According to Mr. Gilchrist a party may be defined as an organized group of citizens who profess to share the same political view and who by acting as a political unit, try to control the Government.
Thus four things are required for the formation of a political party organizations, principles, policies and programmes lust for power, and lastly the object of national interest. In a democratic country the political parties pursue their programmes through peaceful and constitutional means, through press plat form and other means of propaganda.
According to Bryce, “Every political party adopts ways to seize power. It seeks to have a sound organization and protects itself against divisions and dissidents internal ritt, as everybody knows, is a prelude to speedy death secondly, every party endeavours to swill its ranks by enlisting more and more members in order to strengthen itself.
Thirdly it educates the voters and our rules political consciousness. Lastly, the party through press and platform tries to win favour with the masses. It appeals to the voters to stand under its umbrella. It contests the election and can vases for its candidates in order to capture seats in legislature and other local bodies.
Political parties are the life blood of democracy. The conception of democracy is the rule of the people for their own welfare. But in a big nation where the number of voters is every large, every voter cannot express-his views on vital political issues.
Nor is an average intelligent enough to understand and comment on political problems. Moreover, an individual is took weak to exercise a corrective influence on the ruling class. The political parties should public opinion and create an order and of the choose of individual opinions.
People generally curse political parties but they probably do so because of their ignorance. They do not know that democracy cannot deliver goods in the absence political parties. It is only under autocratic monarchy of ruth military rule that the political parties are not allowed to came up.
One party system leads to fascist rule. In communist countries e Russia, Hungary, China and others, no opposition group is owed to raise its head. There is no check on the arrogance of e communist party.
Hence the successful functioning of democracy requires the presence of at least two political parties in the country, ne to rule and the other to act as watch dog. Without parties democracy degenerates into totalitarianism.
The political parties in a democracy serve very useful purposes. They enable the masses to choose their rulers. The party whole ideology and programme secure the approval of the voters at e election, forms the Government. Secondly, the party in opposition gives timely warning to the ruling group against following a particular policy.
The parties create political awakening in the voters, contest the elections and try to seize power. Without party system no Govt, can be stable. Not only the ruling group but also the opposition group plays a vital role. They whip resentment against the party in power and foreward it against following a wrong course of action.
Classification of political parties in India – In terms of geographical spread there are four types of parties ‘All India parties’, transitional parties, regional parties and local parties. In terms of orientation, there are parties erf left, right, centre and leader oriented parties.
Among the left there are communist parties and socialist groups, among formed around religious community and caste. We may further classify Indian parties in the following way.
(1) All India political parties:
It has been officially defined as those national parties with broad based national support and able to win a minimum of 4% of votes or more than 3% of the seats in at least four state legislative assemblies. These parties present national platform and emphasize national issues in the parliamentary elections. The number of recognized All India parties have varied from 4 to 8 from 1957 to 1991.
(2) Regional parties:
The 2nd group consists of regional parties, which clearly represent sub regional nationalism based upon the cannon language, culture and history of a region. These parties try to aggregate regional interests regardless of the caste and religious affiliations of their members.
Their power base and voting strength and confirmed to a particular geographic area. Examples are DMK and ADMK, the national conference and Aslam Gana Parishad.
(3) Communal parties:
The third group includes those parties and organizations. That are exclusive in their membership, that is they accept as members only the inhabitants of a particular religious or ethnic community.
They seek to protect and promote the interest of that particular community alone and are basically non-aggregative in nature. Muslim league, Akali dal and the Shiva Sena are the examples.
The last group of parties consist of those organized around powerful persons or local and state issues. Such parties may not survive very long; some may appear only for a short period and then disappear completely or merge into other parties.
The Bangla Congress, the Kerala Congress, the BKD of Charan Singh are some examples of ad-hoc-parties.
Salient features of the party system:
India has a large number of political parties without a well developed party system.
Almost all the parties are faction – ridden and have lost their credibility. The distinctive features are as follows –
(1) One party Dominance system:
India’s party system has been unique. It had revolved around the Indian National Congress Party. Hence it has been often described as a dominant one party system.
