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India has a multi-party system. The Election Commission of India (ECI) accords to national-level and state-level political parties based upon objective criteria. A recognised political party enjoys privileges like a reserved party symbol,[a] free broadcast time on state-run television and radio, consultation in the setting of election dates, and giving input in setting electoral rules and regulations. Other political parties that wish to contest local, state, or national elections are required to be registered by the Election Commission of India. Registered parties are upgraded as recognised national parties or state parties by the ECI if they meet the relevant criteria after a Lok Sabha or state legislative assembly election. The recognised party status is reviewed periodically by the ECI.
Before the amendment in 2016 (which came into force on 1 January 2014), if a political party failed to fulfill the criteria in the subsequent Lok Sabha or state legislative assembly election, they lost their status as a recognised party. In 2016, the ECI announced that such a review would take place after two consecutive elections instead of every election. Therefore, a political party shall retain the recognised party status even if they do not meet the criteria in the next election. However, if they fail to meet the criteria in the subsequent election following the next election, they would lose their status.
As per latest publications dated May 2023 from Election Commission of India, and subsequent notifications, there are 6 national parties, 54 state parties,[b] and 2,597 unrecognised parties. All registered parties contesting elections need to choose a symbol from a list of available symbols offered by the EC. All 28 states of the country along with the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, National Capital Territory of Delhi, and Puducherry have elected governments unless President's rule is imposed under certain condition.
A registered party is recognised as a national party only if it fulfils any one of the three conditions listed below:
- The party wins two per cent of seats in the Lok Sabha from at least three different states.
- At a general election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party polls six per cent of votes in any four or more states and in addition it wins four Lok Sabha seats.
- The party gets recognition as a state party in four states.
A registered party is recognised as a state party only if it fulfils any one of the five conditions listed below:
- A party should secure at least six per cent of valid votes polled in an election to the state legislative assembly and win at least two seats in that state assembly.
- A party should secure at least six per cent of valid votes polled in an election to Lok Sabha and win at least one seat in Lok Sabha.
- A party should win at least three per cent of the total number of seats or a minimum of three seats in the Legislative Assembly, which ever is higher.
- A party should win at least 1 seat in the Lok Sabha for every 25 seats or any fraction thereof allotted to that state.
- Under the liberalised criteria, one more clause that it will be eligible for recognition as state party if it secures eight per cent or more of the total valid votes polled in the state.
- If a party is recognised as a national or state party, its symbol is reserved for its exclusive use in the country or in the state.
- There were 57 state parties listed in publication issued by the Election Commission of India on 15 May 2023. However 3 out of 57 parties (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, People's Democratic Front and Zoram Nationalist Party) have merged with other parties.
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