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Why EC revised rules for eligibility for national and state party status

india Updated: Aug 30, 2016 18:24 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times
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Election Commission officials seal an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) prior to the start of voting at a polling station in Dibrugarh, Assam. (AFP file photo)

Had the Election Commission not reset the eligibility for grant of national and state party status last week, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would have lost its national party status and been relegated to a state party in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Similarly, NCP would have retained its state party recognition only in Maharashtra and Nagaland and CPI in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Manipur; both parties would have also lost their national party status.

An analysis of the performance of the national parties, CPI, BSP and NCP after the 2014 general elections shows the parties were on the verge of losing their symbols; as did 14 state parties based on various assembly polls.

The post poll analysis showed that of the 14 state parties that were slated to lose their status, five would have retained their status in one state at least, but nine would have ceased to be state parties in any state.

Regional parties such as the Trinamool Congress, RJD, RLD, JDU, DMDK and Maharastra Navnirman Sena would have seen a reversal in their fortunes in several states. For instance, the TMC would have lost recognition in Arunachal Pradesh, but retained the state party status in West Bengal, Manipur and Tripura; RLD would have lost recognition in Uttar Pradesh, while RJD would have been affected in Jharkhand.

The EC amended Section 6C, which deals with conditions for continued recognition as a national or state party under The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 which has given a lifeline to these parties.

For a party to be declared a national party, it ought to have 6% of valid votes in the assembly or Lok Sabha in a minimum of 4 states and four MPs from any state or 2% of Lok Sabha seats (11 MPs) from 3 or more states or should be a state party in 4 states.

In the case of state party status, the party must have 6% of the total valid votes polled and two seats in the assembly or six per cent of the votes in Lok Sabha from the state and 1 MP from the same state or three per cent of the total seats in the assembly or at least three seats whichever is more or 1 MP from every 25 seats in the Lok Sabha or 8% of the total votes in the assembly.

EC official explained that the decision to relax the rules was also based on the premise of making “electioneering more democratic” by allowing a greater participation of political parties and after perusing less stringent rules in place in countries such as United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

An EC official said the number of voters since the first election in 1951 has gone up more than five times, which means that while a party gets more votes than the previous election, it will still get lesser percentage of votes.

“For a state party status, a party has to have bagged 8% of the total votes in the assembly or Lok Sabha,; this rule would deprive smaller parties from trying to strive for state party status,” an official said.

If parties lose the national party status, they can no longer stake claim to their symbol and are not eligible for free airtime on public broadcasters during elections or to an office space in the national capital.