Here is an essay on ‘Political Parties’ for class 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Political Parties’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay on Political Parties
- Essay on the Definition of Political Parties
- Essay on the Characteristics of Political Parties
- Essay on the Role and Merits of Political Parties in a Modern State
- Essay on the Demerits of Political Parties
- Essay on the Dual Party System and Multiple Party System
- Essay on the Pressure Groups or Interest Groups
Essay # 1. Definition of Political Parties:
There are as many definitions of political parties as the political thinkers.
The following are some of the most important ones:
According to R. G. Gettel, a political party is “a group of citizens more or less organised, who act as a political unit and who by the use of their political power aim at controlling the government and carrying out its general policies.”
Herman Finer defined it as “an organised body with voluntary membership, its concerted energy being employed in the pursuit of political power.” For Edmund Burke, it is “a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.”
R. M. MacIver considered it “an association organised in support of some principle or policy which by constitutional means endeavours to make the determinant of the government.” From the above opinions we may infer that a political party is a group of citizens, more or less organised, having some agreement on broad principles of national policy with an effort to capture political power by some constitutional means.
Essay # 2. Characteristics of Political Parties:
The following are some of the characteristics of political parties:
(i) It should be an organised body, because it can derive strength from an effective organisation. Such an organisation is all the more necessary to establish rapport with the masses. Without a mass-basis, a political party cannot speak for the people.
(ii) The members of a political party must abide by the broad principles of public policy adopted by its organisation. The members may differ on the details of the policy and programme, but there must be a cohesion of the minimum objectives of the party.
(iii) Every political party must be national-minded, i.e., in aims and functions it must take into consideration the interest of the nation. A party which falls short of a national character and represents only a sectarian outlook cannot be a political party.
(iv) It should be the bounden duty of every political party to capture power through constitutional means. A party which does not have such power-capturing programme cannot be included in the club of the political parties. But capturing power by some violent or unlawful means cannot be allowed in the arena of the political parties. The means of capturing such powers must also be peaceful and lawful.
Essay # 3. Role and Merits of Political Parties in a Modern State:
The political parties have great significance in a modern state.
Their role and merits are:
(i) It Formulates Public Opinion:
Political parties are given the name of brokers of ideas, because their main focus is on public opinion. The political parties formulate and organise public opinion. One can say with confidence that but for the political parties there would be no public opinion. It is the political parties that bring different issues before the people and help to formulate opinion by their propaganda and discussion.
(ii) It Educates Public Opinion:
Through propaganda the political parties educate public opinion. The political parties have their own newspapers, journals and various types of printed materials through which they communicate their political ideology to the general public. They also speak out their views through the press and the platform which are good forums for public education. It is for this reason that A.L. Lowell called the political parties “the brokers of ideas”.
The political parties threw the issue to the public to independently judge it. If the issues are unacceptable, they are provided with the alternative. In this free exchange of views the public are enlightened in various aspects of public life.
(iii) Political Parties make the People Public-Spirited:
In addition to educating the people in public affairs, the political parties also generate interest among the people on matters of public importance. We, therefore, find that the entire population of the country is agog with a renewed enthusiasm during the general elections of the country. This interest during the elections makes the public attached to the interests of the nation. The final outcome is that the people become patriotic and nation-conscious.
(iv) Political Parties Create National Unity:
Since every political party cover the majority of the voters irrespective of religion, caste or sect, men of all occupations and walks of life get united under the banner of the political party. This is so, because every national party must have national consideration above other considerations.
Thus we find that like the Congress (I), the Janata Dal also espousing the cause of the backward and depressed classes and at the same time making a special case for the upliftment of the women. Without such consideration, a party will cease to be a political party.
(v) It Works as a Link between the Government and the People:
The political party that commands majority in the legislature establishes a rapport with the people and the government and thus serves as an effective link between the people and the government. In this way, it helps the government to be really representative of the wishes of the people. This kind of harmony between the people and the government prevents the outbreak of any revolt or revolution in the country.
