that have been newly registered, or have not contested an election since being registered, or have not secured the requisite votes/seats in a state or general election are categorised as registered unrecognised political parties (RUPPs). They don’t enjoy all the benefits extended to recognized parties. The recognised party status is reviewed periodically by the EC.
When can a political party lose its national Party tag in India?
- A political party in India can lose its national party tag if it fails to meet the criteria specified under the Representation of People Act 1951 and the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968. A party must fulfil at least one of the following three conditions to maintain its national party status:
- Lok Sabha Seats:The party must win at least 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha from a minimum of three different states.
- Example: If a party wins less than 2% of Lok Sabha seats or fails to win seats in at least three different states, it may lose its national party status.
- General Election Performance:The party must secure at least 6% of votes in four states and win a minimum of four Lok Sabha seats in a general election.
- Example: If a party’s vote share falls below 6% in four states or it wins less than four Lok Sabha seats, it risks losing its national party tag.
- State Party Recognition:The party must be recognized as a state or regional party in four or more states.
- Example: If a party loses its state party recognition in multiple states, reducing its presence to less than four states, it may lose its national party status. In recent events, the TMC, NCP, and CPI have lost their national party status because they failed to meet these criteria.
What is the significance of obtaining National Party status?
- Reserved Symbol:National parties are granted an exclusively reserved symbol for their candidates to use across the country, making it easier for voters to identify their preferred party on the ballot.
- National Presence:National party status allows a party to fight elections throughout India, fielding candidates in any state and thereby expanding its base, influence and nationwide presence.
- Single Proposer:Candidates from national parties need only one proposer when filing nomination papers, simplifying the nomination process and providing easier access to the voter list.
- Star Campaigners:National parties can have up to 40-star campaigners, whose expenditures are not included in the party candidate’s election expenditure, allowing for more prominent figures to campaign without burdening the candidate’s budget.
- Government Land Allocation:National parties receive government land allocation in New Delhi for their national president and office space at subsidized rates.
- Free Airtime on Public Broadcasters:National parties benefit from free airtime on public broadcasters like Doordarshan and All India Radio during general elections, helping them reach a wider audience and convey their message.