With the increase in the number of parties seeking registration with the Election Commission of India reaching alarming proportions, the Commission is pitching very strongly for an urgent need to check the proliferation of political parties.
"Election is a serious business and associations with no interest in participating in the election process should not be permitted to pollute the system by enrolling themselves as political parties,” said a recent ECI communication to the Union Law Ministry.
Strongly reiterating the need for amending the law in order to empower the Commission to regulate registration and deregistration of political parties, the Commission said a large number of political parties - most of them non-serious and perhaps defunct – would only add to avoidable system overload in the conduct of election and is not going to contribute to the democratic process in any manner.
KF Wilfred, Secretary of the Election Commission of India, told the Hindustan Times that despite the EC putting certain mechanism in place, the number of parties seeking registration is fast increasing.
The registration of political parties is governed by the provisions of section 29 A of the Representation of People's Act, 1951.
Under this section, any association or body of individual citizens can seek registration as a political party by making an application to the Commission.
Before section 29 A was introduced in the Act in 1989, registration of political parties was regulated by the Commission under its own order Election Symbols (Reservation and allotment) order, 1968. After the introduction of Section 29 A, the number of associations seeking registration as political parties has increased steadily.
“Many of the political parties getting registered were not contesting any election to the parliament or state legislature. In order to curb the tendency of non-serious parties getting registration, the commission, during 1996-98, prescribed some additional documents and a processing fee of Rs 10,000 to dissuade such groups from seeking registration,” Wilfred said.
However, in spite of additional measures, the number of parties seeking registration is increasing at an alarming rate, he added. In March 2006, there were 770 registered unrecognised political parties and 50 recognised political parties. While the number of recognised parties has remained 50, the number of registered unrecognised parties has gone up to 900.
Interestingly, only 173 registered unrecognised political parties contested the general election to the House of the People, 2004.