Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress features among the largest political parties in the country. It was founded in 1885 by Womesh Chandra Bonerjee, Surendranath Banerjee, Monomohun Ghose, Allan Octavian Hume, William Wedderburn, Dadabhai Naoroji and Dinshaw Wacha. After independence in 1947, it became the nation's most-dominant political party, challenged for leadership only in more recent decades. In the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-2009), 145 members, the largest contingent amongst all parties, serve in the House. The party is currently the chief member of the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition. It is the only party to get more than 100 million votes in the past two general elections (1999, 2004).
Bharatiya Janata Party
The Bharatiya Janata Party, founded in 1980, is one of the largest political parties in India. Alleged to represent the country's majority community and Centre-right in nature, the party advocates conservative social policies, self reliance, robust economic growth, foreign policy driven by a nationalist agenda and strong national defense. The party has a strong relation with the Sangh Parivar, in which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh plays a leading role. The BJP, in alliance with several other parties, was in power from 1998 to 2004, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the prime minister and Lal Krishna Advani as his deputy. It is the biggest constituent of the National Democratic Alliance, which currently is in the opposition.
Bahujan Samaj Party
The Bahujan Samaj Party was founded by the high-profile charismatic leader Kanshi Ram in 1984. It was formed to chiefly represent 'bahujans' (OBC, SC, ST and minorities), who are thought by some to be at the bottom of the Indian caste system, and claims to be inspired by the philosophy of Ambedkar. It has 17 members in the current Lok Sabha. The party has its main base in Uttar Pradesh.
Communist Party of India
The Communist Party of India is recognised by the Election Commission as a 'national party'. There are different views on exactly when the party was founded. The date maintained as the foundation day by CPI is December 26, 1925. But the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which split off from the CPI, claims that the party was founded in the USSR in 1920. Till date, CPI happens to be the only national political party to have contested all the general elections using the same electoral symbol. The party is headed by general secretary Ardhendu Bhushan Bardhan.
Communist Party of India (Marxist)
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) emerged out of a split from the Communist Party of India in 1964. The party has strong presence in the states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura and heads governments in these states. Chief ministers belonging to the party are V.S. Achuthanandan, Buddhadev Bhattacharya and Manik Sarkar respectively. The current general secretary of CPI(M) is Prakash Karat. The 19th party congress of CPI(M), held in Coimbatore on March 29 - April 3, 2008 elected a Central Committee with 87 members. The Central Committee later elected a 15-member Politburo, the members of which are: V.S. Achuthanandan, Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, S. Ramachandran Pillai, Nirupam Sen, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Biman Bose, Manik Sarkar, Pinarai Vijayan, M.K. Pandhe, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Mohammad Amin, K. Varadarajan, B.V. Raghavulu and Brinda Karat.
Nationalist Congress Party
The NCP was formed on May 25, 1999 by Sharad Pawar, P.A. Sangma and Tariq Anwar after they were expelled from the Indian National Congress (INC) for disputing the right of Italian-born Sonia Gandhi to lead the party. P.A. Sangma, however, quit the NCP in 2004 (and joined All India Trinamool Congress) over differences with Sharad Pawar on NCP's closing in with the INC. Owning to its leaders' respective support bases, particularly Sharad Pawar, NCP has significant presence in the state of Maharashtra. The NCP advertises itself as a progressive, secular party that stands for "democracy, Gandhian secularism, equity, social justice, and federalism". It positions itself as a moderate, centrist alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the INC. The party's election symbol is an analog clock that reads 10:10.
Rashtriya Janata Dal
The Rashtriya Janata Dal was founded in 1997 by Laloo Prasad Yadav. The party came about as a result of Lalu Prasad Yadav, ex-president of Janata Dal, being evicted by Sharad Yadav, the then president, on corruption charges ($250 million) over the farm support funds. The mass base of the party has traditionally been Yadavs and Muslims, two large and relatively politically active segments of Bihar's population. In 2008, RJD received the status of recognised national-level party following its performance in north-eastern states. It held power in Bihar under the chief ministership of Laloo and then Rabri Devi, who is also Laloo's wife. The RJD is also a member of India's governing coalition led by the Congress.