India is the world’s largest working democracy. The country formally became a republic and adopted a parliamentary form of governance on January 26, 1950.
The country has nearly 820 million voters registered with the Election Commission.
India was carved in 1947 from the Indian subcontinent by British colonials fleeing the region following the weakening of its power during World War-II.
Consequently, the newly formed country that consists of diverse ethnicities and communities came under a common rule.
With citizens of each state having different views, over a thousand political parties emerged in India.
As you may have noticed…
India is more shielded than we concern, and our political leaders are smarter than we concede.
However, only a handful has a presence across the country. They are directly or indirectly shaping future of this country.
To know more about Indian political parties:
Read this article, Here we list the top 10 political parties of India
Top 10 Major Political Parties in India
Indian National Congress, also called as Congress was the first political party on the Indian subcontinent.
It was founded by a retired British civil services officer, Alan Octavian Hume who formally launched the Indian nationalist movement during its first session in December 1885.
Dadabhai Naoroji was its first Indian president. Congress has ruled India for the most part since the country’s formation in 1947.
India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was a Congress leader. Other Indian Prime Ministers from the party include Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao.
Another Congress leader, Gulzarilal Nanda was the interim PM of India twice- once following the death of Jawaharlal Nehru and the second time after the demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Manmohan Singh was the last Prime Minister from Congress to rule the country.
He stepped down after Congress was severely mauled in 2014 general elections by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Bharatiya Janata Party is the best political party in India and holds the unique distinction of having the largest number of followers and supporters for any political party in the world, as of April 2018
Commonly called BJP, it is now the ruling party of India. BJP traces its origins to Bharatiya Jana Sangha founded in 1951 with some support from the Indian nationalist movement, Rashtriya Swayansewak Sangha (RSS).
In its early days, several Congress leaders joined Jana Sangha, especially those unhappy over special status accorded to Kashmir and appeasement of Pakistan.
Jana Sangha shot to power in 1977 after Indians disgusted with national emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975, voted her and the Congress party out of power.
The new front consisting of leaders of Jana Sangha and other parties was named Janata Party. Prominent Gandhian, Morarji Desai was the first Prime Minister outside Congress to rule the country.
The party with its allies eventually formed a new entity- Bharatiya Janata Party
Narendra Damodardas Modi, the current Indian Prime Minister who also ranks among the top three most influential world leaders came to power after BJP won 2014 general elections with an absolute majority.
Atal Behari Vajpayee was also Prime Minister from the BJP, during whose rule India declared itself a nuclear power and decisively won the Kargil war against Pakistan.
Communist Party of India was founded in 1920 in Tashkent, which was then part of erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Its prominent leaders were opposed to British rule of India but were highly impressed by the manner in which Soviet leaders had integrated various countries of north-central Asia and parts of Eastern Europe under the flag of communism.
They believed communism was an ideal way to rule India, where the majority of people lived in poverty while the land was being plundered by British colonials.
CPI played a major role in India’s independence struggle but met little success.
However, in 1942, British rulers lifted the ban after the country had to ally with the Soviet Union to combat Nazi Germany.
Soviet leader Josef Stalin is believed to have influenced the British decision.
Despite its roots, CPI has never won any general election in India. At best, its rule has been limited to Kerala and West Bengal states through alliances with other political parties.
The fall of Soviet Union in the early 1990s and capitalism sweeping across India has further weakened communist ideology.
It remains the only political party to have contested every general election under the same symbol- sickle and hammer- which also featured on the flag of Soviet Union.
The party splintered into two- CPI and CPI-Marxist, which emerged as the labour movement.
4. Republican Party of India (Founded 1956)
Republican Party of India (RPI) traces its roots to Scheduled Castes Federation founded by Bharat Ratna Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Father of India’s Constitution.
The party was established to enable socially and economically disadvantaged people of India to find political representation.
Unfortunately, splinter groups within RPI have led to fragmentation of the political party. As a result, RPI has not made any serious impact on Indian politics despite being a national party.
Instead, it serves as a rallying point for Indians hailing from socially underprivileged castes of the society.
Aam Aadmi Party entered India’s political scenario riding on the back of India Against Corruption movement launched in New Delhi by human rights activist, Anna Hazare.
One of the main protestors who staged a hunger strike with the activist was Arvind Kejriwal, an Indian Administrative Services officer who worked as Assistant Income Tax Commissioner.
AAP’s first major victory was in 2013 when the party won Delhi state elections. Kejriwal became the state’s, Chief Minister.
AAP found following across India due to it vociferous attacks on bureaucracy and corruption.
