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India’s party system originated in the late nineteenth century when the mass-movement against the British rule was gaining momentum. In the long-drawn struggle against imperial domination, it represented an assertion of national solidarity of the Indian people, not only for liberation from foreign rule but also, and more importantly, for eventually building a new structure of democratic India.
Generally, the Indian National Congress founded in 1885 is regarded as the first political party of India, even though during the initial years it did not possess the objectives of a political party, viz. to capture political power. The other groups or parties which appeared thereafter were the Muslim League, the Hindu Maha Sabha and the Akali Dal, even though they lacked the genuine character of a political party.
Another major party which originated in the pre-independence period was the Communist Party of India. Most other political parties made their appearance after independence.
Party system is a part of larger political system. It is its sub-system and a driving force for its working. Party system in every country is a product not only of its political environment but also of its history, culture, geography and economy. The character of the State, the declared national goals, the diversities of India’s regional cultures, the wide geographic spread, and the compulsions of social change and economic development are the aspects of the Indian political system that have a bearing on the nature and functioning of the party system in India.
Contemporary politics in India, in its main thrust and overall strategy, is really the politics of national reconstruction, the politics of modernization, the politics of integration and the politics of development. In this context, the party system in India plays the role of a political instrument of socio-economic change. It mobilizes people not merely for electoral politics and/or winning of seats in the legislature, but more importantly for building awareness and enthusing people for nation-building, state-building, citizen-building and democratic identity-building.
In terms of geographical spread there are four type of parties – All India parties, transregional parties, regional parties and local parties. In terms of orientation, there are parties of left, right, center and leader-oriented parties. All the political parties must get themselves registered with the Election Commission. This registration can be cancelled by the Commission in case of failure of the political parties to observe the model code of conduct. The Commission can also withdraw recognition from parties if they fail to follow its lawful instructions and directions regarding free, fair and peaceful elections.
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