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Small parties use assembly elections as launch pad

Atul Mathur, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 29, 2013
First Published: 01:22 IST(29/10/2013) | Last Updated: 01:49 IST(29/10/2013)

The elections this year are going to be keenly fought contests.

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Besides the two prominent political parties — the BJP and the Congress — and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which made some inroads in 2008, several other political outfits, including national, regional and unrecognised and unknown groups, are likely to contest all 70 seats in the December elections.

The Hindustan Swaraj Congress Party, Peace Party, Braj Vikas party, National Loktantrik Party and Indian Democratic Party are some registered but unrecognised political parties, which have decided to field their candidates in all seats.

Senior officials of the Delhi electoral office said the parties had already been issued the symbols of their choice by the Election Commission of India. More such parties may jump into fray as they can apply to the poll panel even three days before the election notification.

“Political parties registered either in Delhi or in any other part of the country have to apply to the Election Commission, mentioning the number of seats they want to contest. They are given the symbol of their choice from the list of free symbols notified by the election commission in January this year. So far, eight registered but unrecognised political parties have been given the symbol to contest all seats,” said an official.

While national and state parties have fixed election symbols, registered parties are allotted symbols from the list of free symbols notified by the Election Commission.

Interestingly, the Aam Aadmi Party, which is making its electoral debut in Delhi, is one of the eight registered but unrecognised political parties allotted symbols to contest all seats in Delhi.

The Congress is the only party that has contested all 70 seats in Delhi in each of the four previous Assembly polls. In 1993, when the first elections for the reconstituted Delhi Assembly had taken place in Delhi, three political parties - the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal - had fielded their candidates on all seats. In 1998, only the Congress contested all 70 seats while in 2003, the BJP and the Congress contested in all constituencies. In 2008, the Congress and the BSP fought elections on all 70 seats while the BJP contested 69.

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This time, however, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United) have also announced that they will contest all seats. In 2008, seven national, eight state and 53 registered (unrecognised) parties had contested the elections.

“An election is the best time to establish as a pressure group and consolidate the identity,” said Ravi Ranjan, fellow, Developing Countries Research Centre, Delhi University. “Delhi is politically very active and it is always under the media glare. The smaller parties consolidate their regional and cultural identities and establish as pressure groups so that they can get more assertive in their political negotiations in future. Some of these smaller groups are also promoted by bigger political parties to eat into opposition’s vote share,” Ranjan added.

The electoral department officials said it was not necessary that these unrecognised parties ultimately contest elections on all seats as desired by them now. Their election symbol will be allotted to independent candidates on seats where these groups fail to field their candidates.

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