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Top Ten Political Parties in India

In its democratic political framework, India, the world's most democratic country, has a multiparty system. Lord Bryce is correct when he says that any democratic system is primarily based on its party system because that is where the political centre of gravity is located. As a result, the party system in a democratic setup becomes not just unavoidable but also indispensable.

Further, the nature of modern democracy is indirect or representative. The vast majority of a modern large state's population cannot directly participate in state administration. They indirectly participate in the administration of the state through representatives elected by them. Universal suffrage is the primary foundation of representative democracy, and political parties play an important role in electoral affairs. In a liberal democratic system, political parties play an especially important role. This sort of government is known as a party government.

Political scientists have been unable to reach a consensus on the definition of a political party because different political scientists have provided various conceptions of a political party. Benjamin Constant referred to a political party as a group of people who shared the same political viewpoints in the early nineteenth century. A political party, according to Gilchrist, is an established group of citizens who share the same political beliefs and seek to control the government as a political organization. A political party, according to Neumann, is the most significant tool for transforming social force into political power. A political party, according to Maurice Duverger, is an organization with a defined structure, but Avery Leiserson defines it as a private and indirect representation of social groups and socioeconomic class. Marxian theorists, on the other hand, have defined the political party from an entirely different perspective. A political party, according to Lenin, is the most deliberate, thorough, and definite political tool of every class's political struggle.

Thus, a more or less acceptable definition of a political party might be established based on the aforementioned definitions. A political party is defined as an organized group of persons who, on the basis of an accepted principle, aim to run the government and administer the party principles through their combined efforts for the protection of national interests as a political organization.

Features of a Political Party

Despite the fact that different thinkers define political parties differently, some of the characteristics of a political party in general can be summarized as follows:

  1. Members of a political party share a common ideology and are motivated by it.
  2. Every political party has a certain agenda and runs for office based on that agenda.
  3. Every political party has its own flag, symbol, and organizational structure, which in a democratic state is usually shaped like a pyramid.
  4. A political party can only be formed by citizens. This is something that no foreigner has the authority to accomplish.
  5. While each political party is motivated by its own set of beliefs, they all strive to benefit society as a whole.
  6. Every political party attempts to shape public opinion in favour of its own ideology by ongoing dialogues and conversations about people's social, economic, and political problems.
  7. After gaining significant public support, each and every political party must be prepared to create a government and follow the party's policy.
  8. According to western political scientists, a political party must seek political power through peaceful and constitutional means, rather than through revolutionary tactics.

Multiparty systems exist in nations such as France, Sweden, and Norway, just as they do in India. However, in these countries, there is no criterion for recognizing a party as a "political party" and classifying it accordingly. However, in India, the procedure is outlined in Article 324(1), which specifies the role of the election commission in the control and supervision of elections held in the country. The election commission is in charge of preparing electoral rolls for elections at various national, state, and regional levels, and it is this commission that recognizes political parties and categorizes them into three categories: national parties, regional or state parties, and recognized political parties, based on a set of criteria. Election commissions select different criteria at different periods for such classification, and the involvement of the election commission is so important that no party can contest in the election if it is not recognized by the election commission.

From time to time, prominent political thinkers such as Rajni Kothari and W.H. Morris-Jones have described and expressed their opinions on India's party system and political situation. Let us look at the top ten political parties in India, which include both regional and national parties, and are distinguished by their ideological diversity, operational areas, organizational structure, and size.

1) Indian National Congress (INC)

Top Ten Political Parties in India

The Indian National Congress, which was created in 1885 by the initiative of the retired civil servant in the British Government, Allan Octavian Hume, to reflect the interests of India's rising urban middle class, is the country's one of the major political parties. A "big tent" political party, Congress with its platform, is widely seen as lying in the centre to center-left of Indian politics.

The Indian National Congress, since its inception, was leading the Indian movement for independence from British rule. Since independence, it has constituted the majority of India's governments and has a prominent representation in many state governments.

Evolution through the years

From the beginning, the Congress movement was marked by the presence of moderates and extremists, reformers and revolutionaries, liberals and conservatives. By the early 20th century, Congress began to mould itself into a political party with a constitution, due paying members, fund-raising, preparation of election platforms, internal elections for the organization. But unlike the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Parties, the Congress has never been a cadre-based party.

The elections of 1936-37, following the Government of India Act, (1935) were a major milestone in the development of India's political parties. Congress contested the elections on the basis of a detailed political and economic strategy. It won almost half of the elected legislative seats and formed governments in seven of the eleven provinces.

For almost three decades, the Congress remained perhaps the only all-India party, not just in terms of geography, but also in terms of its ability to appeal to nearly every segment of society. By almost any criterion -- social, economic, territorial, demographic, the Congress support base was the most heterogeneous and differentiated, compared to any other political party in India.

During the Nehru-era (1947-64), Congress operated at the state level mainly through powerful state party bosses. As a result, factional fighting within Congress took the form of struggle in the various states over nominations to the parliament and legislative assemblies and to party offices.

The political landscape changed fundamentally after the fourth general election in 1967. Inflation, severe scarcities caused by drought and the wars of 1962 and 1965, the threat of famine, and consequent mass agitations to produce a certain intensity in the atmosphere of the 1967 elections. The results were stunning. The Congress at the centre lost almost 80 seats and was reduced to a 54% majority in the Lok Sabha. In addition, the party lost majorities in eight states. The stifling stranglehold of the Congress had finally been broken.

After the reverses of 1967, Congress realized that its political management skills had to be honed. Under Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Congress began to centralize itself. In the process, Mrs. Gandhi hastened the institutional decline of the party. The party organization was split in 1969 and again in 1980.

Centralization of power in the hands of the prime minister in New Delhi meant that state party units with their organizations in disarray could neither represent local interests nor implement national policies. Congress base gradually became narrower and narrower. No elections were held in branches of the Congress Party between 1972 and 1991.

