The Party System: NBSE Class 12 (Arts) notes, questions, answers

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a woman casting vote, illustrating the chapter the party system

Here, you will find summaries, questions, answers, textbook solutions, pdf, extras etc. of (Nagaland Board) NBSE Class 12 Political Science Chapter 2: The Party System. These solutions, however, should be only treated as references and can be modified/changed. 


This chapter discusses the meaning, features, functions, and defects of political parties, as well as the evolution and characteristics of political parties in India. It also examines the role of opposition in democracy and how it can best perform its functions.

A political party is a group of individuals united by a common principle, seeking to gain power to further national interests. Modern definitions emphasize the pursuit of governmental power for the benefits it can provide. Parties are characterized by their members, organization, goals or objectives, and adherence to constitutional means.

Functions of political parties include molding public opinion, conducting elections, forming the government, acting as a unifying force, mediating between pressure groups, linking the government and citizens, and promoting social reform and public welfare. However, defects of the party system include irresponsibility, concentration of power, corruption, and unstable governments due to multiple parties.

Party systems are classified into one-party, dominant party, two-party, and multi-party systems. In India, political parties evolved with the formation of the Indian National Congress, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, Communist Party, and Congress Socialist Party. Independent India initially had a dominant one-party system, but now follows a multi-party system with major national parties like the Congress, BJP, and the Communist parties.

The Indian party system is characterized by multiple parties, personality cults, unclear ideologies, communalism, casteism, regional parties, and politics of defection. The opposition in a democracy plays a crucial role by restraining the government, demanding investigation commissions, acting as a government in reserve, ventilating grievances, and refraining from harmful activities. To perform its role effectively, the opposition should be well-informed, deeply analyze its moves, expose the ruling party, and maintain mutual trust with the Leader of the House. In India, the opposition checks unfair acts, supports wise legislation, and participates in parliamentary investigations, but also has a negative role at times.

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Textual questions and answers

A. Long Answer Questions

1. What is a Political Party? Examine the role and functions of a Political Party.

Answer: A political party is an organized group of individuals seeking to seize power in order to enjoy the benefits derived from governmental power. 

The parties are expected to perform the following functions:

i. Parties mould public opinion and provide political education to the masses: Parties organise, educate and discipline the masses. They stimulate interest in public affairs through public meetings, demonstrations, posters and speeches over the radio and television. The parties issue political literature regarding important problems facing the country. 

ii. Parties’ role in the conduct of elections: Parties select the best and the most suitable candidates out of a large number of persons aspiring for party-tickets. They then conduct the election campaign in support of their candidates by door-to-door canvassing and the distribution of party literature. Election funds are made available by the parties to their candidates. On the day of election the parties ensure maximum turn-out of the voters.

iii. Parties form the government: In Parliamentary democracies the formation of the Cabinet depends upon the party character of the House. The leader of the majority party or the one most likely to provide a stable government is invited to form the government by the Head of the State. And after the government has been formed the party in power tries to implement its policies.

iv. Opposition acts as check on the government: Parties exercise adequate checks on the government. “It is as much the duty of an Opposition,” says Roland Young, “to criticize as it is of a government to govern” The Fascists and the dictatorial regimes do not allow other than their own parties to operate in the country. But in a free society an organised opposition has a central role to play. 

v. Parties act as a unifying and a stabilising force : Parties says Alan Bali many do not divide they unite A party has its members belonging to castes, regions and religions Parties manage to make all their members work together in harmony

vi. Parties mediate between pressure groups: Various pressure groups represent the interests of labour, industry, farmers, government employees, women, consumers, and so on. Various groups put up various demands which cannot be equally satisfied. Thus, what is good for ‘Farmers Union’ may not be good for the owners of the sugar mills or for consumers as such. Therefore, parties have no choice but to mediate, i.e., to bring about agreement between various groups of people.

vii. Parties provide a link between ‘government’ and the ‘citizens’: parties explain the policies of the government to the people and convey the reactions of the people to the Parliament and the public officials. On one hand, they make the acts of the government understandable to the people, on the other, they keep the government in close touch with public opinion. The parties instruct and educate the people and bring pressures to bear upon public officials.

viii. Social reform and the promotion of public welfare : A Welfare State has robbed parties of most of their welfare and charitable activities. Yet, parties have a chance to be a bridge between “an impersonal bureaucrat” and the “ordinary voter.” Local party organisation have been at the beck and call of ordinary persons and helped them in such matters as obtaining some relief, loan or compensation from the government. The parties organise voluntary bodies and many other associations to help the masses at all hours.

