Political Parties in India

Being one of the oldest and the largest democracy in the globe with over 814.5 million eligible voters, India believes and practices in multi-party system. 

A multi-party system is nothing but an arrangement where multiple recognized registered political parties and unrecognized registered political parties across the country contest for national and state-level general elections. 

Both the (recognized) registered and unrecognized registered political parties have an equal opportunity of getting elected to the power, individually or in alliance based government.

India democracy

When compared to other democratic countries, India has a large number of political parties. It has been approximated that over two hundred political parties were constituted after India attained independence in 1947. The statuses of the national and state-level political parties are generally reexamined by the Election Commission of India, in a periodic manner. 

At large, political parties who would like to run for state or national-level general elections are necessitated to be registered by the Election Commission of India (ECI). Registered political parties are promoted as recognized state or national-level political parties based upon objective standards.
Voting in India

It is important to mention that a political party that is registered and recognized by the Election Commission of India obtains several exclusive rights which include:
  • Preference in assignation of party symbols
  • Reserved political party symbols
  • Time slots on government run television and radio channels
  • Consultation in fixing of election dates
  • Have a say in fixing electoral regulations
  • Registered parties can obtain recognition as state or national party, subject to the fulfillment of the terms set down by the election commission of India
Election Commission in India

Additionally, state and national political parties have to live up to these terms for all subsequent state or Lok Sabha elections.  

As of September 2014, the total number of political parties registered with the election commission of India includes 1,761, with 6 national parties, forty-nine state parties and 1,706 unrecognized political parties.

Every single registered political party which is contesting elections is asked to pick out a party symbol among the available symbols proposed by the commission.

Voting in India

Symbols of the political parties play a crucial role during the elections as they are the key for illiterate people to cast their valuable vote, recognizing their candidate through their exclusive symbol. 

All the twenty-nine states of India along with the union territory of Puducherry (Pondicherry) and the special union territory of India, National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) have elected governments if not, except when the President of India's rule is enforced under certain conditions. 

Your Vote Matters

The leaders of the political parties generally play an important (exercising influence or control) role. Most of the political parties in India are open to coalitions (alliances), primarily for the purpose of the formation of a stable government. Unless a political party or an alliance has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, a government cannot be formed by that political party or the alliance.

Nevertheless, inequality or difference in some respect or the ideologies of the parties governing the country and the state extends to badly skewed apportionment of resources among the states. Let's take a glance through the national and state-level political parties in India.

National Parties in India

A registered political party is accredited or recognized as a 'National Party' only when it meets any one of the below three terms:

  • The political party acquires two percent of seats, i.e., eleven seats in the lower house from at least three different Indian states

  • In the Lok Sabha elections, the political party polls six percent of votes in four States and in addition it wins 4 Lok Sabha seats

  • A political party obtains recognition from the election commission of India as State Party in four or more Indian states
Find below the list of (recognized) national parties

Bharatiya Janata Party

Bharatiya Janata Party

  • Popular Name: BJP
  • Translation: Indian People's Party
  • Symbol: Lotus
  • Foundation Year: 6 April 1980
  • President: Amit Shah
  • Parliamentary Chairperson: Narendra Modi
  • Lok Sabha Leader: Narendra Modi (Prime Minister)
  • Rajya Sabha Leader: Arun Jaitley
  • Party Headquarters: 11 Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110001
  • Newspaper: Kamal Sandesh
  • Student Wing: Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad
  • Youth Wing: Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha
  • Women's Wing: BJP Mahila Morcha
  • Peasant's Wing: BJP Kisan Morcha
  • Membership: 100 million (April 2015)
  • Ideology: Conservatism, Gandhian Socialism, Integral Humanism, Hindu Nationalism, Hindutva
  • Political Position: Right-wing
  • Color(s): Saffron
  • Election Commission of India Status: National Party
  • Alliance: National Democratic Alliance (NDA)
  • Election Symbol: Lotus
  • Website: www.bjp.org
The origin of the Bharatiya Janata Party can be traced back to 1951 when Shyama Prasad Mukherjee launched the nationalist Bharatiya Jana Sangh (popularly known as Jan Sangh) among the masses. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh was principally founded to oppose the dominant politics of the Indian National Congress (INC). 