During the years of Rajiv Gandhi (1984-1991) Congress remained more a coterie around the Prime Minister rather than a party whose organization was supposed to reach into the deepest hinterland. As the government, the Congress was committed to modernizing India, and yet as a party, it was concerned to win elections. It had to be attuned to traditional values and idioms to speak the language of elections. With a progressively narrowing base of support of the party organization, Congress lost several states to a plethora of regional opposition parties. After Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991, Congress was faced with a crisis of leadership. It was offered to his widow, Sonia Gandhi, but on her non-acceptance, it was passed on to P.V. Narsimha Rao. It fell upon him to depart radically from Nehruvian legacy in economic and foreign policies. Immediately after taking office in 1991, his government launched a major reorientation of economic policy to make it more market-oriented, liberal and open to global trade.

The Congress minority government lost the elections in 1996. The BJP formed government for 13 days to be followed by United Front Government, a coalition of thirteen parties professing leftist, pro-poor leanings. This UF ministry was supported from outside by Congress, as well as by the CPM. In 1997, the Congress had a new leader, Sitaram Kesri, but as soon as elections were called for in 1998 it seemed imminent that the stage was ready for Sonia Gandhi to take over the reins of the party. She campaigned extensively for the Congress throughout the length and breadth of the country and projected herself as the new face of the party. It was widely believed within party circles that Kesri would never be able to have a grip over the various factions within the Congress. As a result, in a coup like fashion, Kesri was dethroned and Sonia Gandhi was installed as the new Congress party President in March 1998.

The label of one dominant party system may be misleading when applied to Congress in India. The party was dominant in national politics by virtue of its strength in Lok Sabha. But this concealed the reality of substantial opposition from other political parties on a state-by-state basis. Congress had a distinctive pattern of a relationship with other political parties from one state to another reflecting its different social base in each state separately.

Earlier studies had found that the social basis of support for the Congress party was evenly spread across all social groups. It was somewhat more popular among the elderly, that is, those who had been socialized into politics during the independence struggle, the less educated, the religious and ethnic minorities and those living in the rural areas.

The Congress had almost little to show for its gains after toppling the UF government in Delhi and leading the country to elections in February-March 1998, with its vote share falling to a historic low of 25.4 percent.

The 1999 election outcome was a setback for the Congress Party despite a modest increase in its share of the popular vote by about 3 percentage points compared to its tally in 1998. The main problem in Congress continued to be issues of leadership. It failed to accommodate strong regional leaders who were perceived to be a threat to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the party in 1998 holding out the hope of rebuilding a party in disarray. But that was soon belied as she too took recourse to tactics that bolstered centralized party control. In the absence of intra-party democracy and any effort to build grass roots organization, the party relied on supposedly charismatic personal leadership. But dynastic succession did not guarantee charisma. Without strengthening party organization, Congress was bound to languish.

The fourteenth Lok Sabha elections of 2004 brought the Congress-led UPA to power wherein the Congress got 26.21 percent of the votes polled. The verdict however was not at all decidedly for the Congress, but the good performance of the regional parties with which it had happened to make alliance gave it the numbers to form a government.

After an unprecedented eight years out of power, the Congress party won the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and returned with the majority at the centre. Manmohan Singh formed a government with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), a Congress-led coalition. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) reformed the government after the 2009 national elections, and Singh became the only PM since Nehru in 1962 to be re-elected after finishing a complete five-year term.

Due to several years of bad performance of the economy, the party had lost a large chunk of its public support and the increasing public dissatisfaction with a succession of government corruption claims, including the 2G spectrum issue and the Indian coal allotment controversy by the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress won 44 seats in the lower house, against 336 of the BJP and its allies. For the first instance in a national election, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) endured a catastrophic setback, with its vote percentage falling below 20%. Leading the National Democratic Alliance, Narendra Modi succeeded Singh as Prime Minister.

Sonia Gandhi, who had been the party's president for a historic nineteen years, stepped down in December 2017. Her son Rahul Gandhi, who ran unchallenged in the Presidential Election of INC in 2017, replaced her. However, due to the party's poor result in the 2019 general election, Rahul Gandhi resigned from his position. Following Gandhi's resignation, the party began looking for a qualified candidate to take his position. The Congress Working Committee then convened to make a definitive decision on the issue, passing a resolution urging Sonia Gandhi to serve as interim president until a unanimous candidate could be chosen. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was chosen Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha by Congress in June 2019. As of March 2022, Congress with its alliances is in power in three legislative assemblies after losing its majority in Punjab state elections.

2) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

Top Ten Political Parties in India

Along with the Indian National Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party is one of India's two major political parties. Since 2014, it has been India's leading political party, led by PM Narendra Modi. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a Hindu nationalist right-wing political party with a long history of Hindu nationalist policies. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is philosophically and structurally related to it.

The Bharatiya Jana Sangh is the BJP's precursor, formed in 1951 by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. The Jana Sangh combined with numerous other organizations to establish the Janata Party when the State of Emergency was declared in 1977.

Evolution through the years

The Jana Sangha arose from a schism between the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the Hindu Mahasabha (1907), as well as the RSS leadership and rank-and-desire files to participate in active political activity. The RSS was established in 1925 with a strong commitment to the revival of the Hindu nation. After Mahatma Gandhi's assassination in January 1948, it was outlawed as a communal organisation, but some of its leaders entered the political arena by creating the Jana Sangh, a new political party.

The RSS's split from the Hindu Mahasabha stemmed from a set of organisational allegiances that the RSS created. The RSS resisted any attempt by the Hindu Mahasabha to make it a subsidiary organisation because it had formed in its own way, with its own traditions, leaders, and activities. As a result, the drift.