2. Discuss the main features of Party System in India.

Answer: The main features of Party System in India are:

i. Membership: A party may vary in size from a few hundred to several million members. The members of a party can be placed under three categories

(i) dues-paying ordinary members whose number in any party is the largest
(ii) ‘whole-time workers’ whose number is comparatively smaller; and
(iii) the “notables” or the real leaders who comprise the elite of the party. The leaders constitute the ruling class in every society.

ii. Organisation and Administration : Another characteristic of the party is its organisation. The parties have their basic units in each village or town. Above the basic units are the regional or State Working Committees. Then there is the National Executive Committee which consists of the most influential leaders of the party. Its functions are to chalk out party programme and to supervise the activities of the regional and state bodies.

iii. Goals and Objectives : Each party has its own viewpoint of looking at social, economic and political issues. Parties are held together by family traditions, social connections, and by a strong desire to seize power.

iv. Faith in the Constitutional means : In a democracy parties should be wedded to democratic principles. They should seek to bring about socio-economic changes through parliamentary methods.

3. Explain the role of Opposition in a Democracy.

Answer: The parties are expected to perform the following functions:

i. Molding Public Opinion and Providing Political Education to the Masses: Political parties organize, educate, and discipline the masses. They stimulate interest in public affairs through public meetings, demonstrations, posters, and speeches over various media channels. They issue political literature discussing crucial issues facing the country, such as housing, education, welfare, economic reforms, and taxation.

ii. Conducting Elections: Political parties select the most suitable candidates for public office and conduct election campaigns by door-to-door canvassing and the distribution of party literature. They provide election funds to their candidates and ensure maximum voter turnout on election day.

iii. Forming the Government: In parliamentary democracies, the formation of the cabinet depends upon the party character of the House. The leader of the majority party or the one most likely to provide a stable government is invited to form the government by the head of state. After forming the government, the party in power implements its policies.

iv. Acting as a Check on the Government: Political parties act as a check on the government by exercising adequate scrutiny of its policies. They promote free and open debate, competition for power, and pressure group activity, which are essential preconditions of any kind of representative government. An organized opposition has a central role to play in holding the government accountable.

v. Acting as a Unifying and Stabilizing Force: Political parties bring together members from different castes, regions, and religions and manage to make them work together in harmony. They act as a unifying and stabilizing force in society.

vi. Mediating between Pressure Groups: Political parties mediate between pressure groups representing various interests and bring about agreement between various groups of people. They try to give something to as many groups as they can, but they cannot give any group everything it wants.

vii. Providing a Link between Government and Citizens: Political parties explain the policies of the government to the people and convey the reactions of the people to the parliament and public officials. They instruct and educate the people and bring pressures to bear upon public officials.

viii. Promoting Social Reform and Public Welfare: Political parties promote social reform and public welfare. They organize voluntary bodies and many other associations to help the masses at all hours, acting as a bridge between “an impersonal bureaucrat” and the “ordinary voter.”

4. Describe the role of Opposition in India.

Answer: The role of the opposition in a democracy can be summarized as follows:

i. Check on Unfair Acts of the Rulers: The opposition plays a critical role in checking the government’s unfair acts. The opposition has the right to criticize and can even bring a censure or a no-confidence motion against the government. In India, political leaders such as Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Bhupesh Gupta, Dr. Lohia, and Acharya Kriplani, among others, have never spared the government when it has been found negligent in its duties. While Mrs. Indira Gandhi initially faced checks on her power, she soon became popular with the masses. However, her defeat in 1977 was due to her authoritarian rule during the Emergency (1975-1977). The opposition parties have always raised their voice against inflation, unemployment, and anti-democratic measures such as the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). 