The political party was launched unitedly with the Hindu nationalist volunteer organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) - an all-male organization begun in 1925 to foster nationalism in India's Hindus. The Jan Sangh widely considered as be the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Major Work 

During the state of emergency, the Jan Sangh participated in the dissents, with hundreds of thousands of its members being put behind bars along with other fomenters across the nation. Furthermore, the Jana Sangh united with a few other political parties like the Socialist Party (India), the Indian National Congress (Organization) and the Bharatiya Lok Dal (BLD) to form the Janata Party (JP), with its primary order of business being voting out Indira Nehru Gandhi. 

Their main agenda of defeating Mrs. Gandhi came true when the Janata Party gained a majority during the year 1977 and formed a government with Morarji Desai as the fifth Prime Minister of India and the first Prime Minister to lead the Republic of India's first non-Congress government.

During the year 1980, not long after the general elections, the national executive council of the Janata Party censored their people from representing the Janata Party and the RSS, at once. As a result, the erstwhile Jan Sangh people quit the Janata Party and launched a new party, called as the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

Atal Bihari Vajpayee (the eleventh Prime Minister of India) was named as the first president of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The National Democratic Alliance, popularly known as NDA, a moderate-right alliance of parties in India is usually headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The NDA was in power from 1998 to 2004.

Some of the prominent leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party include: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and so on.

Indian National Congress

Indian National Congress

Popular Name: INC or simply Congress
President: Sonia Gandhi
Parliamentary Chairperson: Sonia Gandhi
Lok Sabha Leader: Mallikarjun Kharge
Rajya Sabha Leader: Ghulam Nabi Azad
Foundation: 28 December 1885
Party Headquarters:  24, Akbar Road, New Delhi 110001
Newspaper: Congress Sandesh
Student Wing: National Students Union of India
Youth Wing: Indian Youth Congress
Women's Wing: Mahila Congress
Labour Wing: Indian National Trade Union Congress
Ideology: Populism, Liberal Nationalism, Social Liberalism, Liberalism, Social Democracy
Gandhian socialism, Secularism
Political Position: Centre to Centre-left
Color(s): Deep Sky Blue
Election Commission of India Status: National Party
Alliance: United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
Election Symbol: Hand
Website: www.inc.in

One among the two major political parties of India (the other being the BJP), the Indian National Congress is one of the oldest political parties in all of Asia. Launched during the British times, the Congress was a significant participant in the Indian Independence Movement. 

Besides, the Congress party became the dominant political party of the independent India and an unmissable name in all the fifteen general elections in India.

After Indian independence, the INC has achieved an absolute majority in six general elections and has headed the governing alliance four four times, thus, leading the central government for about 49 years.

The United Progressive Alliance (popularly known as UPA), an alliance of centre-left parties in India constituted after the Indian general election of 2004 is generally headed by the Indian National Congress.

Some of the prominent leaders of the Indian National Congress include: Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge, P Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay Singh and so on.

Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Popular Name: CPI (M)
Secretary-General: Sitaram Yechury
Lok Sabha Leader: P. Karunakaran
Rajya Sabha Leader: Sitaram Yechury
Foundation: 7 November 1964
Headquarters: Gole Market, New Delhi, India
Newspaper: People's Democracy
Student Wing: Students Federation of India
Youth Wing: Democratic Youth Federation of India
Women's Wing: All India Democratic Women's Association
Labour Wing: Centre of Indian Trade Unions
Peasant's Wing: All India Kisan Sabha
Ideology: Communism, Marxism–Leninism
Political Position: Left-wing
Color(s): Red
Election Commission of India Status: National Party
Alliance: Left Front
Election Symbol: Hammer, Sickle and Star
Website: www.cpim.org

A political (national) party broke through as a result of a split from the Communist Party of India during the year 1964. Popularly known as CPI (M), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is masterminded on the foundation of democratic centralism, a rationale believed by Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov also known as Lenin. The supreme body of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is the Political Bureau (Politburo).

Some of the prominent leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) include: Prakash Karat, Ramachandran Pillai, Sitaram Yechury, Biman Basu, Manik Sarkar, Pinarayi Vijayan, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Vardha Rajan, Rafhavulu, Brinda Karat, Surja Kanta Mishra, AK Padmanabhan and so on.