The Jana Sangha's goal was to reconstruct Bharat as a modern democratic society while eradicating as much foreign cultural influence as possible. The Jana Sangh pursued policies that were symbolic to its Hindu electorate, such as support for Hindi and Ayurvedic medicine, cow protection, and a hard-line position on defence, including the acquisition of nuclear capability.

The Jana Sangh's mission was a mix of modernity and tradition in its early stages. The party's ideology was to protect Bharatiya culture as it was understood. Between 1967 and 1971, the Jana Sangh, which was based in the Hindu heartland of North India, was a member of coalition administrations in five states and had intermittent control of the Delhi municipal council. From 1952 until 1971, the Jana Sangh was the name of the political party that ran in elections. However, in 1977, it joined the Janata Party and ran in the 1977 and 1980 elections as such. It was renamed the Bharatiya Janata Party before the 1984 elections. The party's electoral development was steady at first, but it took a dramatic turn in the 1990s. The major factors responsible for BJP's success may be accounted for as follows:

  1. In contrast to the Congress's 'cult of personality,' it provided collective leadership inside the party organisation.
  2. The BJP began to build an image of unity and clarity, attempting to portray a party that is internally disciplined and founded on convictions and ideals.
  3. It carried out a meticulous election campaign.
  4. It could boast of having front leaders who are skillful orators when speaking to a mass audience.
  5. It had a well-thought-out strategy for enlisting the support of the RSS's grassroots cadres through strong campaigning by disciplined RSS members.
  6. As Rajiv Gandhi's incapacity to deal with the Indian state's internal and external difficulties became obvious, the BJP's promise of strength and stability, as well as its emphasis on Hindutva, gained traction.
  7. It took advantage of religious sentiment by rallying support across the country to create a supposed temple in Lord Rama's alleged birthplace of Ayodhya.

Until the 1980s, the Jana Sangh/BJP was a minor political force. However, it was a key constituent unit of the Janata government during 1977-79 and played a major part in the development of the Janata Party. The party also took control of the state governments in Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan as well as Delhi. The party's efforts to establish a distinct identity based on Hindu nationalism and patriotism, as well as mobilizing religious sentiments, were successful in gaining electoral support.

To acquire a wider appeal, the BJP originally softened the Hindu nationalist position of its predecessor, the Jana Sangh, by emphasizing its ties to the Janata Party and Gandhian Socialism's doctrine. In the 1984 polls, it got just 2 seats in the Lok Sabha, making it a failure. Indira Gandhi's assassination a few months before the polls sparked a wave of sympathy for the Congress that secured a record 403 seats and contributed to the BJP's poor vote count.

After the moderate strategy of Vajpayee failed, the party's philosophy shifted toward a more hardline Hindu nationalist stance. Advani was elected president of the party in 1984, and the party became the political voice of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation under his leadership. In the early 1980s, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) initiated a campaign to construct a temple dedicated to the Hindu lord Rama on the disputed site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.

The BJP had contested 226 seats in 1989 and increased its parliamentary strength more than forty-fold to 85 seats, which provided its crucial support toward the formation of VP Singh's National Front government. From then on, it continued to increase its presence in the Lok Sabha until 2004 elections. In addition to its good performance at the national level, the party began to win power in several states, especially, in the north and the west, as well. However, it failed to make any significant gain in terms of legislative seats in the east and the south.

Advani launched a rath yatra (chariot trek) to Ayodhya in favour of the Ram temple movement in September 1990. During his yatra, Advani in his speeches accused the government of accommodating Muslims and practising "pseudo-secularism" that thwarted Hindus' legitimate objectives. On the command of Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Chief Minister of Bihar at the time, Advani was held under preventive custody. Despite this, a significant number of kar sevaks gathered in Ayodhya. On the orders of the then UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, 150,000 of them were detained, but half of them reached Ayodhya, where some vandalized the mosque. Several kar sevaks were killed in three days of combat with paramilitary forces. VHP asked Hindus to "avenge" these killings, which resulted in rioting targeting Muslims across Uttar Pradesh. The BJP pulled its support from the V.P. Singh cabinet, triggering new general elections. It earned a majority in the Uttar Pradesh assembly after increasing its tally to 120 seats.

On December 6, 1992, the RSS and its supporters held a rally near the mosque site, with approximately lakh VHP and BJP activists in attendance. The demonstration devolved into a frantic attack that culminated in the mosque's destruction under circumstances that are yet unknown. Waves of unrest between Hindus and Muslims flared across the country in the following weeks, killing almost 2,000 people. The VHP was momentarily outlawed by the government, and a number of BJP leaders, including Advani, were detained for delivering incendiary comments that prompted the demolition. Several historians have claimed that the demolition was the result of a Sangh Parivar conspiracy rather than a spontaneous gesture.

According to a 2009 report by Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan, the demolition of the Babri masjid involved 68 people, the bulk of whom were BJP stalwarts. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Lal Krishna Advani were among those named. During the destruction, Kalyan Singh, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, was also chastised in the report. He was accused of using officials and police officers to keep the demolition quiet. Anju Gupta, the Indian Police Service officer who was in charge of Advani's security, testified before the commission as a key witness. She claimed that aggressive speeches by Advani and Joshi were a major cause of the mob's actions. The Supreme Court of India, however, acquitted all of the defendants in the destruction, including Advani and Joshi, in a judgement issued on September 30, 2020.

The BJP took advantage of the consequent communal polarisation in the 1996 general elections to win 161 seats in the lower house, making it the largest party in the national parliament. Vajpayee was appointed prime minister, but the administration was forced to quit after 13 days due to a lack of a majority in the Lok Sabha.

The government was formed in 1996 by a coalition of regional parties, but this partnership was short-lived, and mid-term elections were called in 1998. The BJP ran as part of a coalition named the National Democratic Alliance in the elections (NDA). The only regional party that shared the BJP's Hindutva philosophy was Shiv Sena. The NDA obtained a majority with outside support from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and Vajpayee again got elected as Prime Minister. The coalition was shattered in May 1999, when AIADMK leader Jayalalitha withdrew her support, and new elections were called.

