Political Parties – Meaning, Types, Recognition, Role and Functions

Meaning of Political Party

A political party is an organisation formed by a group of people with a certain ideology and agenda to contest elections and hold power in the government.
A political party has three components: They are

    • a leader,
    • active members and
    • the followers.

Types of a Party System

There are three types of party system in the world namely.

Single-party system in which one ruling party exists and no opposition is permitted. China, the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and Cuba, are the examples for the single-party system.

Two-party system in which only two parties exist, for example, USA, UK.

Multi-party system in which, more than two political parties, for example, India, Sri Lanka, France and Italy.

Types of Political Parties

Political parties in India are classified based on the area of influence into two main types:

    • national parties
    • state parties

National Parties

A party which is recognised as a state party in at least four states in the country is recognised as a national party. Every party in the country has to register with the Election Commission and the Commission treats all the parties equally. It offers some special facilities to state and national parties. These parties are given a unique symbol. Only the official candidate of the party can use that election symbol. In 2017, there were seven recognised national parties.

State Parties

Other than the seven national parties, most of the major parties of the country are classified by the Election Commission as ‘state parties’. These are commonly referred to as regional parties. A party is recognised as a state party by the Election Commission of India based on certain percentage of votes secured or a certain number of seats won in the Assembly or Lok Sabha elections.

Recognition to the Parties

For getting recognition as ‘national party’, a party has to fulfill any one of the following criteria:

    • At least 6% votes in at least four states and members to the Lok Sabha.
    • In the election of Lok Sabha, at least 2% members from at least three states are elected to Lok Sabha.
    • Recognition as a state party at least four states.

Functions of Political Parties

    • Parties contest elections. In most democracies, elections are fought mainly among the candidates put up by political parties.
    • Parties put forward their policies and programmes before the electorate to consider and choose.
    • Parties play a decisive role in making laws for a country. Formally, laws are debated and passed in the legislature.
    • Parties form and run the governments.
    • Those parties that lose in the elections play the role of the Opposition to the party or a group of coalition parties in power, by voicing different views and criticising the government for its failures or wrong policies.
    • Parties shape public opinion. They raise and highlight issues of importance.
    • Parties function as the useful link between people and the government machinery.

Role of Opposition Parties in a Democracy

In a democracy, there may be a two-party system like in the USA or a multi-party system like in India and France. The ruling party may have received the mandate of the majority people and the Opposition party represented the remaining people. The Leader of the Opposition party occupied
a prominent place in all democratic forms of the government. He enjoys the rank of a Cabinet Minister. He opposes the wrong policies of the ruling party, which affects the general public. As the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee questions the functioning of the government departments and examines the public money used for the well-being of the people. Similarly, he plays an important role to select the Chairman and members of the Central Vigilance Commission, Chairperson and members of the Information Commission. The Opposition Parties reflect genuine
demands and concern of the people to play a constructive role in a democracy.

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