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Former CEC S Y Qureshi writes: EC order on national parties is based on well-defined criteria, not a subjective interpretation of their history or influence

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03:30 pm


The Election Commission of India (EC) has recently made changes to the list of national and state political parties that it recognizes. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been elevated to national party status, which is a significant boost for the party ahead of the 2024 elections. On the other hand, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and Communist Party of India (CPI) have lost their national party status.


Currently, there are six national parties in the country: BJP, Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI (M), National People's Party, and AAP.


The EC has also revoked the state party status of several parties, including Rashtriya Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh, Bharat Rashtra Samithi in Andhra Pradesh, People's Democratic Alliance in Manipur, Pattali Makkal Katchi in Puducherry, Revolutionary Socialist Party in West Bengal, and Mizoram People's Conference in Mizoram.


Meanwhile, the EC has granted "recognized state political party" status to the Lok Janshakti Party in Nagaland, Voice of the People Party in Meghalaya, and Tipra Motha in Tripura. Additionally, the NCP will be recognized as a state party in Nagaland, and the TMC in Meghalaya based on their recent assembly election performance.   


The criteria for recognition as a national or state party, as well as the process of recognition and derecognition, are outlined in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968. These criteria are also supported by the Political Parties and Election Symbols Handbook of 2019, published by the EC.

National People's Party Benefits

Key Criteria and Process for Recognition of National and State Parties by Election Commission of India

  • The following are the key points of the standards for acknowledging national or state parties and the recognition and derecognition process as per the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968:
  • Paragraph 6C of the order, which was amended on January 1, 2014, allows a party to continue as a national or state party in the next election even if it fails to meet the criteria laid down in paragraphs 6A and 6B.
  • However, in the cases mentioned above, the parties have exhausted this concession even after falling short in two successive elections.
  • Paragraph 6A lays down the criteria for state parties, which includes getting at least 6% of the votes polled in the last Assembly election and at least two MLAs, or 6% vote share and one MP from that state in the last Lok Sabha election, or 3% of the total seats in the Assembly or three seats, whichever is more.
  • Paragraph 6B lays down the criteria for national parties, which includes getting at least 6% vote share in four or more states in the last Lok Sabha or Assembly elections and having at least four MPs, or at least 2% of the seats in the Lok Sabha with its candidates having been elected from at least three states.
  • Paragraph 10 A (a) allows the EC to reserve a symbol for a national party that has just lost its status, provided it applies within three days of notification of the election.


Benefits on being recognised as a national party

  • The party's election symbol remains the same across India.
  • Free broadcast/telecast times on Akashvani and Doordarshan during the general election.
  • A maximum of 40 star campaigners can campaign without their travel expenses being counted in the candidate's accounts.
  • Only one proposer is needed to file nomination.
  • Two sets of electoral rolls are provided free of cost at the time of revision, and one copy of the electoral roll is free for candidates during general elections.
  • The party has the privilege of consultation with the EC in the setting of election dates and giving inputs on setting electoral rules and regulations.
  • Top slots on the EVM/ballot paper are reserved for national parties.
  • Recognition as a national party enhances public perception of the party, which is why some parties that have lost their national party status plan to go to court.

Challenges to the Authority and Discretion of the Election Commission in Recognising Political Parties

  • Some political parties are questioning the authority of the EC despite it being legitimised by the Supreme Court.
  • In the Janata Dal (Samajwadi) v Election Commission of India case in 1996, the Supreme Court affirmed that the EC has the power to withdraw the recognition of a national party if it fails to fulfil the conditions prescribed under the Symbols Order.
  • The Supreme Court, in the Subramanian Swamy v Election Commission of India case in 2008, also considered whether a symbol reserved for a party due to recognition under the Symbols Order becomes a part of its identity and cannot be taken away due to subsequent de-recognition. The Court rejected this argument, stating that the EC has the right to withdraw a political party's symbol due to poor performance in elections.
  • Some are questioning whether the EC has been overly strict and whether it could have taken a more charitable view towards political parties. However, the rules are specific and state that a party is eligible "if, and only if" it fulfils all the criteria, leaving the EC no discretion in the matter.
  • In 2010, the EC was sympathetic to the RJD's case, which had received 5.99% of the votes, but was unable to show leniency due to the specific language of the rules stating "not less than" 6% votes, which the RJD had failed to obtain.


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