It is basically different from the multi party model of countries like France and Italy because one of India’s several parties has over, shadowed all others by having dominated the political scene over since independence. From 1947 to 1967 and from 1971 to 1977 as well as from 1980 to 1989, this system was at the centre of India politics, spanning three distinct stages in its post independence development.
Rajni Kothari prefers to call the Indian Party system as one party dominances system for the congress system. He asserts that the congress party, based upon a broad consensus was able to accommodate diverse interests and factions within its fold. This system operated during Nehru’s as well as Indira Gandhi’s leadership of the congress party.
(2) A multi party system:
Since 1967 a multi party situation had emerged, both in the centre and the state, without becoming a formal multi party system due to the continuance of effective dominant congress party rule at the federal level till 1989. The congress party itself is a coalition of diverse interests, factions, groups and individuals.
(3) Weakness of the non-congress parties:
Another important feature of the Indian party system, until the fourth general election, was the absence of an effective opposition. The non-congress opposition in India consisted on various divided, antagonistic groups which were fundamentally and ideologically opposed to each other.
The main drawback of the non-congress position in India was that it has been divided and weak. It was t one Opposition, but many oppositions, consisting of many groups and independent individuals.
(4) Reliance on powerful personalities:
Although the parties have been able to build organizational structures, they rely heavily on certain charismatic and powerful personalities or community and religious leaders. In fact, we find highly personalized and centralized style of leadership in our country.
(5) Lack of ideological commitment:
Despite their emphasis on ideological commitment, raison d etre of all political parties in India has been to capture power. And for that they have been too willing to sacrifice an ideology. In India politics has become issue oriented rather than based on ideology.
The existence of the national forest Government at the centre is a candid example of issue oriented politics which got support from the extreme left CPI (M) and the extreme right (BJP).
(6) Emergence of Regional parties:
In India, several all-India parties have suffered in strength and regional parties have grown in number and influence. Thus, Tamilnadu has become a strong hold of the DMK followed by the AIADMK; the Punjab is dominated by the Akali Dal.
Assam had been ruled by the AGP. Jammu and Kashmir is governed by the National conference and Shiv sena has emerged as a powerful force in Maharashtra politics.
Some regional parties such as the DMK Shriomani Akali Dal and National conference emerged soon after the country’s independence.
(7) The Common Socio-Economic Background of Party Leaders:
There is a remarkable similarity in the socioeconomic background of the leaders of the various political parties in India.
Most of the leaders of the non-congress parties who left the Indian National Congress originated from the same strata of the society had the same type of educational background and shared the experience of the freedom movement. Most of item originated in the upper or middle classes.
(8) Factions within the parties:
All political parties tend to be factionalized. In non-community parties the faction leaders tend to be community caste or religious leaders who have skillfully built patron client relationship among the members of different castes or communities.
Most of these factional alliances are non-ideological they als0 tend to shift a good deal, thus keeping the parties in a state of this. In the communist parties, on the other hand ideological, consideration frequently lead to faction formation, although personality cases or regional of foliation can also play decisive roles despite the adherence of there parties to a common ideology.
(9) Distinctive party system in the states:
The operating model of party system in the constituent states of the union is different from the model operating at the All India Level.
In fact each state in the Indian Union has its own party system some of the states have had multi-party system in which the congress has been dominant, in some like Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir the competitive two party system has emerged.
(10) The use of extra-constitutional means to powers:
Although electioneering and campaigning in an effort to capture a maximum number of seats in public offices are said to be the main functions of the parties, very few parties are able to make a respectable showing using only there legitimate methods.
As a result political parties of all ideological persuasions frequently try to exploit political or social discontent to their advantage. They do not hesitate to use such non-parliamentary means as civil disobedience, amass demonstrations, strikes and protest rallies to embarrass the party in power and some of these tactics may become violent.
These are the main features and classifications of the party- system in India.