ii. Parliamentary Debates and Investigations: Parliamentary investigations play a critical role in exposing the weaknesses and failings of ministers. For example, in 1958, T.T. Krishnamachari resigned due to the “Mundhra Affairs,” while the Minister for Mines and Petroleum, K.D. Malviya, had to resign when the “Sirajuddin Affairs” came to light. In 1992, a Joint Parliamentary Committee was established, with Shri R.N. Mirdha as the Chairman, to investigate the Bank Securities Scam.

iii. Lending Support to Wise Legislation and Welfare Measures: While there may be genuine differences between parties, they should agree on certain fundamentals. For example, there is very little scope for disagreement on electoral reforms, making Panchayats and other local bodies functionally autonomous, fighting corruption, judicial reforms, and improving the lives of workers and poor peasants. Similarly, all parties agree on 24-hour power supply, ending assaults on women, and maintaining good relations with neighboring countries. If differences hardly exist, there is no reason why the opposition should always be hostile to the government.

iv. Negative Role of the Opposition: Sometimes, the opposition gets involved in irresponsible and damaging activities. Disrupting parliamentary proceedings through loud protests has no place in the orderly conduct of parliamentary democracy. For example, the second half of the Budget Session in 2018 was a near washout due to disruptive demonstrations in both Houses of Parliament. The members in Rajya Sabha did not allow the passage of the Anti-Corruption Bill. It should be realized that by adopting extra-constitutional methods, the opposition parties cannot defeat the government, nor can they win the admiration of the people.

B. Short Answer Questions

5. A Party System has a few serious defects as well. Point out any four defects of the party system.

Answer: A few serious defects of the party system are:

i. Irresponsible Role of the Parties: Parties in their quest to win elections, often resort to dubious vote-catching tactics that involve bribing, flattering, and misleading voters. This has made it increasingly difficult to conduct free and fair elections in countries like India.

ii. Power Usurped by Party Bosses: Party leadership is often controlled by powerful orators and skilled manipulators. Each party is generally controlled by a caucus and their henchmen. By punishing political opponents and rewarding political followers, the unity of the party and the power of the machine and ‘boss’ are maintained.

iii. Corruption and Misrule: The party in power tends to distribute offices and official favors to individuals who have worked for the success of the party, regardless of their competence. The large sums of money spent by the parties and the improper uses to which election funds are put have demoralized politics. This has raised concerns about how corruption could be contained when so much money is thrown into circulation.

iv. Unstable Government: The multiplicity of parties in a country can lead to the formation of unstable governments. These governments lack the solidarity required for the formulation and implementation of coherent policies. In India, the Eleventh and Twelfth Lok Sabha were both short-lived.

6. What is One-Party System? Name any one country where such a system existed.

Answer: A one-party system is a political system where a single political party forms the government, and there is no legal opposition party or coalition of parties. In such a system, the ruling party typically holds a monopoly on political power and is often led by a single leader or group of leaders.

One example of a country that has a one-party system is China, where the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the only legal political party.

7. What is Two-Party System? Name any one country where such a system exist.

Answer: A two-party system is a political system where two major political parties dominate the electoral process and hold most of the elected offices. In such a system, power alternates between the two major parties, and the other parties have relatively little influence on public policy.

One example of a country that has a two-party system is the United States.

8. What is Multi-Party System? Name any two countries having Multi-Party System

Answer: A multi-party system is a political system where multiple political parties compete for power and representation in the government. In such a system, no single party is typically strong enough to govern alone, so coalition governments are often formed between multiple parties.

Two examples of countries that have a multi-party system are India and Germany.

9. How can Opposition best perform its role?

Answer: The Opposition can best perform its role in the following ways

(a) The Opposition should be well-informed on various issues of public importance. What ‘Govenment in Waiting’ means is that important members of the Opposition should get specialised in a particular activity, like external affairs, finance, defence and the railways.

(b) Opposition should have a deeper analysis of good and bad effects of all their moves and actions.

(c) Opposition should miss no opportunity to expose the ruling party for their acts of omission and commission.

