The Communist Party of India (CPI), Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday pleaded the Election Commission (EC) to not take away their national party status. All the three parties had suffered dismal defeats in the 2019 elections. In a personal hearing on Monday, the three parties told the EC that they are old parties and have played a key role in national politics, hence, their status should not be based on recent electoral performance only.
The EC had previously issued notice to the parties, asking them why their ‘national party’ status should not be revoked following their under-par performance in the Lok Sabha elections. It is funny to even think that some of these parties had floated the idea of “Third Front” in lead up to the general elections and had gone on the record saying that the Prime Minister will be from the third front itself.
Mamata Banerjee led TMC had won 22 seats in the Lok Sabha polls while amassing 4.05 percent in the vote-share percentage. NCP only mustered up five seats with 1.39 vote share percentage, whereas CPI had a rather underwhelming performance with only two seats to show in the bag with 0.58 percent vote-share. Under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 2017, a party is given the status of a national party if its candidates secure at least 6% of the votes polled in four states or more and if it has at least four MPs in the Lok Sabha. If this condition isn’t fulfilled, the order paves way for another criterion wherein if the party has won at least 2 percent of the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha, from 3 or more states, it would be considered as a national party.
The Left party said, though it may not have fared well in the recent Lok Sabha elections, it has been in power in several states and has played a key role in strengthening the Constitution, which is laughable, to say the least. TMC argued that it was only given the national party status in 2014 and therefore needs more time. Whilst, NCP said that it needs time till the Maharashtra assembly elections in October to prove that it is capable of bouncing back and worthy of being a national party.
The CPI, BSP and the NCP were facing the prospect of losing their national party status after their dismal performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well. However, they got a reprieve when in 2016 the EC amended its rules, whereby national and state party status of political parties are to be reviewed every 10 years instead of five. As of now, the Indian National Congress (INC), BJP, BSP, CPI, Communist Party of India (Marxist), TMC, NCP and the National People’s Party of Meghalaya have national party status.
Given that these parties are mostly consolidated in a particular state, TMC in Bengal, NCP in Maharashtra and CPI in Kerala, it would be fair to say that they do not deserve to have the prestigious tag of a national party because a national party status has many benefits, including the fact that it allows a political party to retain a single and permanent election symbol across all states. Moreover, it also qualifies them to be given free campaign slots on national broadcasters during elections along with having the right to a party office in New Delhi. Though the Election Commission said the hearing was only a partial one and the parties will be called back again for deliberations, it seems that the axe is going to fall on one of these parties very soon.
The CPI, TMC and the NCP on Monday urged the Election Commission not to take away their national party status, saying they should be given a fresh opportunity to improve their electoral performance.