NEW DELHI: The Indian electorate tends to favor candidates backed by organized political parties rather than favoring nonparty nominees.

Registered parties recorded a quantum increase in the percentage of votes polled during the 1989 parliamentary elections while independents faced an almost total rejection picking up just 5.61% of the national vote.

The 28.4% increase in votes percentages gained by the eight national parties Congress (I) Janata Dal BJP CPI CPI(M) Congress (S) Janata party and Lok Dal Augurs well for India’s parliamentary democracy say the authors of the book “forty years of world’s largest democracy: A survey of Indian elections”.

Among registered parties the national parties recorded a success rate of 33.77% with 466 of their 1380 candidates coming through while the state parties could push through only 33 of its 148 candidates with 22.30% votes the book sponsored by PTI says.

Voting for a change for the third time in nine general elections India’s 490 million electors confirmed again in 1989 that they see the battle of the hustings essentially as a contest between political parties with distinct identities.

Though political parties play an important role in the electoral process the Indian constitution does not anywhere refer in terms to political parties. Even the representation of the people act 1951 which deals with the conduct of elections did not make any reference to political parties till 1974.

Even then the reference was an indirect one in the context of leaving out the expenditure incurred by political parties from the scope of provisions relating to the filing of election expenditure by the candidates.

In spite of this the recognition of political parties by the election commission became necessary in the context of reservation of symbols for the parties and the candidates put up by them.

The inclusion of a symbol for each candidate along with his name and political affiliation in the ballot paper is necessary as a large number of the electorate cannot read the names of the candidates and some pictorial representation is essential for the elector to enable him to identify the candidate of his choice.

Accordingly the election commission had been specifying certain symbols as ‘reserved’ and certain others as ‘free’ the former being reserved for candidates sponsored by recognized political parties and the latter being equally available to for all other candidates

Till the promulgation of the pterion for recognizing a political party in any state or union territory was that its candidates should have secured not less than four percent of the total valid votes cast in that state or union territory either at the last general elections or at the general election to the legislative assembly.

After 1989 political parties were classified into three groups recognized national parties recognized state parties and unrecognized registered parties.

To qualify as a state party its candidates must poll at least four per cent of the total votes cast in that state or union territory either in the Lok Sabha or assembly elections A party enjoying such support in at least four states is accorded the status of a national party.

In all about 200 political parties have contested the assembly or parliamentary elections at one time or another between 1952 and 1990 Many a political party has undergone several splits mergers and changes in name.

There are only two political parties which have gone through each successive electoral battle under the same symbol name and banner —the communist party of India (CPI) is organized national Party and the peasants and workers party (PWP) Active in Maharashtra only.

The Congress two has gone through several splits losing and regaining its symbol. Interestingly its current “hand” symbol once belonged to Shiromani Akali Dal which lost it to master Tara Singh.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 10, 1991