(vi) It is Essential for the Success of Parliamentary Democracy:
Political parties are a must for the successful working of parliamentary form of government. A parliamentary government is one where the majority party forms the government and the minority party forms the opposition. Both being indispensable in a parliamentary government it is not possible to make the parliamentary mechanism function without them.
It goes without saying that the opposition party plays a vital role in the parliamentary form of government by pointing out the defects in the government, the inefficiency in the administration and corruption and nepotism of the ministers and the higher-ups. Who would do this important public role if there is no opposition? Thus the political party, that keeps the government in their toes plays, such an effective role that without it the parliamentary system of government will collapse.
Essay # 4. Demerits of Political Parties:
The following are some of the major defects of the political parties:
(i) It Hampers Individuality:
Political parties deter individual thinking and individual way of life. The iron discipline of the political parties, commonly known as the party whip, reduces the party cadre into dumb driven cattle. The members of a political party sit and, stand at the bidding of the party bosses.
If anybody expresses his own independent views not in line with the party programme he is expelled from the party. It is this fear of expulsion that seals the lips of the party members. This factor is responsible in reducing the party-men into blind followers of the party bosses. We must, however, admit that without this type of party discipline there will be utter chaos and anarchy in the party administration.
(ii) It Curbs Loyalty to the State:
The selfish and narrow outlook of the party is a hindrance to the loyalty to the state. Very often the parties take to the streets and disrupt the administration to the serious damages of the national interests. The political parties have a tendency to subordinate the interest of the nation to that of the party. They do not hesitate to think that their party is more important than the state.
So the net result of the parties is that the loyalty to the state suffers. We have to note that this argument against political parties is not tenable, every political party is required to make a declaration that the national integration must have primacy over narrow party loyalties.
(iii) It Destroys Public Morality:
Political parties have no principles of public morality, display no sense of social awareness and show no concern for public well-being. Rajiv Gandhi admits “There is flagrant confrontation between what we say and what we do.” He found his own party usurped by “self-penetrating cliques” of “brokers of power and influence”.
(iv) If Disrupts National Unity:
The third point of criticism against political parties is that they create a division among the people and thereby stand in the way of national unity. They split the nation into several irreconcilable camps. There is a tendency in all democratic states to notice the people divided as the leftists and the rightists.
This is like a kind of division on religious grounds. In that case, the political parties are definitely doing a great disservice to the nation. Very often violence is associated with the party clashes. This argument is also not acceptable, because the political parties put the nation above everything. If they cannot carry the whole nation with them, they will lose their own existence as political parties.
(v) It Demoralises Public Opinion:
The party bosses and their followers have a tendency to harp on false propaganda and imaginary calculations. In heart they know that things are in reality different from what they are depicting. This kind of suppression of truth is called suppression veri while the propagation of falsehood is called suggestio falsi.
Every political party glorifies itself and belittles the other parties. The party-men are prone to get themselves confined to the party shells and they cannot come out with the facts even if these were necessary in the interest of truth. They hedge their charges against their opponents with deliberate disinformation. They have no independent thinking and voice. They speak in their master’s voice.
So the party spirit encourages false-hood and immorality. The result is that the public opinion generated by the party propaganda is one of confusion and misguidance. It is common to hear from the public platform the scandals against the leadership of the other parties, while the attack should have been on the wrong policies and programmes of the other parties.
Political parties have merits and demerits. A rose has its thorns. We are to take the rose, not the thorns. So instead of eliminating the political parties we should try to preserve its good aspects and remedy the bad ones. This is all the more necessary because democracy cannot function without political parties. Conversely, political parties cannot thrive in the absence of democracy.
So, if we accept democracy, we are to accept the political parties. Democracy in England and the USA has been successful because of healthy political parties. To put it in another form, national unity in these two countries has not been at stake because of political parties. Nor have the political parties curbed loyalty to the nation or demoralised public opinion in these two countries.
