Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 23 April 2023

How is a ‘national party’ in India defined

Source: By Damini Nath: The Indian Express

The Election Commission 10 April 2023 recognised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a national party, while revoking that status of the All India Trinamool CongressNationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI).

The Commission also revoked the state party status granted to RLD in Uttar PradeshBRS in Andhra Pradesh, PDA in Manipur, PMK in Puducherry, RSP in West Bengal and MPC in Mizoram.

The Commission said that NCP and Trinamool Congress will be recognised as state parties in Nagaland and Meghalaya respectively based on their performance in the recently concluded Assembly elections.

It also granted “recognised state political party” status to the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) in Nagaland, Voice of the People Party in Meghalaya, and the Tipra Motha in Tripura.

The BJPCongressCPI(M)Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)National People’s Party (NPP) and the AAP are the remaining national parties now.

What is a national party?

The name suggests that a national party would be one that has a presence ‘nationally’, as opposed to a regional party whose presence is restricted to only a particular state or region.

National parties are usually India’s bigger parties, such as the Congress and BJP. However, some smaller parties are also recognised as national parties. A certain stature is sometimes associated with being a national party, but this does not necessarily translate into having a lot of national political clout.

Some parties, despite being dominant in a major state — such as the DMK in Tamil NaduBJD in Odisha, YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh, RJD in Bihar, or TRS in Telangana — and having a major say in national affairs, remain regional parties.

So how is a national party defined?

The ECI has laid down the technical criterion for a party to be recognised as a national party. A party may gain or lose national party status from time to time, depending on the fulfilment of these laid-down conditions.

As per the ECI’s Political Parties and Election Symbols, 2019 handbook, a political party would be considered a national party if:

  1. it is ‘recognised’ in four or more states; or
  2. if itscandidates polled at least 6% of total valid votes in any four or more statesin the last Lok Sabha or Assembly elections and has at least four MPs in the last Lok Sabha polls; or
  3. if it has won at least 2% of the total seats in the Lok Sabhafrom not less than three states.

To be recognised as a state party, a party needs:

  1. at least 6% vote-share in the last Assembly electionand have at least 2 MLAs; or

have 6% vote-share in the last Lok Sabha elections from that state and at least one MP from that state; or

  1. at least 3% of the total number of seats or three seats, whichever is more, in the last Assembly elections; or
  2. at least one MP for every 25 membersor any fraction allotted to the state in the Lok Sabha; or
  3. have at least 8% of the total valid votes in the last Assembly electionor Lok Sabha election from the state.

Where does the AAP fit into this scheme?

The AAP is in power with big majorities — and very large vote shares — in Delhi and Punjab. In the Goa Assembly elections in March last year, it received 6.77% of the vote.

This meant that going into the Gujarat-Himachal elections towards the end of 2022, the party already fulfilled the criteria for recognition as a state party in three states. It then required 6% of the vote in the Assembly elections in either Himachal or Gujarat to be recognised in a fourth state — which would qualify it for recognition as a national party.

While the AAP got only 1% of the vote in Himachal, the almost 13% vote it got in Gujarat was more than double required to be recognised as a state party there. That made it four states.