Bahujan Samaj Party

Bahujan Samaj Party

Popular Name: BSP
Chairperson: Kumari Mayawati
Secretary-General: Suresh Mane, Satish Chandra Mishra
Rajya Sabha Leader: Kumari Mayawati
Foundation: 1984
Party Headquarters: 12, Gurudwara Rakabganj Road, New Delhi 110001
Newspaper(s): Mayayug, Bahujan Samaj, Bulletin (Punjabi)
Student Wing: Bahujan Samaj Student's Forum
Youth Wing: BSP Yuva Morcha
Ideology: Dalit Socialism, Secularism
Color(s): Blue
Election Commission of India Status: National Party
Election Symbol: Elephant
Website: bspindia.org

Popularly known as BSP, the Bahujan Samaj Party was primarily constituted to back and represent Bahujans relating to people from the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Castes (OBC) and other minorities as well.

Inspired by the beliefs of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (Babasaheb), Mahatma Jyotirao Govindrao Phule and Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj (Rajarshi Shahu), the BSP was launched by a social reformer and a politician Kanshi Ram during the year 1984. 

The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is considered to be the principal base of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Presently headed by Kumari Mayawati, the BSP became the third most-voted political party in the Indian general election of 2014.

Some of the notable leaders of the BSP include Kumari Mayawati, Satish Chandra Mishra, Suresh Mane, Naseem Uddin Siddiqui, Swami Prasad Maurya and so on.

Nationalist Congress Party

Nationalist Congress Party

Popular Name: NCP
Chairperson: Sharad Pawar
Foundation: 25 May 1999
Headquarters: 10, Bishambhar Das Marg, New Delhi, 110001
Ideology: Indian nationalism, Civic nationalism, Progressivism, Conservatism
Political Position: Centre
Color(s): Pacific Blue
Election Commission of India Status: National Party
Election Symbol: Clock
Website: https://ncp.com.nu/

Popularly called as NCP, the Nationalist Congress Party is principally based in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, the north eastern state of Meghalaya and in the south western state of Kerala.

Launched during the year 1999, the Nationalist Congress Party was formed after Sharad Govindrao Pawar, Tariq Anwar and Purno Agitok Sangma were ousted from the Indian National Congress for challenging the Italian-born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino (Sonia Gandhi) to head the party. 

Some of the prominent leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party include: Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule, Tariq Anwar, Praful Patel, Padamsinh Bajirao Patil, Ajit Pawar and so on.

Communist Party of India

Communist Party of India

Popular Name: CPI
Secretary-General: Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy
Foundation: 25 December 1925
Headquarters: New Delhi, India
Newspaper: New Age (English), Mukti Sangharsh (Hindi)
Student Wing: All India Students Federation
Youth Wing: All India Youth Federation
Women's Wing: National Federation of Indian Women
Labor Wing: All India Trade Union Congress and Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Union
Peasant's Wing: All India Kisan Sabha (Ajoy Bhavan)
Ideology: Communism, Socialism, Left-wing Nationalism, Progressivism
Political Position: Left-wing
Color(s): Red
Alliance: Left Front
Election Commission of India Status: National Party
Election Symbol: Ears of Corn and Sickle
Website: www.communistparty.in

Popularly called as the CPI, the Communist Party of India was founded during the year 1925. The Communist Party of India is the only national party in the country that is recognized by the election commission of India to take part in all the Indian general elections using the same party symbol (Ears of corn and sickle).

Nevertheless, after the debacle of the Indian general election of 2014, the CPI lost its 'national party' status. Some of the prominent leaders of the Communist Party of India include Prakash Karat, N.E. Balaram, C. Achutha Menon, P. K. Vasudevan Nair, Geeta Mukherjee, D. Raja, and S. Sudhakar Reddy and so on.