Without the AIADMK, the NDA secured 303 seats in parliament on October 13, 1999, giving them a clear majority. The BJP earned 183 seats, the most it has ever received. For the third time, Vajpayee was elected Prime Minister; Advani was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. This NDA government served for the entire five-year tenure. Its policy agenda featured more muscular defence and terror tactics, along with neoliberal economic policies.

The thirteenth Lok Sabha elections of 1999 brought back the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance to power with an expanded majority. This expansion however, came about as a result of the BJP gaining new allies rather than broadening its mass support. Along with its allies, it was able to secure 41.3 percent of the popular vote. The BJP's success in the election rested on two critical factors: leadership and alliances. The unique acceptability of Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee across the political spectrum was the hallmark of this election. BJP's foresight in formulating alliances was crucial too. It was again Vajpayee who cemented the alliances and made them work. But participating and leading coalitions came at a price for the BJP. The strength of the alliance partners within the NDA diluted the BJP's ideological and organizational dominance within the alliance. This was demonstrated by the BJP's choice to garner public support based on the NDA's common manifesto, which eliminated contentious components of the BJP's previous agendas.

On February 27, 2002, Sabarmati Express train carrying Hindu pilgrims was burnt outside the town of Godhra, killing 59 persons. The act was interpreted as a direct attack on Hindus, and it provoked widespread anti-Muslim riots across Gujarat for several weeks. Thousands of people were estimated to die, with 150,000 individuals affected. The riots witnessed mass rapes, mutilation, and torture on women. Several high-ranking government officials, as well as policemen who purportedly directed the rioters and supplied them lists of Muslim-owned houses, were accused of instigating and supporting the violence. The Supreme Court ordered the appointment of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) in April 2009 to investigate and accelerate the Gujarat riots cases. The SIT cleared Modi of any involvement in the violence in 2012. Maya Kodnani, a BJP MLA who later served in the Modi government as a cabinet minister, was convicted of orchestrating one of the riots and was ordered to 28 years in prison; she was later exonerated by the Gujarat High Court. It was alleged that the ghastly events involved a good degree of governmental complicity.

In 2004, Vajpayee pushed for early elections six months ahead of time. The NDA's campaign was built on the theme "India Shining," which aimed to portray the party as being responsible for the country's rapid economic turnaround. However, the NDA surprisingly lost a large number of seats in the Lok Sabha, with only 186 seats compared to 222 for Congress and its allies. Manmohan Singh, the leader of the United Progressive Alliance, succeeded Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister. The NDA's inability to connect to rural Indians, as well as its polarizing policy agenda, were cited as reasons for its downfall. The outcome of the fourteenth Lok Sabha election in 2004 was political upheaval. The BJP's defeat was as unexpected as Congress's victory. Without power, the party seemed to lose its political bearing. Some elements within the party attributed the loss to its having turned its back on Hindu nationalist ideology through becoming "Congressized" and they urged it to return to its original path. Again, in the 2009 fifteenth Lok Sabha election, BJP's presence further decreased to 116 seats in the parliament.

Strategizing for the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections of 2014, after a party convention in Goa, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was picked to lead the Bharatiya Janata Party's campaign. This sparked outrage, as L. K. Advani objected to the choice and quit from his party posts, only to subsequently retract his resignation. Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi were among the campaign's members. The BJP's campaign was mentored by Lal Krishna Advani, Rajnath Singh, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Modi fought for election in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi and Gujarat's Vadodara.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP gained 282 seats, pushing the NDA to 336 representatives in parliament. On May 26, 2014, Narendra Modi was inducted as 14th Prime Minister of India. The BJP received 31% of all votes cast, a low percentage when compared to the number of seats it secured. This was the first time a single political party had won an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha since 1984 that too by itself.

According to political experts, various factors contributed to Modi's triumph, including his popularity and the Congress's lack of support as a result of its preceding term's corruption allegations. The BJP was also able to broaden its typically upper-caste, upper-class base of support, gaining significant support from the middle class, Dalits, and OBCs.

The BJP obtained a majority again in the general election of 2019. On 5th August 2019, shortly after taking office, the Modi government repealed Jammu and Kashmir's special status, or limited autonomy, conferred under Article 370 of the Constitution (issued by a Presidential Order in 1954).

The Modi government later tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was enacted by the Indian Parliament on December 11, 2019. It changed the Citizenship Act of 1955 to allow illegal immigrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities who escaped persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 2014 to apply for Indian citizenship. Muslims from such countries were not allowed to participate.

Following the passage of the act, several protests erupted all across the country criticizing the act for being discriminatory against Muslims. Large scale protests were staged that continued till COVID-19 cases started rising in India.

In June 2020, Modi government submitted three agricultural reform legislation. The Parliament passed these bills, commonly known as the agriculture laws, at the end of September. Protesting farmers and members of the opposition argued that there was minimal consultation on the laws. When the Agricultural Bills were made known publicly in August 2020, small-scale demonstrations commenced in Punjab. However, several other farmers and farm unions across the country supported the rallies against the reforms only after the acts were passed. At the end of September 2020, Indian farmers began major protests against the legislation. The capital, New Delhi, was the epicentre of the protests. Most of those protesting farmers were from Punjab and Haryana, both of which are major agriculture producing states. The Modi administration finally revoked all three-farm legislation in late November 2021 after roughly a year of enormous protests against the legislation.

After the conclusion of state elections, as of March 2022, BJP along with its allies has managed to remain in power in 12 Indian states with all its popularity and support from the masses.

3) Trinamool Congress (TMC)

Top Ten Political Parties in India

The All-India Trinamool Congress informally called the Trinamool Congress is a political party based in West Bengal. Under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, the present Chief Minister of West Bengal, TMC has been in power in the state for the last 11 years. It has 22 seats in the Lok Sabha making it the fifth-largest party in the Lok Sabha, and the fourth-largest in terms of MLAs. TMC was officially designated political party by the Election Commission in 2016.