(d) There should be mutual trust between the two-the Leader of the House (Prime Minister) and the Leader of the Opposition. They should meet each other frequently to discuss both national and international problems.

C. Very Short Answer Questions

10. Name the two means the parties have to mould Public Opinion.

Answer: The two means that political parties have to mould public opinion are demonstrations and media campaigns

11. When and by whom was the Indian National Congress founded?

Answer: The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885. A.O. Hume founded it and is considered as the Father or Founder of Indian National Congress.

12. When was the Communist Party of India formed?

Answer: The Communist Party of India was formed in December 1925.

13. Name any two persons who played a prominent role in Socialist Movement in India in the early 1930s.

Answer: Those who played a prominent role in the Socialist movement at that time were Jayaprakash Narayan and Achyut Patwardhan among others,

14. Name any two National Parties in India.

Answer: Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party.

15. Name India’s any two Regional or State Parties.

Answer: Rising People’s Party and Naga People’s Front.

D. Multiple Choice Questions: Tick (✓) the correct answer

16. Which among the following is not a National Party?

Answer: (c) All-India Anna DMK

17. According to the Anti Defection Act, 1985, Split in a Party was deemed to have taken place when:

Answer: (a) At least one-third of the Members of the Legislature Party had deserted that Party

18. A recognised Party in the Lok Sabha should have a minimum of:

Answer: (a) Fifty Members

Value-based Question

The distinguished MP Prof. Kurien observed that “It was certainly not the constitutional duty of a Party in Opposition to oppose everything the Government did at all times and in all circumstances.” What message Prof. Kurien is trying to communicate to fellow legislators?

Answer: The statement by Prof. Kurien highlights a critical aspect of the role of opposition parties in a democratic political system. The primary function of opposition parties is to hold the ruling party or government accountable, scrutinize policies, and provide alternative viewpoints on various issues. However, this does not mean that the opposition must oppose everything the government does without considering the merit of each policy or action.

Instead, opposition parties should engage in constructive criticism and propose alternative solutions when they believe the government’s policies are not in the best interests of the public. In some instances, they may even choose to support certain government policies if they believe they will benefit the nation as a whole.

Prof. Kurien’s observation highlights the importance of cooperation and constructive dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties for the betterment of society. It serves as a reminder that, despite their differences, both sides should work together to achieve the common goal of improving the lives of citizens and the overall wellbeing of the nation.

Extra/additional questions and answers

1. What is the origin of modern political parties?  

Answer: The origin of modern political parties can be traced back to England during Charles II’s long reign (1660-1685). They went by the names of ‘Tories’ and the ‘Whigs’. In America, the parties had been there ever since the framing of the US Constitution with the emergence of Federalists and Anti-Federalists.

2. How does J.A. Schumpeter define a political party?  

Answer: J.A. Schumpeter defines a political party as “a group whose members propose to act in concert in the competitive struggle for political power.”

3. What are the three categories of party members?  

Answer: The three categories of party members are:

  • Dues-paying ordinary members
  • Whole-time workers
  • “Notables” or the real leaders who comprise the elite of the party.

4. List the four general characteristics of a political party.  

Answer: The four general characteristics of a political party are:

  • Membership: varying in size from a few hundred to several million members.
  • Organisation and Administration: consisting of basic units, regional or state working committees, and a national executive committee.
  • Goals and Objectives: having a unique viewpoint on social, economic, and political issues.
  • Faith in the Constitutional means: adhering to democratic principles and seeking socio-economic changes through parliamentary methods.
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22. What are some positive and negative aspects of the Opposition’s role in India?  

Answer: Positive aspects of the Opposition’s role in India include:

  • Checking on unfair acts of the rulers by exercising checks on the government and bringing censure or no-confidence motions.
  • Participating in parliamentary debates and investigations that expose weaknesses and failings of ministers.
  • Lending support to wise legislation and welfare measures when there is agreement on certain fundamentals.
  • Involvement in irresponsible and damaging activities, such as dislocating the business of the House through loud protests, which have no place in orderly conduct of parliamentary democracy.

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