In fine, the political parties constitute the life-blood of democracy.
So we may conclude with the words of W. B. Munro:
“No country has ever been able to maintain, over considerable period of time, any form of democratic government without aid of political parties. And it is safe to prophesy that no country ever will.”
The fact stands that if we have democracy, we must have political parties. To finish political parties would mean finishing democracy. Party-less democracy which was advocated by-our own leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan and others is a far cry. Till we reach that stage we are doomed to party life in politics. As a matter of fact, parties play a role that is both positive and constructive. For this reason they should be allowed to exist and operate. But some parties which adopt a negative and destructive attitude should be controlled and set right. This can be done by the electorate by rejecting these parties at the hustings.
Essay # 5. Dual Party System and Multiple Party System:
The political parties in different countries are different in number. There are some countries where there are only two political parties. This system is called dual party system or bi-party system. But there are again other states in the world where the parties are more than two. In the second category of countries we get the multi-party system.
In England we have a dual system. In the past there were the Whigs and the Tories as the two principal political parties. The Whigs were later on called the Liberal and the Tories came to be known as the Conservatives. Finally, the Liberal party became very insignificant. Real significance was attached to the Labour party. Today in England there are two political parties, namely the Conservative party and the Labour party.
Let us know the position in the USA. There are two major political parties in the USA. These are the Democratic party and the Republican party. There may be some other political parties in these two countries but by organisation and capability these parties cannot come to power and so they are very insignificant. But India has a multi-party system with six national parties. The extreme example of multi-party system is France where there are as many as fifteen political parties.
Now both the systems have their respective merits and demerits. We shall discuss these here.
Merits of Dual Party System:
The following are the merits of dual party system:
1. It Ensures Stable and Strong Government:
In a two party system the government is solid like a rock. The government in a double party system works with determination and fixed principle, because it knows the programme and strategy of the other party in the opposition. All the ministers work as a team because they belong to a single party and are wedded to a set of party programme.
Assured of a clear majority, the single party in the government can safely sail for the full tenure, since there is no threat of any break in the government or dissolution of the legislature. So the government in a dual party system is durable. According to Harold J. Laski: “The two party system enables the government to drive its policy to the statute book”.
2. It Ensures Success of Parliamentary form of Government:
It is axiomatic that success in a parliamentary system of government is ensured if there are only two parties. The majority party in the legislature forms the cabinet which is collectively responsible to the legislature. Thus the principle of collective responsibility which is the bed-rock of parliamentarianism, can be successfully carried out only by a bi-party system.
Only in a double party system the ruling party can know which way the opposition will behave and what should be the proper stand for the ruling party. According to Harold J. Laski: “A political system is the more satisfactory, the more it is able to express itself through the antithesis of two great parties.”
3. It Simplifies Formation of Government:
If the majority party falls, the government is formed by the other party in the opposition. There can be no constitutional deadlock. The leader of the opposition party in England and Canada draw emolument equal to that of the Prime Minister. In England the leader of the opposition is called “Her Majesty’s Opposition”.
There is a smooth transition of power when one government falls. There is also never tension, chaos or violence with regard to the formation of government in a bi-party system. Thus R. M. MacIver supports the bi-party system in these words- “There is, on the one hand, concentration of authority……….. on the other hand concentration of responsibility and an easy means of enforcing it.” So the real advantage of a dual party system is that there is no constitutional crisis or political turmoil over the fall of a government. So Harold J. Laski rightly said- “It brings an alternative government into immediate being.”
4. It Easily Fixes Responsibility of Success and Failure of National Issues:
If there is an achievement of the government in a dual party system one can put the credit to the party in power. If there is failure, it can be similarly fastened on the party in power. This is difficult if more than one party forms the government as it happens in cases of coalition government. If there are so many groups inside the government it is difficult to say whose fault it is. So Harold J. Laski said- “It makes known and intelligible the result of the failures.”