In 1998, Mamata Banerjee founded Trinamool Congress after being a member of the Indian National Congress for more than 26 years. The party's symbol is the 'Jora Ghas Phul,' which is a three-petaled flower with the Indian flag tricolour of green, white, and orange. The TMC's slogan 'Ma, Mati, and Manush' became immensely popular during the 2011 West Bengal Legislative election, which means 'Mother, Motherland, and People.'

Evolution through the years

The major event that caused the significant rise in popularity of Mamata Banerjee and her party was the support provided by the TMC to the affected people of Nandigram when they were asked by the Haldia Development Authority in 2006 to evict their homes in order to provide space for the setting up of a chemical plant there. People began to protest the land acquisition, and the TMC aided in the movement's leadership. According to multiple sources, violent CPI(M) cadres, as well as the police, opened fire on demonstrators in Nandigram. Mamata Banerjee rose to further prominence that ultimately strengthened her party's foothold in the state when she led the Singur agitation in 2008 against the setting up of a Tata Motors plant on the fertile agricultural land of Singur, the construction of which was initiated in 2007. The displaced farmers were vocal in their resistance to the project. Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal's then opposition leader, provided political assistance to the disgruntled farmers. Environmental activists also backed Banerjee's "Save Farmland" campaign. On 3 October 2008, the Tatas eventually chose to leave Singur shifting its Tata Nano plant to Gujarat's Sanand. The events sparked widespread opposition to the CPI(M) regime, and at the same time helped build an image for TMC to be the saviour of the poor and affected, and eventually became a significant component in the TMC's subsequent election victory.

TMC obtained 19 seats in West Bengal in the 2009 Lok Sabha election allying with the Congress. TMC's MPs joined Manmohan Singh's government after that, with Banerjee heading the Ministry of Railways. The party's success didn't stop here. TMC's electoral performance in 2011 was such that it overthrew West Bengal's 34-year-long left-wing government. TMC's popularity among the people did not end there; the party was granted a second chance when it was re-elected by the people in the 2016 legislative election, and a third chance in the 2021 legislative election when it defeated the center-right BJP and other parties in its own territory. In 2016 TMC secured 211 out of 294 seats, while in 2021, TMC won 213 seats. The TMC's policy is to try to engage with people, as it has done in the years leading up to elections. TMC's exceptional popularity among dalit and Schedule tribal populations aided it in achieving maximum benefits and a big victory in practically every reserved constituency. The State Government's popular welfare schemes that are specifically targeted towards the empowerment of poor and women of the state include Lakshmir Bhandar Prakalpa, Rupashree Prakalpa, Kanyashree Prakalpa among others. All these schemes help the poor families with financial assistance from the state government that help meet their needs along with the female members of their families continuing with their education.

4) The Communist Parties

Top Ten Political Parties in India

Under the influence of the ideology of Marxism, particularly after the successful Socialist Revolution 1917 in Russia, several socialist/labour organizations were formed in India. In 1924, some such organizations held a joint conference at Kanpur and formed the Communist Party of India (CPI) which advocated that the complete independence of India can be secured only through the adoption and use of Marxism as interpreted and used by Lenin.

Evolution through the years

After independence, the CPI decided to participate actively in the political process and to contest elections. For this purpose, it amended its constitution and accepted that peaceful and constitutional means can also be used for promoting the interests of the working class. While the Indian National Congress was in power in 1952, the CPI became the first major opposition party in the Lok Sabha. However, towards the late 1950s, the internal conflict came to develop among its members over the issue of the question of support for Soviet Communism vs Chinese Communism. In 1962 when Chinese aggression against India took place, this conflict became more marked and aggressive. While the rightists among the leftists condemned the Chinese aggression against India, the staunch leftists refused to brand China as an aggressor. A split in the CPI became inevitable. Therefore, in 1964, a new party - the Communist Party (Marxist), i.e., CPM was formed, that got recognition as a separate party. It gave a big setback to the CPI.

Since 1964, the CPI has been participating in the Indian political process and trying to increase its popularity vis-à-vis the CPM. The Communist Party of India has its support base among the agricultural and industrial labour class as well as among the weaker sections of the Indian society.

Between 1970 and 1977, the CPI was affiliated with the Congress party. They partnered with Congress to create a government in Kerala, with CPI leader C. Achutha Menon as Chief Minister. After Indira Gandhi's rule fell apart, the CPI refocused its efforts on collaborating with the CPI (M).

It has been a part of the Left Front in West Bengal and Tripura. It was also a part of Manipur's state government. West Bengal was ruled by the Left Front from 1977 till 2011 suffering defeat at the hands of Mamata Banerjee-led TMC ending its 34-year rule in the state. In the state of Tripura, it remained in power for 25 years from 1993 till 2018.

The party is a supporter of the Left Democratic Front in Kerala and Maharashtra. It is a supporter of the Secular Progressive Alliance in Tamil Nadu and the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. In Manipur, the CPI and the Congress formed the Manipur Progressive Secular Alliance in February 2022.

The Election Commission of India designated the CPI as a "National Party." Till now, the CPI is India's lone national political party that has run in all of the country's general elections under the same electoral emblem. The Election Commission of India has addressed a letter to the CPI, seeking explanations why its national party status should not be removed, following a devastating defeat in the 2019 Indian general election, in which the party's total was reduced to two MPs. The CPI will cease to be a national party if identical results are replicated in the next election.

5) Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)

Top Ten Political Parties in India

The DMK and the AIADMK are two regional parties that have been very active political actors of Tamil Nadu politics.

