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Political parties play an important role in India’s democracy. For many years a centrist national party known as the Congress Party was the most powerful political party in India. Established in 1885 as the Indian National Congress, it led India in the struggle for independence. Its members have included influential figures such as Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. With few exceptions, the Congress Party provided the country’s prime ministers until the mid-1990s. The Congress, also known after 1977 as the Congress (I) Party, significantly declined in popular support in the 1990s due to allegations of corruption. A Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata (Indian People’s) Party (BJP), became the largest single party in the Lok Sabha in 1996. Unable to win an outright majority, it led a multiparty coalition called the National Democratic Alliance. The BJP found its base of support in the growing Hindu middle class. It continued policies of economic liberalization that had been initiated by the Congress Party. In the 2004 elections, the BJP lost control of the Lok Sabha to the Congress Party, which had campaigned on a platform that appealed to India’s rural poor. Other important parties in India include the Janata Dal (People’s Party), a secular, socialist party appealing to lower caste and Muslim voters. The Janata Dal was a key member of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The Janata Dal and the BJP are the primary successors to the Janata (People’s) Party, which was a coalition of opposition parties that formed in 1977. The far left of the political spectrum is dominated by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which draws support from urban and rural laborers, and the more moderate Communist Party of India. Both parties have been significant participants in coalition politics.
Types of political partiesIndia has a multi-party system with a
predominance of small regional parties. National parties are those that are recognized in four or more states. They are accorded this status by the Election Commission of India, which periodically reviews the election results in various states. This recognition helps the political parties to claim unique ownership of certain identities, such as the party symbol, until the next review of their status. Below are national parties as per October 2004.The Constitution of India stipulates that India be a federal polity with a central government in New Delhi, and state governments for the various states and Union territories. Consequently, political parties in India are classified as national and state (regional) parties based on their realms of influence. See list of recognised political parties in India.
Indian National Congress Bharatiya Janata Party Nationalist Congress PartyBahujan Samaj Party Communist Party of India (Marxist) Communist Party of India
Parties that have received certain amount of votes or seats in a state might be recognized as a state party by the Election Commission. Recognition as a state party given the party the possibility to reserve a particular election symbol in the concerned state. A party might be recognized in more than one state. A party recognized in four states is automatically recognized as a national party. Below is the list of recognized state parties ahead of the Gujarat & Himachal Pradesh state assembly elections in December 2007. The states where the party has gained recognition is also stated, although the party may very well be active in more states and territories than that.