While India is being touted as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, there is something else that is growing faster than the Indian Economy; at least in the last 10 years. The number of political parties in India has been growing at a rapid pace without any sign of a slowdown. Between 2010 & 2018, the total number of political parties in India has increased two-fold and has now crossed the 2,000 mark as per the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) latest data.
Political Party Registration
Section 29A of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 defines the process for the registration of a political party. Any association or body of individual citizens of India can register as a political party with the Election Commission of India (ECI) by following the guidelines laid down for this purpose.
The benefits of registering a political party are many. The candidates set up by a political party, registered with the ECI will get preference in the matter of allotment of free symbols compared to purely independent candidates. Further, registered political parties, in course of time, can get recognition as ‘State Party’ or ‘National Party’ provided they fulfil the required conditions.
When does a Registered Party become a Recognised Party?
A registered political party is accorded the status of a recognised state or national party as per the criteria listed in ‘The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968’. This order was amended from time to time.
For any political party to be eligible for recognition as a State Party in a particular state, it has to satisfy any of the five conditions listed below.
In brief, the five conditions are:
Recognition as a National Party
For any political party to be eligible for recognition as a National Party, it has to satisfy any of the three conditions listed below.
In brief, the three conditions are:
Trinamool Congress is the last such party to have been recognised as a National Party as it has satisfied the eligibility criteria for a State Party in the four states of West Bengal, Tripura, Manipur & Arunachal Pradesh.
Though some of the other six national parties did not perform as well in the recently held elections, their national party status is intact following an amendment made to the allotment rules recently. Their status will now be reviewed only after the next general election.
Advantages of being recognised as a State or National Party
The biggest advantage of being recognised is getting the reserved symbol. A party recognised as a state party gets a reserved symbol within the state. All the candidates contesting from that party will get the same symbol throughout the state. For National Parties, the reserved symbol can be used across the country by its contesting candidates. This is one the biggest advantages since symbol plays a very important role in elections.
There are also other advantages for the recognised parties like subsidised land for party offices, free air time on Doordarshan & All India Radio, supply of electoral roll copies free of cost during elections etc.
What about the number of Recognised Political parties?
As per the symbol orders issued by the ECI in respective years, the number of recognised parties has remained more or less the same since 2010. The number of recognised national parties is now seven (7) after the inclusion of Trinamool Congress in late 2016. The number of recognised state parties is 59 as per the latest order of the ECI. This number has not changed substantially over the last nine years. The states of Telangana, Kerala, Jharkhand, Puducherry & Bihar each have four recognised state parties. Some of these parties are recognised as state parties in more than one state.
What about the number of Registered Unrecognised Political parties?
Unlike the number of recognised parties, the number of registered unrecognised political parties has increased two-fold between 2010 and 2018. From 1,094 in 2010, the number has reached 2,095 as per the latest order of the ECI. It is interesting to note that the number of such parties increases disproportionately during a major election year. The number increased by over 17 per cent between 2013 & 2014. And now between 2017 & 2018, it has already increased by over 11 per cent.
How many of them actually contest elections?
Data indicates that not even a third of these parties participated in the Lok Sabha Elections. While only 363 parties contested in 2009, 464 parties contested in 2014. This makes a paltry 31 per cent in 2009 and a much lesser 27 per cent in 2014. It looks like political parties are registered to take advantage of the tax benefits than to contest elections.