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Political Parties in India and their Ideologies

Posted by Admin on December 3, 2014 | Read the First Comment

The only factor that explains the mushrooming growth of political parties in India is the difference in ideology. While some of them are pro-liberalisation, some are anti-capitalism. The ideological differences also exist in the social sphere with some political factions swearing by Hindu nationalism and the rest seem quite content with progressive westernisation. It is this multiplicity of ideologies and their practitioners that make Indian politics a difficult yet an interesting case study.

Political Parties in India and their Ideologies

Communist Parties in India

The communist parties are known for their ‘anti-business’ ideology. Perennially a proponent of subsidies, minority appeasement and preservation of human rights, the Left parties are facing existential crisis after 2014 General Elections.

Communist Party of India (CPI) can be called the progenitor that has worked its way through a series of movements to become a political force to reckon with. From armed struggle against local monarchs in Tripura, Telangana and Kerala to agrarian struggle in Manipur, the party has always been at the forefront of social movements. Land reform and trade union movements also cover a large chunk of CPI’s political ideology.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) calls itself the “revolutionary vanguard of the working class of India.” Its political ideology is centred on socialism, communism and establishment of “the state of dictatorship of the proletariat.” The principles of Marx and Lenin guide the party’s activities. The declared objective of CPI-M is the emancipation of the masses and finding a way to end “exploitation of man by man.” The party is now more or less concentrated in states like Tripura and Kerala.

Despite falling under the communist family, All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) is distinctly different from other left parties. Unlike CPI and CPI-M, the AIFB is a left-wing political party that doesn’t follow Marxism or Leninism.  The party is an ardent advocator of socialism that has been defined and elucidated by Subhas Chandra Bose.

 Congress Party and Social Liberalism

Congress has been the ruling party of India for no less than 49 years, though not at a stretch. The dominant party in Indian political space has formed government for 10 times, winning majority on six occasions and forming coalitions for four times.

For its social liberal outlook, the Congress Party is generally placed on the Centre-Left of the political spectrum. It adheres to the Gandhian principle of upliftment of all sections of society.  Unlike many other contemporary parties, Congress supports liberal nationalism, which can also be referred as a more tolerant nationalism with space for equality, freedom and rights.

Socialist tendencies and the restrictive economic policies framed by its government have often been blamed for the downhill ride of Indian economy. There is a significant dichotomy in the party’s economic policies. On the one hand, it supports free market policies, and on the other hand it adopts a wait-and-watch approach when it comes to liberalising the economy. Despite all these, the party is credited with initiating deregularisation, liberalisation and privatisation policies.

BJP and Right Wing Politics

BJP, undoubtedly, has had a good run in the last three or four decades. After a very slow entry into the mainstream politics, the party gradually climbed the ladder of recognition before becoming India’s largest political party in terms of representation in the Parliament.

Having its genesis in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the BJP maintains ideological and organisational links to the Hindu nationalist group – Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). From Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Uniform Civil Code to Good Governance, the party has been prudently selecting and taking stand on issues of national importance to gain better visibility.

“Integral Humanism” is the stated ideology of BJP. It was first formulated in 1965 by Deendayal Upadhyaya. The party is a strong advocator of social conservatism and believes in pursuing a foreign policy based on nationalist principles. Earlier, the party has deftly played the role of a strong opposition by raising issues like minority appeasement, pseudo-secularism and the need for a re-look at Article 370 in Kashmir.

Recently, the BJP and its coalition partners have focused mainly on neoliberal economic policy. Many consider that right-wing thinking and pro-business stand of BJP is the need of the hour.

Separatist Political Parties

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) was initially formed as an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organisations in Kashmir to achieve “the right of self-determination.”

Apart from Jammu Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party (JKDLP), the alliance comprised other separatist political parties in Kashmir including Yaseen Malik’s Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Sheikh Yaqoob’s Jammu and Kashmir Peoples League (JKPL), and Shabbir Shah’s People’s Democratic Front (PDF).

Although PDF had managed to grab one seat in the 2008 Assembly elections, the general clout of the separatist political parties has not become evident during elections. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the chairman of APHC, remains the most popular separatist leader whose extremist views pertaining to the independence of J&K have received mixed reactions.

Regional Formations

Apart from CPI and CPI-M, a handful of regional parties formed a political alliance back in 2009 as an alternative to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by BJP. BSP and Samajwadi Party from Uttar Pradesh, Janata Dal (United) from Bihar, Biju Janata Dal from Odisha, Asom Gana Parishad from Assam and TRS from Telangana were among the regional parties that unanimously decided to launch a Third Front “against the pro-rich economic policies” of  Congress and BJP. The front was also established to counter “the growth of communal and fascist forces” and reaffirm its commitment towards farmers, dalits, other backward classes, women and minors.