5. It offers a Clear-Cut Alternative to the Voters:
When there are only two parties, the voters find it easier to make up their mind whom to vote or not. When there are too many parties the voters are thrown into confusion and uncertainty to know which party will serve them best. The confusion is worst confounded, because the voters do not know which party is going to join the other party to form the coalition government in case no single party obtains absolute majority in the legislature. So in such a case the voters may calculate in one way and the government may be formed in a different way.
6. A Bi-Party System ensures a Respectful and Prospective Opposition Party:
Since the opposition is a single unit, it has better chance of criticism of the government. More importantly, the opposition, having the prospect of coming to power, plays a dignified role in a bi-party system.
In England the opposition party is called Her Majesty’s opposition and the leader of the opposition party draws emoluments equal to that of the Prime Minister. This shows the great amount of responsibility and dignity attached to the opposition party in a bi-party system.
Demerits of Bi-Party System:
The bi-party system has its dis-advantages too.
These are discussed below.
1. The Bi-Party System Divides the Country into Two Hostile Camps:
It bisects the human nature into two schools of thought as if the entire people have only two heads or two minds. But there are various needs and interests in the society. It is too harsh a proposition to accommodate all these interests within the two spheres. So popular will very often does not get vindicated in a bi-party system.
2. It creates Despotism of the Cabinet:
According to Ramsay Muir, the bi-party system establishes the primacy of the cabinet over the legislature and establishes a kind of cabinet dictatorship. In a multi-party system the legislature, by grouping and counter-grouping, can get rid of the despised cabinet.
3. It Creates Despotism of the Majority Part:
The bi-party system has a tendency to create a kind of despotism of the majority parties which may ruffle the wishes of the minority. Under a multi-party system this is not possible because one single party may not be able to form the government and so will have to depend on the cooperation of other smaller parties. This will eliminate the scope of the majority party’s riding rough-shod over the wishes of the minority parties.
Merits and Demerits of Multi-Party System:
We shall now study the merits and demerits of multi-party system.
Merits of Multi-Party System:
1. Multi-party system represents the various shades of opinion in the nation:
Multi-party system has the advantage over the bi-party system in one big way. This advantage is that a multi-party system represents all shades of opinion before the voters. In a bi-party system the voters are left with no option but to elect either of the two parties. They may not in heart like any of them. So in a multi-party system the voters are free to make their own choice from the varieties of parties before them.
2. Multi-party system ensures effective public opinion:
In a multi-party system the various political parties can formulate different and progressive programmes in consonance with the wishes of the people. Through public meetings, newspapers, radio and television the parties can come close to the people to accept their views. When there are only two parties, the programme and policy of the two parties are already known to the people and there is, as such, no rapport between the political parties and the public opinion.
When public opinion demands the creation of a new party, that is also done. So in a multi-party system political parties and public opinion go hand in hand.
3. It ensures democracy:
In a two-party system there is a despotism of the political parties in the sense that the parties there ride rough-shod over the wishes of the people. This adamant attitude of the parties is but natural because they know that they will come to power today or tomorrow. In a many party system the prospect of ruling the country is to be widely shared by all the parties. As a result, no single party can grow despotic or adamant. Thus multi-party system is in line with democratic principles.
Demerits of Multi-Party System:
1. It creates unstable government:
A government in a multi-party system does not last long. So we find that in France between 1909 and 1932 under the same Premier there were eleven governments. In an unstable government the administration is bound to be inefficient and chaotic. There can be no consistent policy of the government under such conditions. When the cabinet is changing frequently the country is run, not by the elected representatives, but by the salaried bureaucracy.
2. It creates coalition government:
In a multi-party system it so happens that not a single party can command clear majority to form the government. As a result, the government is formed with the combination of two or more parties. A coalition government is proverbially weak, because it may fall any moment the partner-party withdraws its support. So one party in the government has to placate the other party in the same government.