However, scandals by some of its prominent leaders and controversies surrounding Kejriwal himself have caused AAP to steadily lose its following.
Many accuse Kejriwal of trying to cash-in on the popularity of Anna Hazare. They point out India Against Corruption was the brainchild of Yoga guru and founder of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, Baba Ramdev.
However, the nonviolent protest led by Baba Ramdev was dispersed by Delhi Police. Anna Hazare’s movement was a follow-up of Baba Ramdev’s drive.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was founded by former Congress leader and erstwhile defence minister of India, Sharad Pawar along with PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar after they were expelled from Indian National Congress.
Pawar is also the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra and erstwhile chairman of Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI).
Pawar, Sangma and Tariq Anwar found some following in initial years since they opposed Sonia Gandhi, a woman of Italian origin and wife for former Indian PM, Rajiv Gandhi from rising to power.
However, NCP has not made any significant political gains, despite its wide following in various states.
7. All India Trinamool Congress (Founded 1998)
All India Trinamool Congress has the fourth largest representation in Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament with 34 seats gained during 2014 general elections.
It was founded by veteran woman politician, Mamata Banerjee, who broke away from Indian National Congress in 1998.
Mamata Banerjee is the current chief of AITC and is also the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
It is viewed as a rising contender for the might of Indian National Congress. However, its gains in other parts of India are negligible.
Though AITC has rallied against the current BJP government and its policies, the party has met no success.
Bahujan Samaj Party ranks as the third largest political party in India. Though its candidates polled millions of votes, BSP could win only 19 seats in the present Indian Parliament.
The party was founded by Kanshi Ram on caste lines. BSP’s political agenda included uplift of socially underprivileged castes of the Indian society.
Despite its gains and nationwide following, BSP is no match for political giants of India- BJP, and Congress.
Its current leader, Mayavati is a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament.
9. Shiv Sena (Founded 1966)
Shiv Sena began as a movement to safeguard rights of indigenous people of Maharashtra following rapid industrialization of Mumbai and arrival of migrants from other parts of India.
Its founder Balasaheb Thackeray was a cartoonist and journalist who expressed his views on caricatures published in English daily Free Press Journal and a Marathi publication, Marmik.
The Marathi movement began to fade after the Great Bombay Textile Strike in 1992, an increasing number of textile mill owners began shifting to Gujarat due rampant strikes by workers.
Further industrialization and emergence of Mumbai as the financial hub of the country eventually sounded the death knell of the pro-Maharashtrian movement.
Consequently, Shiv Sena focused on Hindu nationalism and found following across India.
Shiv Sena has gotten into several political controversies. These include scandals by some of its leaders and role in the 1992 communal riots in Mumbai following the December 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
Shiv Sena has allied with different regional political parties in India and has a roller-coaster relationship with BJP.
10. Janata Dal (Founded 1999)
Janata Dal is a national political party of India founded in 1999. In 2014 general elections, it bagged two seats in Lok Sabha and has one sitting parliamentarian in Rajya Sabha.
It traces its roots to erstwhile Janata Party (Secular) that was formed to counter Indian National Congress.
Its founder and leader, HD Deve Gowda was the 11th Prime Minister of India. However, HD Deve Gowda was the leader of Janata Party (Secular).
Janata Dal was founded two years after he was ousted as the nation’s PM.
Special Mentions: Other Popular Political Parties in India:
There are two political parties that deserve special mention because of their contribution to Indian history.
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party ( Founded 1963)
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party was the first political entity to be established in Goa after the state was liberated from Portuguese occupation by Indian Armed Forces.
It was founded by veteran freedom fighter, Dayanand Bandodkar, who became the first Chief Minister of Goa.
MGP held sway over Goa for 16 years till internal politics saw the party crumble.
Indian Union Muslim League (Founded 1906)
Indian Muslim League is now defunct. It was formed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah to rally Muslims of the Indian subcontinent to rise against British rule.
However, the party lost following among large sections of Indian Muslims when it called for the partition of the subcontinent on communal lines.
Following the creation of Pakistan, most leaders of Indian Union Muslim League migrated to Pakistan or joined Indian National Congress and remained in India.
The party later became Pakistan Muslim League and was dissolved in 1956 in that country. IUML has a small following in Kerala and is now known as a regional party.
The presence of over a thousand political parties in India ensures that every citizen has democratic representation.
Though ideologies of Indian political parties differ, they have all strived to make the country into the world’s single largest working democracy.
Every political party has therefore played some role- small or large- in progress of this country since 1947.