Regional or State Parties in India

A recognized or registered regional or state-level political party is required to meet any of the below terms and conditions for recognition as a state party from the election commission of India.
  • A political party is required to secure a minimum of 3% of the total number of constituencies or a minimum of 3 seats in the general assembly of the state

  • A political party is required to come through at least one seat in the lower house of the Indian parliament for every twenty-five seats or any fraction there from assigned to that particular state

  • A party is required to receive at least 6% of the total (valid) votes polled in the Indian general election to the lower house of the parliament or legislative assembly of that state and should, additionally, gain at the least one Lok Sabha, and two state assembly seats

  • Another clause has been added under the liberalized standards that even if a political party runs out to secure any seat in a state assembly or in an Indian general election to the lower house of the parliament, the political party will still be eligible for recognition as a region or state party if it receives eight percent or more of the total (valid) votes in that particular state
Some of the popular regional or state parties in India include:

All India Trinamool Congress

All India Trinamool Congress

  • Leader: Mamata Banerjee, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Mukul Roy
  • Chairperson: Mamata Banerjee (Chief Minister, West Bengal)
  • Lok Sabha Leader: Sudip Bandyopadhyay
  • Rajya Sabha Leader: Derek O'Brien
  • Foundation: 1 January 1998
  • Headquarters: 30B, Harish Chatterjee Street, Kolkata-700 026
  • Newspaper: Jago Bangla (Bengali)
  • Student Wing: Trinamool Chhatra Parishad
  • Youth Wing: All India Trinamool Youth Congress
  • Women's Wing: All India Trinamool Mahila Congress
  • Labor Wing: Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress
  • Peasant's Wing: All India Trinamool Kisan Congress
  • Ideology: Humanity, Hinduism
  • Political Position: Centre-left
  • Color(s): Bright Green
  • Election Commission of India Status: State party
  • Party Symbol: Flowers and Grass
  • Website: aitcofficial.org

Popularly known as TMC, the All India Trinamool Congress is a regional political party based in West Bengal and has a strong presence in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura. 

Founded and presently headed by the Mamata Banerjee (the incumbent Chief Minister of West Bengal), the All India Trinamool Congress is the fourth largest party in the lower house of the Indian parliament with 34 seats.

Some of the notable TMC leaders include Mamata Banerjee, Sudip Bandypadhyay, Mukul Roy, Derek O'Brien and so on.

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
  • Leader: J. Jayalalithaa
  • Founder: MG Ramachandran
  • Foundation: 17 October 1972
  • Headquarters: 226, Avvai Shanmugam Salai, Roayapettah, Chennai - 600014
  • Ideology: Social democracy, Populism
  • Political position: Centre
  • Election Commission of India Status: State party
  • Party Symbol: Two Leaves
  • Website: aiadmk.com
Shortly called as ADMK or AIADMK, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was launched by the charismatic actor turned politician MG. Ramachandran. The AIADMK is presently the third largest party in Lok Sabha. 

Currently headed by J. Jayalalithaa (the incumbent Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu), AIADMK is one among the most successful political party of South India. Some of the prominent AIADMK leaders include Jayalalithaa, Paneerselvam, P. Dhanapal, R. Viswanathan, P. Mohan, Valarmathi and so on.

Jammu & Kashmir National Conference

Jammu & Kashmir National Conference

  • Chairperson: Farooq Abdullah
  • Founded: June 11, 1939
  • Headquarters: Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
  • Ideology: Moderate Separatism, Pro-India, Re-unification of Kashmir
  • Election Commission of India Status: State party
  • Party Symbol: Plough
  • Website: https://www.jknc.in/
Popularly known as NC, the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference is a recognized state party based in Jammu & Kashmir. 

Some of the notable JKNC leaders include Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Kamal Verma, Agha Ruhullah, Mubarik Ahmad Gul, Ishfaq Ahmed Sheikh and so on.

Shiv Sena

Shiv Sena
  • Chairperson: Uddhav Thackeray
  • Lok Sabha Leader: Anant Geete
  • Rajya Sabha Leader: Sanjay Raut
  • Foundation; 19 June, 1966
  • Headquarters: Shivsena Bhavan, Ram Ganesh Gadkari Chowk, Dadar, Mumbai, 400 028, Maharashtra
  • Newspaper: Saamana
  • Student Wing: Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena (BVS)
  • Youth Wing: Yuva Sena
  • Women's Wing: Shiv Sena Mahila Aghadi
  • Ideology: Marathi Nationalism, Hindu Nationalism, Ultranationalism
  • Political Position: Extreme-right
  • Color(s): Saffron
  • Election Commission of India Status: State party
  • Party Symbol: Bow and Arrow
  • Website: shivsena.org

Based in the western state of Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena is an extreme-right political party that was founded by Balasaheb (Bal Keshav Thackeray) and is presently headed by the Uddhav Thackeray.

