Party System in India: Features, Types of Political Parties in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Party System in India implies a multi-party system in which various political parties fight democratically for power. They are organized groups and voluntary associations of individuals with a shared political ideology that tries to gain power and rule the country through constitutional means to promote national interests. The different political parties in India under this system are recognized at the national and state levels by the Election Commission of India if they meet the relevant criteria in the general elections of the State Legislative Assembly or Lok Sabha.

As per the latest statistics, the total number of registered political parties in India is 2858. Of these, there are 54 state parties, 8 national parties, and 2796 unrecognized parties. Below you will learn everything about the types of political parties in India, the party system in India, and its features from the UPSC exam point of view.

Political Parties in India

Political Parties coordinate the elections and have become a significant part of the politics in the country. Some countries have only one political party, but India has a multi-party system with various parties.

Party System in India PDF

Political parties in India possess different dynamic features. However, all these political parties are often structured commonly. The political parties in India are composed of a party leader and a few executives. The leader represents the party and is primarily responsible for overseeing the party’s strategies and policies. In contrast, all the party executive works according to the party leader.
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Types of Political Parties in India

Political parties are organized groups or voluntary associations of individuals sharing the same political views. These individuals try to gain power as per Constitutional means with the desire to influence and promote national interests.

The four different types of political parties in modern democratic states are as below-

  • Radical parties – The Radical parties establish the new order by displacing the existing institutions.
  • Liberal parties – They aim to reform and change the existing institutions.
  • Conservative parties – These parties believe in the ideology of status-quo.
  • Reactional parties – These parties cling to political and socio-economic institutions.

According to the different ideologies, the political parties in India are classified as the following-

  • Conservative and reactionary parties on the right. e.g., BJP.
  • Liberal parties in the centre, e.g., Congress.
  • Radical parties on the left, e.g., CPI and CPM.

Party System in India

The party system in India is divided into these three types-

  • One-party system: In this system, only one party has the power to rule. There is no party in the opposition. For example, the Soviet Union.
  • Two-party system: In this system, two major parties exist. One of them rules the country while the other exists in the opposition. For example, Democrats and Republicans in the US.
  • Multi-party system: In this system, various parties form the government, either separately or by a coalition. For example, Switzerland, France, and India.

Features of Party System in India

Here are the salient features of the party system in India:

  • Multi-party System: India is a vast country with many people. There are a lot of political parties in India that are further divided into categories like right parties, centrist and left parties. The coalition governments, hung assemblies, and hung parliaments have been static phenomena in Indian politics.
  • Lack of Clear Ideology: In India, only three parties work with a clear ideology: BJP, CPM, and CPI. In contrast, the rest lack a clear-cut ideology and possess a similar ideology regarding policies and programs. These parties work on the principles of socialism, secularism, democracy, and Gandhism.
  • One-dominant Party Systems: India is a democratic country. Yet, only one party ruled the country for quite a long time after independence. Because of this, an eminent political analyst, Rajni Kothari, called the Party system in India the Congress System or the one-party dominance system.
  • Personality Cult: In India, the political parties represented the ideology of their leaders. Thus, the leader or his ideology is of more importance rather than what they put up in their manifesto. For example, Congress became more popular because of Nehru and Gandhi’s significant leadership.
  • Based on Traditional Factors: Most political parties in India were formed by the people based on political and socio-economic programmes. In contrast, the rest of the parties are created based on culture, language, caste, or religion. For example, Hindu Maha Sabha, Muslim League, Shiv Sena, etc.
  • The Emergence of Regional Parties– There is a growing role of regional parties in India that emerged over the party system. E.g., Akali Dal in Punjab, AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, BJD in Orissa, etc.
  • Lack of Effective Opposition– A democracy would not work well without effective opposition. An effective opposition would keep a check on the tendencies of the ruling party that would instead work as an alternative government. Even after years of independence, India lacks in terms of effective opposition.

Multi-Party System in India

The multi-party system is defined as a structure in which more than two parties can compete in elections, and all have a fair chance of winning the majority. France, India, and Italy are a few countries which follow the multi-party system. This is the most common type of party system followed by countries having a Parliamentary form of government than the Presidential system. Some of the famous political parties in India are Bhartiya Janta Party, Indian National Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, etc. It’s a highly competitive system which puts pressure on the political parties to work on their policies for the betterment of society and people.

Functions of Political Parties

Political parties in India or in any other country are subjected to perform some major functions, which are listed hereunder:

  • The primary function of any political party is to contest elections to win a majority. The party members choose a candidate for each region who can represent them and get maximum votes from the general public.
  • They form their own policies and programmes by staying under the regulations as prescribed by the government and the election commission. Their manifesto should be appealing to people to ensure their winning.
  • The political parties in India play a crucial role in forming laws for the country. The ruling party can make such decisions, while the opposition parties can support or oppose the laws in the parliamentary sessions.
  • Under the party system in India, another major function of the political parties is to form public opinion on various issues faced by the country and the world.

Importance of Political Parties

Political parties are the essence of democracy, and people with the same motive and vision come together to form a party. Some important points to state the importance of political parties in India are as follows:

  • If there were no political parties, independent candidates would stand for elections. A single person is insufficient or less capable of ensuring any major policy change for the people. This situation might create chaos and instability in the government.
  • They provide a platform for candidates to contest elections having full support from experts and other party members.
  • They can represent a strong point or issue in the Parliament because of the majority in the government.

National Political Parties in India

In India, a political party is recognized as a national party if it fulfils the following criteria-

  • A party must have secured a minimum of 6% of the valid vote in a Lok Sabha or an Assembly general elections in four or more states. Out of these 6, it must have won a minimum of 4 seats in an election of the Lok Sabha from a state or states.
  • If a party has won 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha and candidates for the party are elected from three or more states.
  • If a party is recognized as a state party in more than three states.

