National Political Parties
Countries that follow a federal system have two kinds of parties. Parties that are present in only one unit of the federation, and those that are present in all or several units of the federation. The latter are called national parties.
The Election Commission of India has some criteria for Political Parties:
Criteria for National Parties
(i) They must secure at least 6% of the vote in the Lok Sabha elections or 6% of the vote in the election to at least 4 different state assemblies
(ii) They must win at least 4 seats in the Lok Sabha.
The criteria for state parties
(i) They must secure at least 6% of the vote in an assembly election
(ii) They must win at least two seats in the assembly election
Parties that fulfil these criteria are called recognised parties. They are given certain privileges by the Election Commission, such as exclusive right to a unique symbol. That symbol can be used only by candidates of the party.
As per these criteria, there are 6 national parties in India.
Indian National Congress: Founded in 1885, it was the dominant party of Indian politics at the national level and to a large extent at the state level for a long time. Since 1989 its influence has declined, but it still maintains a presence across the entire country. The party has seen many splits over the years. Ideologically, the party is centrist. It is neither leftist nor rightist. It supports secularism and economic growth with a human face, especially towards the weaker sections of the society.
The Official Flag of the Congress during the Independence Struggle
The Present Day Flag of the Congress
Bharatiya Janata Party: Founded in 1980, from the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Its support base grew rapidly in the 1990s. Earlier, it was limited to the north and western parts of the country, but now it has a nearly pan-Indian base.
Ideologically, the party is rightist. It wants to build a strong, modern India by drawing inspiration from ancient culture and values. It 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 ban on religious conversions.
Bahujan Samaj PartyFounded in 1984 by Kanshi Ram. 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. It formed governments in Uttar Pradesh several times by taking the support of different parties at different times.
Supporters of the Party
Communist Party of India (Marxist): Founded in 1964. The party enjoys strong support in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, especially among the poor,
Ideologically, the party is strongly leftist. It follows Marxism and Leninism. It is sharply critical of the new economic policies that allow free flow of capital.
Communist Party of India: Founded in 1925. The party has a base in the states of Kerala, West Bengal, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Became weak after the split in the party in 1964 that led to the formation of the CPI(M). Ideologically, the party is strongly leftist. Believes in Marxism-Leninism,
secularism and democracy. It is opposed to the forces of secessionism and communalism. It works to promote the interests of the working class, farmers and the poor.
Nationalist Congress Party: Founded in 1999 after a split within the INC. It is a major party in Maharashtra and has a significant presence in Meghalaya, Manipur and Assam.
Ideologically, it espouses democracy, Gandhian secularism, equity, social justice and federalism. It wants that high offices in government be confined to natural born citizens of the country.