The party members of the Shiv Sena are called as Shivsainiks across the country. Some of the notable Shiv Sena leaders include Uddhav Thackeray, Anant Geete, Sanjay Raut, Manohar Joshi, Suresh Prabhu, Narayan Rane and so on.

Telugu Desam Party

Telugu Desam Party
  • Leader: N. Chandrababu Naidu
  • Lok Sabha Leader: Thota Narasimham
  • Rajya Sabha Leader: Tulla Devender Goud
  • Foundation: 29 March 1982
  • Headquarters: NTR Bhavan, Rd No.2, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, Telangana
  • Youth Wing: Telugu Yuvata
  • Ideology: Populist, Regionalist, Social liberalism, Integral humanism, Conservatism
  • Political Position: Centre
  • Color(s): Yellow
  • Election Commission of India Status: State party
  • Party Symbol: Bicycle
  • Website: www.telugudesam.org
Shortly called as TDP, the Telugu Desam Party, as the name suggests, is based in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Founded by the legendary Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, the TDP formed the first non-congress government in Andhra Pradesh during the year 1983. 

Presently the party is led by the incumbent Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh - Nara Chandrababu Naidu. Some of the notable TDP leaders include Chandrababu Naidu, Thota Narasimham, Tulla Devender Goud and so on.

Aam Aadmi Party

Aam Aadmi Party
  • Popular Name: AAP
  • Leader: Arvind Kejriwal (the incumbent Chief Minister of Delhi)
  • Foundation: 26 November 2012
  • Headquarters: Ground Floor, A-119, Kaushambi (NCR), Ghaziabad- 201010
  • Newspaper: Aap Ki Kranti
  • Student Wing: Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS)
  • Youth Wing: Aam Aadmi Party Youth Wing
  • Women's Wing: AAP Ki Mahila Shakti
  • Peasant's Wing: Kisan Kranti Manch
  • Ideology: Swaraj, Anti-corruption
  • Political Position: Centre-left
  • Color(s): Green
  • Election Commission of India Status: State party
  • Party Symbol: Broom
  • Website: www.aamaadmiparty.org

Translated as 'Common Man's party', the Aam Aadmi Party founded by the volunteers of the India against Corruption movement and was officially launched during the year 2012. 

Presently the ruling party in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party achieved a landslide victory in the 2015 Delhi Legislative Assembly election, with 67 out of 70 seats, reducing the INC to zero and BJP to three seats. 

Some of the notable AAP leaders include Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Asim Ahmed Kahn, Sandeep Kumar, Satyendar Jain, Gopal Rai, Raghav Chadha, Ramesh Bidhuri and so on.

Some of the other important regional or state political parties in India include:
  • All India Forward Bloc
  • Rashtriya Janata Dal
  • Samajwadi Party
  • Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party
  • Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
  • Hill State People's Democratic Party
  • All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen
  • Manipur State Congress Party
  • Zoram Nationalist Party
  • People's Party of Arunachal
  • Janata Dal (United)
  • All Jharkhand Students Union
  • Biju Janata Dal

Defunct Political Parties in India

Apart from the never ending list of existing (recognized and unrecognized) national and regional/state-level political parties, there are several political parties which can categorized as defunct political parties. 

Defunct political parties are parties are nothing but political parties who operated and contested in elections, but at present, no longer in force or use; inactive or merged with some other political party. Some of the important defunct political parties in India include

Bharatiya Jan Sangh, Janata Party, Swatantra Party, Praja Socialist Party, Samta Party, Lok Dal (Charan), Samyukta Socialist Party, Andhra Pradesh Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (Chandra Pulla Reddy), MGR-SSR Latchiya Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Praja Rajyam Party, Travancore Tamil Nadu Congress, Bombay Provincial Working Class Party, Bharatiya Forward Bloc, Indian National Democratic Congress, Pursharathi Panchayat, Gondwana Ganatantra Party, All India Indira Congress (Tiwari), Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress and so on.

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