List of National Political Parties in India

There are 8 national parties in India positioned as the centre, centre-left, left-wing, and right-wing. Here is the list of national political parties in India, along with their flags and political position:

National Political Party Political position Symbol/ Flag
National People’s Party Centre National People's Party
Nationalist Congress Party Centre-left Nationalist Congress Party
Indian National Congress Centre Indian National Congress
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Left-wing Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Communist Party of India Left-wing Communist Party of India
Bharatiya Janata Party Right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party
Bahujan Samaj Party Centre-left Bahujan Samaj Party
All India Trinamool Congress Centre-left All India Trinamool Congress

State Political Parties in India

The following 5 conditions must be fulfilled by recognized political parties in India to be recognized as a state political parties:

  • In an election to the state legislative Assembly, the said party must gain at least six per cent of the valid votes. Also, the result must be that the particular political party must win at least 2 seats in the assembly.
  • At least 6% of the valid votes must be secured by the party in the Lok Sabha election. It must win 1 seat in the Lok Sabha elections.
  • A minimum of three seats or at least 3% of the total seats must be won by the Legislative Assembly (the condition depends upon whichever is higher).
  • For every 25 seats in the Lok Sabha, the party must win a minimum of 1 seat. The fraction depends upon the number of seats allotted to that state.
  • The party should secure 8% or more of the total votes polled in the state.

List of State Political Parties in India

The list of State political parties in India, along with their symbol, is as follows-

State Political Parties Symbol/ Flag
Zoram Nationalist Party
United People’s Party Liberal United People's Party Liberal
United Democratic Party
Sikkim Krantikari Morcha Sikkim Krantikari Morcha
Sikkim Democratic Front Sikkim Democratic Front
Shiv Sena Shiv Sena
Shiromani Akali Dal Shiromani Akali Dal
Samajwadi Party Samajwadi Party
Rashtriya Loktantrik Party Rashtriya Loktantrik Party
Rashtriya Lok Dal Rashtriya Lok Dal
People’s Party of Arunachal
People’s Democratic Front
People’s Democratic Alliance
Pattali Makkal Katchi Pattali Makkal Katchi
Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party
Mizoram People’s Conference
Mizo National Front
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Maharashtra Navnirman Sena
Lok Janshakti Party Lok Janshakti Party
Kerala Congress (M) Kerala Congress (M)
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha
Jannayak Janta Party
Janta Congress Chhattisgarh
Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party
Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party
Jammu & Kashmir National Conference Jammu & Kashmir National Conference
Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura Indigenous People's Front of Tripura
Indian Union Muslim League Indian Union Muslim League
Indian National Lok Dal Indian National Lok Dal
Hill State People’s Democratic Party Hill State People's Democratic Party
Goa Forward Party Goa Forward Party
Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam
Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation
Bodoland People’s Front Bodoland People's Front
Biju Janata Dal Biju Janata Dal
Asom Gana Parishad Asom Gana Parishad
All Jharkhand Students Union All Jharkhand Students Union
All India United Democratic Front All India United Democratic Front
All India N.R. Congress All India N.R. Congress
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen
All India Forward Bloc
Bharat Rashtra Samithi Bharat Rashtra Samithi
Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party
Telugu Desam Party Telugu Desam Party
Revolutionary Socialist Party Revolutionary Socialist Party
Rashtriya Janata Dal Rashtriya Janata Dal
Naga People’s Front Naga People's Front
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Janata Dal (United) Janata Dal (United
Janata Dal (Secular)
Aam Aadmi Party Aam Aadmi Party

Unrecognized Political Parties in India

The list of unrecognised political parties in India is as under:

Revolutionary Goans Party Lok Insaaf Party NISHAD Party
YSR Telangana Party Vikassheel Insaan Party Goa Suraksha Manch
The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi Apna Dal (Sonelal)
Indian Secular Front Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohiya) Hindustani Awam Morcha
Rashtriya Jan Jan Party Makkal Needhi Maiam Jan Shakti Party of India
Raijor Dol Loktantrik Janata Dal Jan Adhikar Party Loktantrik
Plurals Party Jansatta Dal Loktantrik All India Hindustan Congress Party
Jammu and Kashmir Workers Party Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazagam Param Digvijay Dal
Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party All India Mahila Empowerment Party Jana Sena Party
Punjab Ekta Party Swaraj India Odisha Janmorcha
Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi Indian Gandhiyan Party Bahujan Mukti Party
Welfare Party of India Socialist Party (India) Hindu Sena
Samajwadi Janata Dal Democratic Quami Ekta Dal Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi
Naam Tamilar Katchi Social Democratic Party of India Manithaneya Makkal Katchi
Rashtriya Ulama Council Peace Party of India Gorkha Janmukti Morcha
Lok Satta Party Rashtriya Samaj Paksha Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party
Tamil Nadu Kongu Ilaingar Peravai People’s Democratic Front Ittihad-e-Millat Council
Kongunadu Makkal Katchi Tamil Manila Congress Puthiya Tamilagam
Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) Samata Party Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Kerala Congress (Jacob) Gondwana Ganatantra Party Kerala Congress (B)
Bharatiya Minorities Suraksha Mahasangh Amra Bangali Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi
Lokdal Uttarakhand Kranti Dal Manipur Peoples Party
Kerala Congress United Goans Party

Party System in India UPSC Notes

Questions related to the origin, functions, and members of the party system in India are often asked in the UPSC Prelims and Mains exams. Therefore, aspirants preparing for the UPSC 2023 exam must read this article till the end to download the Party system in India UPSC notes. Also, they can figure out the difficulty level and the types of questions asked of political parties in India from the UPSC previous year question papers and mock tests.

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