Sometimes principles are forsaken to keep the disgruntled party happy. The net result is that the coalition government becomes weak from the day of its inception and there can be no tenacity of purpose.
3. It delays the formation of the government:
According to Harold J. Laski, a serious flaw of the many party system is that nobody knows when the government will be formed after the fall of the existing government. This is but natural because in a multi-party system there is no single party in the opposition to come to the playground after the other side’s innings is over. It may be necessary to hold a fresh election to clinch the issue. To say in the words of Laski: “The group system always means that no government can be formed until after the people have chosen the legislative assembly.”
4. It creates rule of the minority over the majority:
In a many party system no party may attain absolute majority or may represent the majority of the voters. It may come to power by a slender majority over the other parties. In this way, the party that forms the government may not get majority -votes. So the musical chair may be won by a party that does not have majority votes of the electorate.
In 1951 – 52 general elections to the Lok Sabha, which is the lower house of the Indian parliament, the Congress got 44.4 per cent of the total votes cast and yet formed the majority party, whereas the other parties remained the minority in the house, even though they got 55.6 per cent of the total votes cast. So the inherent danger in a multi-party system is that it may establish the rule of the minority over the majority.
5. There is no dignified status of the opposition in a multi-party system:
A dignified opposition, which is the sign of healthy parliamentary practice, is not to be found in a multi-party system. In the welter of myriads of parties it is not possible to locate the opposition party. As a result, the dignity associated to the opposition party and its leader is conspicuous by its absence in a multi-party system.
Essay # 6. Pressure Groups or Interest Groups:
There is an inner wheel in the political parties and in the government, be it democratic or totalitarian, pervading the legislature, executive, judiciary and bureaucracy that act and interact overtly and covertly to bring pressure to bear on the policy and functions of the government. That inner wheel is called, the pressure groups or interest groups.
Genesis of Pressure Groups:
There is a common thread that connects together human beings whether in the ethnic, religious, professional or any social or economic behaviour that holds together and gives rise to a group consciousness. This group has identical interest on certain planes or fronts. When this group comes to play its role, keeping its interest uppermost in its mind, in the political life it is called a interest group or pressure group.
This type of influence is seen present in all types of government, democratic or dictatorial, presidential or parliamentary. Arthur Bentley who is the author of this theory of pressure group, underlined: “The society itself is nothing other than the complex of groups that composes it… The group and the interest are not separate.” Bentley has no hesitation to say that every group has a distinct interest Following Bentley, David Truman went on to say that the group will ultimately move towards the source of power, i.e., the government.
The interest groups instead of holding the reins of government, work from behind the government by exerting pressure upon it to go in the lines of the interests of the groups. The pressure so exercised goes a long way to influence the policy of the government. It is in this context that Joseph Harris defined- “Interest groups are groups which exert pressure upon the relevant decision-makers with the object of obtaining some benefit.”
The definition of S. E. Finer on interest group is- “Organisations…. trying to influence the policy of public bodies in their own chosen direction, though never themselves prepared to undertake the direct governance of the country.” The employees’ association, university teachers’ association, students’ union and footpath hawkers’ association are some of the interest groups exercising pressure on the government.
Characteristics of the Pressure Groups:
The pressure group has the following features:
1. It must be a mass of activities, not a mere collection of some individuals. It must at the same time be a patterned process instead of a static form;
2. It must live and act among group interactions that are sufficiently and frequently patterned to produce activities of specific directions;
3. The positivistic interest must be the sum total of the policy-oriented and directional activities;
4. The group must be genuine as against coincidental in interest with individual members having divergent interests other than one forming the group;
5. The balance of the pressure groups will constitute the society or the state;
6. The number of the members, intensity and forms of organisation will determine the strength of the group;
7. Each and every activity of the group will not be political, its nature will be political only when the group will try to mould the government through any agency or organ of the government;
8. In a bid to handle the fights among the various pressure groups, the government will evolve a policy and programme of adjustment.