The emergence of local parties in Tamil Nadu began with the formation of the Justice Party (1916) as an anti-Brahmin party committed to meeting the challenge resulting from the domination of the social and political life of the region by the Brahmins. The Justice Party and the Self-Respect Movement, which had gathered enough substance and force as a result of the anti-Hindu agitation, began working hand in hand. At the Salem conference of the Party in 1944, C.N. Annuadurai proposed a policy more in accord with nationalist sentiments, renunciation of titles bestowed by the British and renaming of the Justice Party as the Dravida Kazhagam, i.e., Dravida Association (DK).

To begin with, the DK was a militant body directed against the Brahmins, the Vedas, the Puranic Hinduism and all religious ceremonies requiring the priestly services of the Brahmins. In short, it was an anti-Brahmin organization. On September 17, 1949, came the split when Anna and his followers left the DK mainstream and organized themselves into a more effective political organization, the DMK, i.e., Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which adopted a constitution within a year (DMK stands for, "The Tamilian Development Party".

Evolution through the years

Since C.N Annadurai founded his own DMK in 1949, the DMK's political direction has changed dramatically over the years. The DMK did not field a candidate in first the general state legislative Assembly election of 1951-52, instead promising to back politicians who agreed with the demand for Davidastan, as well as communist party candidates. In the second general state legislative election, the DMK got only 15 seats out of a total of 205, while the opposition Congress gained 151 seats. In the third state legislative election, the DMK improved its position slightly, winning 50 seats and the opposition Congress 139 seats. It was during this path that the history of Tamil Nadu was significantly changed in the fourth general election of the state legislative assembly, when the DMK contested 173 out of 234 assembly seats and won 138 seats, becoming the largest party in the Tamil Nadu Vidhan Sabha. Furthermore, Congress won only three seats out of 39 in the Lok Sabha election, while the DMK won 25. Unfortunately, in February 1969, a great tragedy struck Tamil Nadu politics with the death of C.N. Annadurai, and a power struggle ensued between Mr. Karunanidhi and V.R. Nedunchezhiyan over the party's leadership. Karunanidhi was able to gain control of the party and become the Chief Minister attributable to his exceptional organisational skills. In the next Lok Sabha election in 1971, the fifth general election, the DMK won 24 seats, while at the state level, the party won 184 seats and returned to power with a large majority in the state legislative election.

The Historic Split within the party

Following the election of 1971, disagreements arose between M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), the DMK's treasurer at the time, and Mr.Karunanidhi, resulting in a serious schism within the party. MGR was eventually arrested at Karunanidhi's request in 1972, eliciting widespread public sympathy for him. On the 18th of October 1972, MGR's loyalists in the DMK founded a new party, the Anna DMK, declaring that his party will follow the ideals and objectives of the late C. N. Annadurai. As a result, the AIADMK, a new political party, was created, energizing the people of Tamil Nadu.

The AIADMK and the DMK overcame their differences in the 1991 Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly elections when the AIADMK won a landslide victory in both the Lok Sabha and the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections. On June 24, 1991, the AIADMK formed a government, with Ms. Jayalalitha as the Chief Minister.

In Tamil Nadu, politics has always been a see-saw battle between the DMK and the AIADMK. M.K. Stalin, who is also the 8th Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, is the current Chief Minister. He is the son of former Chief Minister Karunanidhi, and he has served as the DMK's president since 2018. He is also ranked under 30th on Indian Express's list of India's most influential people.

6) Bahujan Samaj Party

Top Ten Political Parties in India

The caste system is omnipresent in India, both in people's beliefs and in society. People are treated differently as a result of this system, and a certain segment of the Indian population is always left out or labelled as untouchables, resulting in upper caste, lower caste, and even outcaste categories in Indian society. Wherever there is injustice, there are a few who speak out for its redress, whether it be in the form of an organization or an individual. Similarly, based on these points came the birth of the Bahujan Samaj Party on 14th April 1984 when two interest groups called Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) and Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti (DS-4) integrated under the leadership of Sh. Kanshi Ram formed a political party. This party declared itself as the sole representative of Bahujan Samaj, which consisted of ST, SC, OBC, Dalits, and likewise communities. Though the Indian society consisted of 80% of these communities' population, they still have a meagre political representation of themselves at any decision-making level of government.

This party draws inspiration from the ideas and teachings of Sahu Maharaj, Mahatma Phule, Mahatma Ramaswami Naynar and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar.

Evolution through the years

In 1997, the Election Commission recognised it as a national party with a support base in every state with the exception of Assam, Sikkim and Pondicherry. It has a particularly strong presence in the politics of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. It was able to achieve a major victory in the 2007 UP Legislative Assembly Elections by emerging as the single majority party. Its Dalit-Brahmin combination card paid out handsomely. Ms. Mayawati became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, leading the party to power.

The BSP earned the status of India's third-largest national party in terms of vote share in the 2014 general elections.

The BSP established a Mahagathbandhan (Grand alliance) ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Mahagathbandhan was an anti-Congress, anti-BJP Indian political alliance formed in the wake of the 2019 Lok Sabha election by Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, together with Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal and many other political parties contesting in various states of India. However, the Mahagathbandhan could not deliver the expected performance in the elections given its grandeur and had to remain content with just 15 seats.

7) Shiv Sena

Top Ten Political Parties in India

Shiv Sena, formed in 1966 under the leadership of Bal Thackeray in Bombay, is a right-wing regional party in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena articulated the demands of the Marathi-speaking middle-class predominantly urban and Mumbai-centric.

Shiv Sena mainly emerged as a party speaking the rights of the native Maharashtrians to get preferences in the job-market. Shiv Sena adopted a Hindu revivalist posture and increasingly subscribed to a militant Hindu nationalist ideology. Shivaji was chosen to be its historical idol due to his pro-Maratha and anti-Muslim stance.

