ERA OF ONE PARTY DOMINANCE
The party system in India has the following features which reflect the legacy of the National Liberation Movement. First , the Multi-party system which till 1989 remained dominated by the Congress Party. Second, the dominant leadership role played by Indian National Congress during the freedom struggle determined the dominant role that the Congress was in a position to play during 1947 and after. Third, the existence of socialist and communist parties also owe their origin to the days of National Movement. Fourth, the existence of the leftist and rightist groups within the Congress is also due to the historical legacy.
Settlement between different ideological groups
Indian National Movement flourished in India through promises and settlement between different ideological groups or parties. The Indian National Congress as a political party was a mix of different ideologies – conservatism and radicalism, conservatism and leftism, moderatism and extremism and purely constitutional (elections) and the action means (strikes etc.). The legacy of the National Movement which mainly got manifested through the movements and programmes launched by the Congress.
Relationship between the Government and the political Parties
It is known that in a parliamentary democracy the issue of relationship between the party organisation and the governmental structure are of crucial significance as it affects the quality and working of the government in several ways. During freedom struggle, the party organisation always played the superior role and men in power always obeyed party directives. In 1937, the Congress directed its leaders to form ministries and later on in 1939, it asked them to resign. This directive was obeyed by all. The relation of the party headquarters to the party’s parliamentary group tended therefore to be that of a most important to an agent. After independence, this legacy provoked the Congress Party to exercise control over the Congress Prime Ministers and the Council of Ministers. It, however, gave rise to a tussle between Purshotam Dass Tandon vs Nehru. To overcome the possible party dictates, there emerged the practice of either holding a dual charge leadership of the Party and leadership of government or having a hand-picked party president. Nehru depended mainly upon his personal charisma for overcoming the problem while his successors, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi used, at times, both these alternatives. Even the Janata Party government had this problem. It adopted the principle of one person one office but it could not achieve its successful operationalisation. The persistence of the demand for the superiority of the reorganisational wing of the party over the governmental wing is a legacy of the national ration movement. The system of supporting the party/coalition group in power from the idea by some political parties.
Centralised System of Party Organisations
In India the party organizations particularly the party organisations of the Congress and the BJP, are based upon the principle of central system. The party High Command or the national leadership exercises a high degree of control over the local and provincial level party organisations. This feature of the Indian party system is also a legacy of the National Movement.
The National Movement was directed, guided and controlled by the central leadership which in real terms meant the All India Congress Committee or the Congress Working Committee or the Congress High Command.
Elections and growth of political parties in India
You would remember that the Constitution was ready and signed on 26 November 1949 and it came into effect on 26 January 1950. At that time the country was being ruled by an interim government.
When the first draft of the rolls was published, it was discovered that the names of nearly 40 lakh women were not recorded in the list. They were simply listed as “wife of …” or “daughter of …”. The Election Commission refused to accept these entries and ordered a revision if possible and deletion if necessary.
In the first general election, it was decided to place inside each polling booth a box for each candidate with the election symbol of that candidate. Each voter was given a blank ballot paper which they had to drop into the box of the candidate they wanted to vote for.
After the first two elections this method was changed. Now the ballot paper carried the names and symbols of all the candidates and the voter was required to put a stamp on the name of the candidate they wanted to vote for. This method worked for nearly forty years. By 2004 the entire country had shifted to the EVM.
Congress dominance in the first three general elections. 1st general election, The Congress party won 364 of the 489 seats in the first Lok Sabha and finished way ahead of any other challenger. The Communist Party of India that came next in terms of seats won only 16 seats. In the state assembly elections also, the Congress did get majority in many few cases ,but in few states like Kerala in 1957 it lost to coalition led by the CPI which then formed the government. For the first time in the world, a Communist party government had come to power through democratic elections.
The origins of the Socialist Party can be traced back to the mass movement stage of the Indian National Congress in the pre-independence era. The Congress Socialist party (CSP) was formed within the Congress in 1934 by a group of young leaders who wanted a more radical and egalitarian Congress. In 1948, the Congress amended its constitution to prevent its members from having a dual party membership. This forced the Socialists to form a separate Socialist Party in 1948. The Party’s electoral performance caused much disappointment to its supporters. Although the Party had presence in most of the states of India, it could achieve electoral success only in a few pockets.
They criticised the Congress for favouring capitalists and landlords and for ignoring the workers and the peasants. Jayaprakash Narayan, Achyut Patwardhan, Asoka Mehta, Acharya Narendra Dev, Rammanohar Lohia and S.M. Joshi were among the leaders of the socialist parties. Many parties in contemporary India, like the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United) and the Janata Dal (Secular) trace their origins to the Socialist Party.
Earlier we had coalition in a party, now we have coalition of parties. Does it mean that we have had a coalition government since 1952?
In the early 1920s communist groups emerged in different parts of India taking inspiration from the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and advocating socialism as the solution to problems affecting the country. From 1935, the Communists worked mainly from within the fold of the Indian National Congress. A parting of ways took place in December 1941, when the Communists decided to support the British in their war against Nazi Germany. The party’s support was more concentrated in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Kerala.
The Party went through a major split in 1964 following the ideological rift between Soviet Union and China. The pro-Soviet faction remained as the CPI, while the opponents formed the CPI(M). Both these parties continue to exist to this day.
The Bharatiya Jana Sangh can be traced back to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Hindu Mahasabha before independence.
It emphasised the idea of one country, one culture and one nation and believed that the country could become modern, progressive and strong on the basis of Indian culture and traditions. The party called for a reunion of India and Pakistan in Akhand Bharat.
The party was in forefront of the agitation to replace English with Hindi as the official language of India and was also opposed to the granting of concessions to religious and cultural minorities.
The party was a consistent advocate of India developing nuclear weapons especially after China carried out its atomic tests in 1964.