Kinds of Pressure Groups:
Pressure groups of a country may take different forms and shapes. The industrialists, manufacturers and entrepreneurs form the business groups. The peasants’ groups represent the agriculturists, cultivators and other rural interests. A vast majority of the urban population working in the industries and factories go to form the labour groups. The professional groups consist of teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers and technicians.
Since religion is a big group-cementing factor, several recognised religious bodies are distinct pressure groups. The terrorists or the militants cannot be excluded from the pressure circle. They are called the anomic units. Thus business, peasants, labour, profession, religion, anomic are the major categories of pressure groups.
Functions of the Pressure Groups:
Although every individual has a right to see his interest protected and his views to have a say in the government, it is impossible for a man to do so because in that case there will be a big chaos if all and every opinion is to be considered by the government. It is found more practical and useful if some individuals form a group on the basis of their common thread of interest. This group can say and work for the members forming the group.
This pressure group is the vehicle of hopes and aspirations of the individuals in it. In this way, the pressure group acts as the intermediate body between the ruler and the ruled
Secondly, the pressure group provides the ordinary people the opportunity to form a kind of identity of interest with others and, in this way, organise themselves into a unit. This enables them to express themselves in public life.
Thirdly, the pressure groups enable the government to have the service of the specialised bodies and the know-how of delicate matters like medical profession and engineering skills. If these groups were not organised, the government would have been in the dark and roam in the darkness and beat about the bush. So the government has a first-hand information of the views of the pressure groups representing various interest groups.
Fourthly, the pressure groups in a democracy have a big role. In between the two general elections, the pressure groups oversee the activities of the government and catch the government on the wrong leg. Since elections are far away, the groups-presenting various interests rather than the electorate-corrects and moulds the government. So this is a vital function of the pressure group.
Pressure Groups and Political Parties:
The pressure groups and political parties have similarities in some matters, though they differ on vital points. We take the similarities first. Both nurture some beliefs and pursue some interests and attempt at attaining the maximum benefits for the members within their folds.
Fired by a belief pattern, both aim at some good for their members and justify their actions. Very often a political party is nothing but a group interest in political platform and, when in the opposition, exert influence and pressure on the government on behalf of the group representing it. Here the similarities end. The differences between the political parties and the pressure groups are of wide marks.
These are stated below:
In the first place, a political party is vast in size, mechanism and sphere of activities. Its membership crosses million, while the membership of the group may be some thousands only. As a matter of fact, several interest groups combine to form a party. Consequently, a party is broad-based, while a group has a narrow and limited basis.
In the second place and more importantly, a political party has an open and clear-cut organisation and programme. It is generally registered with a definite office and enrolment and discipline of its own. Pressure group is indefinite and unorganised. It has no office, no recruitment, no flag, no code of conduct. It works behind the scene. It has no public image. S.E. Finer capsulated it- “faceless, voiceless, unidentifiable, in brief, anonymous.”
In the third place, pressure group wants to influence the government in shaping public policies in its favour instead of itself forming the government. But political parties aim at coming to power. Thus we find that pressure group is a game of limited over and has only some specific interests and avoids to walk into bigger political game. It wants that the positive political function should be carried by a political party.
In the fourth place, one individual can become a member of as many pressure groups as he likes, but he cannot be member of more than one political party.
In the fifth place, the pressure group may be blind to its own interest and go against the national interest. But a political party cannot be anti-national. It must keep national interest above everything.
Lastly, pressure groups maintain a low profile and occupy a secondary role in point of popularity. In point of chronology also the pressure group came long after the political parties. As a matter of fact, in modem states the pressure group is of recent growth.
All said and done, the fact remains that the difference between the pressure group and political parties is very subtle and overlapping. This has been rightly brought home by P. J. Madwick in his book Introduction to British Politics “The relations of pressure group and parties are important, in the main, informal (formless) and difficult to discern, because pressure groups and parties are not wholly separable, overlapping and interpenetrating one another.”