Evolution through the years

Organizationally, Shiv Sena is highly amorphous in nature. It neither enrols members nor elects party leaders. Bal Thackeray, the founder of the party, retained the supreme-decision making authority in his own hands till the time he was alive. He, of course, had a number of senior Mumbai-based leaders to advise him. In 2004, Uddhav Thackeray, son of Bal Thackeray, became the party leader.

Though Shiv Sena had been contesting elections, particularly at the Mumbai Municipal Corporation level, for a long time, its first success came in 1985 when it won 76 out of 170 seats in Mumbai Municipality.

From 1989, the party formed an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly seats. Between 1995 through 1999, the two established a coalition-government in Maharashtra. From 1999 through 2014, the Sena and the BJP were the state's opposition parties. However, in the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections, the 25-year alliance with the BJP was endangered by seat allocation, and both parties ran separately. Sena declared opposition after the BJP was elected as the largest party in the 2014 election. However, following negotiations, the Sena agreed to join the Maharashtra administration. The BMC is governed by a Shiv Sena-BJP coalition. After over 30 years of campaigning alongside the BJP and their NDA coalition, the Shiv Sena officially severed ties with them in January 2018 ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. However, in February 2019, the BJP and the Shiv Sena established a new electoral alliance for both the general election and the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly election. Shiv Sena lost votes in the election and has since refused to support the BJP in establishing a government due to the BJP's unwillingness to co-operate in power-sharing. Shiv Sena's withdrawal from the National Democratic Alliance sparked a political crisis in late October and early November 2019, with party leader Uddhav Thackeray eventually becoming Chief Minister with the help of the Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.

8) Aam Aadmi Party

Top Ten Political Parties in India

Aam Aadmi Party, literally meaning the Common man's party is a political party founded by the former Indian bureaucrat, Arvind Kejriwal in November 2012.

Following disagreements between Kejriwal and Indian activist Anna Hazare over the inclusion of electoral politics into the prominent 2011 Indian anti-corruption campaign, which had been demanding a Jan Lokpal Bill since 2011, the party was formed.

At Sundar Nagri, in North-East Delhi, Kejriwal launched an indefinite fast on March 23, 2013, in an effort to gather civil support against the exorbitant power and electricity bills. He advised Delhi residents not to pay "excessive" water and energy bills during the demonstration. The AAP also sought that the CAG of India conducts an audit of Delhi's power and electrical supplies, which was backed by civil society organisations. Anna Hazare then requested Kejriwal to terminate his fast on March 29th, which he did on April 6th.

Evolution through the years

AAP contested its first-ever elections with the 2013 Delhi Legislative Assembly election, finishing second to the BJP; neither party won an outright majority. As a result, the AAP formed a coalition government with the help of INC. Kejriwal became Delhi's Chief Minister, but his cabinet resigned in less than 50 days after he failed to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in the legislature as he promised in his manifesto to do so within 15 days due to the INC's lack of support.

In the 2015 State Legislative Assembly Election of Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party won 67 of the 70 seats in a decisive mode sparing just three seats for BJP, while the Congress lost all of their candidates. For the second time, Kejriwal was named the CM of Delhi. Soon after the party's triumph, major rifts emerged among its leadership with many of its founding members being expelled from the party.

The AAP ran in the 2017 Goa and Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections for the first time. Although the party was unable to secure any seat in Goa, it won a total of 22 seats in the Punjab state election which it shared with its political ally, Lok Insaaf Party in the state.

In the 2019 general elections, AAP lost all seven of its parliamentary seats in Delhi to the BJP. However, in the Delhi Legislative Assembly Election of 2020, AAP defeated its major opponent, BJP and secured 67 out of the total 70 assembly seats. Arvind Kejriwal was re-elected as Delhi's CM for the third time. In its seven-year-long government in power, AAP has provided the people of Delhi with subsidised electricity and some reduction in their water bills. The party has transformed the infrastructure of the state's government schools, also focusing on improving the reading and learning ability of the school students.

The party's influence has also grown dramatically in Chandigarh and Goa. The AAP ran for the first time in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation election of 2021, winning 14 seats and becoming the single biggest entity on the council. AAP won 92 seats in the Punjab Legislative Assembly election in 2022, with its member Bhagwant Mann becoming Punjab's Chief Minister.

9) Samajwadi Party

Top Ten Political Parties in India

The Samajwadi Party, or SP, is a state socialist and democratic body that traces its strong origins in Uttar Pradesh's northern region with 'cycle' as its election symbol.

With the Janata Dal splitting into regional parties, the Samajwadi Party was one of the new groups that arose. Mulayam Singh Yadav established the party in 1992. The party, which was founded just months before the demolition of the Babri Masjid, is considered to have played a crucial role in avoiding unrest in the aftermath of the incident. The party is currently headed by former Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav, who was elected President of the Samajwadi Party during the National Convention on January 1, 2017.

Evolution through the years

The Samajwadi Party is concentrated mostly in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It has participated in General and State Assembly elections across the country, with the majority of its victories coming in Uttar Pradesh.

In 1993, SP's founder, Mulayam Singh Yadav formed an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, which were scheduled for November. The SP and BSP formed a coalition to prevent the BJP from regaining control of the state. With the support of Congress and the Janata Dal, Yadav was elected Chief Minister of UP. He remained in that position until June 1995, when his ally chose to join another alliance.

Following a tumultuous post-election environment in Uttar Pradesh in 2002, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the BSP teamed up to create a government led by Dalit figure Mayawati, who was Yadav's biggest political competitor in the state. In August 2003, the BJP withdrew from the government, leaving enough Bahujan Samaj Party dissident members to allow Yadav to become Chief Minister with the help of independents and minor parties. In September 2003, he was sworn in for the third time as the CM of Uttar Pradesh. He continued as the Chief Minister of the state till the 2007 state election, where he suffered defeat at the hands of his rival party, BSP.

SP won a resounding victory with a strong majority in the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly elections in 2012, allowing it to establish a government in the state. This was supposed to be Mulayam Singh Yadav's fifth term as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, but he chose his son, Akhilesh Yadav, instead. It was made official on March 15th. However, in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh State Election, the party was defeated, winning only 47 seats as the BJP stormed to victory.

Up until the fourteenth general election, the Samajwadi Party gave outside assistance to the UPA administration. When the UPA became the largest alliance following the election, its support became obsolete. It ran in the Lok Sabha election of 2009 in Bihar with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party.

In Uttar Pradesh, SP was ousted by the BJP in the last national election. It is now the thirteenth most powerful party in the legislature. It received only 5 seats in the general elections of 2019.

In the 2022 UP Vidhan Sabha elections, the Samajwadi Party under the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav secured 111 seats on its own while the alliance backed by it got 125 seats. This was a rise from the 73 seats that it got during the 2017 assembly polls. This was also the best-ever performance for the Samajwadi Party.

10) Shiromani Akali Dal

Top Ten Political Parties in India

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is a centre-right Sikh-centric state political party in Punjab, India. It is the main advocacy organisation for the state's sizable Sikh community, and it is based on the principle of fostering the well-being of the nation's Sikh population by giving them a political and religious platform.

Christian missionary activities in the late 19th century Punjab led, by way of reaction, to movements among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. On the secular side, the Sikhs of the pre-independence Punjab, particularly the urban ones, felt deprived, vis-à-vis other communities in the form of job opportunities and their proper share of representation in various elected bodies under the colonial administration. The urban Sikhs found in their religion a very effective means of bringing to their side rural Sikhs, who were mainly agriculturalists or soldiers in the Indian Armed Forces. Naturally, Gurudwaras became very important, both as centres and initiators of religion's revivalism and as a bond between the urban and the rural populations. In December 1920, the Gurudwara Reform Movement was initiated to streamline the institutional set-up of the Gurudwaras, and to improve their functioning. The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Akali Dal were formed in 1924 as a result of the reform movement. While the SGPC with the passage of time became a democratically elected body entrusted with the task of controlling the Gurudwaras, the Akali Dal became the political mouthpiece of the Punjab Sikhs.

Evolution through the years

In the post-Independent Punjab, a huge influx of Hindu and Sikh refugees from across the border diminished whatever opportunities were there for the local Sikhs for jobs and trade, and also for a share of political power through legislative positions. This affected the urban middle class in Punjab much more than their rural counterpart, as the landed interests were somewhat looked after by the Congress through its measures of agricultural development. While Congress secured for itself a base among the agriculturalist Sikhs, the Akali Dal sought to protect the interests of the urban middle-class Sikhs by projecting itself as representing the entire Sikh community through its demand for the creation of a Sikh-majority State - the Punjabi Suba. The ethnic demand for a homeland - state was mixed with religious sentiments, when Akali Dal, in order to draw within its fold, the rural population, declared that it was the religious duty of the Sikhs to strive for the creation of such a state. Hindu domination over socio-economic opportunities and Hindi's predominance over the Punjabi language was cited by the Sikh leaders as causes of Sikh woes and as justification for a Punjabi Suba. Initially, in the 1950s, rural support was not forthcoming. But as a result of different land reform programmes initiated by the Congress government in the 1960's and with the introduction of large-scale capitalistic ventures in agriculture through the Green Revolution, there was an increasingly sharp class-polarization in the Punjab country-side. In the rural Sikh gentry, mainly Jats, found themselves squeezed between the agricultural capitalist class and the growing number of rural proletariat slowly being radicalized by the Communist Party. As a result, this section veered towards the Akali Dal, and subsequently, the Dal split along the rural-urban divide which also reflected differences over the strategy for a Suba. In the background of the linguistic reorganization of states of late 1950s' and early 1960s', the Akalis modified their demand for a Sikh-majority state and opted for a Punjabi speaking-state which was created in 1966.

The unrealized dream of a "Punjabi Suba" made a section of the Akalis, led by Sant Fateh Singh, demand the establishment of a separate and independent Sikh state in the early seventies. Since such a demand bordered on secessionism and could have invited penal action, it was later (in 1973) modified into a fresh set of demands for more powers to the states within the Indian Union, and for the merger of all Punjabi-speaking areas of North India into Punjab. It was known as the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.

In the 1977, riding on the anti-Congress, pro-Janata wave, the Akali Dal came to power in the state. The Akali Dal at present is more unified than before. In the 1996 General Elections, it aligned itself with Bahujan Samaj Party to win 11 (Akali = 8, BSP = 3) out of 13 seats while the Congress won only 2. In the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha Elections, the Akali Dal was allied with the BJP and won 8 and 2 seats respectively. The Akali Dal, in alliance with the BJP, came back strongly in 2004 Lok Sabha Elections, winning 8 seats out of a state total of 13. The BJP won in 3 seats and the Congress only in 2. In the State Assembly Elections of 2007, the BJP-Akali Dal combination defeated the ruling Congress Party and came back to power.

Present Status in Contemporary Politics

Parkash Singh Badal, an Indian politician and patron of the SAD, has served as Punjab Chief Minister four times, the first time in 1970, when he became India's youngest chief minister. He finished his latest term in March 2017. He has been the party's president from 1995 till 2008 when his son Sukhbir Singh Badal took over. While he was the Chief Minister of Punjab, his son, Sukhbir Singh Badal served as Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab from 2009 to 2017.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the wife of SAD's President Sukhbir Singh Badal and a member of the party, resigned from her post in the Government of India's Union Cabinet Ministry of Food Processing Industries in September 2020, displaying her protest against the Controversial Farm Bills passed by the BJP-led government at the centre. Her resignation came along with SAD withdrawing its support from the NDA government shortly after.

During the election for the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 2022, Badal was the president of the Akali Dal. Badal ran for the Jalalabad Assembly seat but was defeated by Jagdeep Kamboj Goldy of the Aam Aadmi Party.

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