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Party System

Politics in India after independence, under the structural framework of Parliamentary democracy, is the politics of national reconstruction, modernisation, integration, and development.

In this setting, India's party system served as a political tool for social and economic reform. Not only for electoral purposes, but to raise people's consciousness about the importance of nation-building, state-building, and developing one's own unique democratic identity, it mobilised them.

1952 TO 1967: Congress Dominance

Between 1952 to 1967, the Congress Party dominated Indian politics at the national and state levels. The Congress profited from tremendous popular appeal as the umbrella organisation under which India would develop its post-independence identity as the party was principally responsible for obtaining India's independence and home to many of the most revered nationalist leaders.

Causes of Congress's dominance include:

  • Umbrella party

  • Representative in character

  • Representative in character

  • Charismatic leaders

  • Multi factionalism

  • Social composition reflected

1967 TO 1989: Growing Opposition at state level

1967 proved to be a watershed year, ushering in India's second party system. While the Congress had a tight grip on power at the national level, its hold on India's states began to erode. For the first time since Independence Congress was defeated, Janata Party came to power in 1977.

However, new forms of caste and regional identity began to erode the party's monopoly on subnational politics. In the 1960s, India had its "first democratic upsurge," as populous OBC communities mobilised to guarantee that their political authority reflected their population weight and growing economic might.

Although the Congress's hold on national authority diminished progressively during the 1960s and 1970s, by the end of the decade, it had totally surrendered to a multipolar constellation of forces, in which the Congress was no longer the central pole around which politics revolved.

1989 TO 2014: Dawn of Coalition Politics

The Congress party's defeat signalled the end of the Congress party's hegemony over the Indian party system. Congress's hegemony was not being challenged for the first time. It occurred in the 1960s, but the Congress, led by Indira Gandhi, was able to reclaim its pre-eminent position in politics.

In 1990's Congress was confronted with another obstacle. This did not, however, imply the formation of a single new party to take its place.

In our country, a large number of political parties always ran for office. Parliament has traditionally included representatives from a variety of political parties. 1989 elections witnessed the shift,no party gained enough majority to form the government and hence coalitions came in vogue.This event ushered in an age of coalition governments at the national level, with regional parties playing a critical role in forging dominant coalitions.

Three major forces—often referred to as the "Mandal, masjid, and market"—disrupted Indian politics, triggering a reorientation of the political landscape.

Politics based on caste: the mandal issue The 1990s also saw the birth of major Dalit and backward caste parties and movements. Numerous these parties also embodied strong regional statements. There has been an increasing emphasis on identity politics. Due to the emphasis placed on SC, ST, and OBC, who were perceived to be educationally and socially backward, support for the Congress dwindled among many sections of the backward caste. This opened a window of opportunity for non-Congress parties to garner additional support from these communities.

The Janta government assembled a similar coalition of political groupings that enjoyed widespread support among the OBCs. The national front government's decision to execute the mandal commission's recommendations aided in further influencing the politics of other backward classes. The heated national discussion over employment reservation increased awareness of OBC communities' identities. Thus, it aided those seeking to mobilise these organisations for political purposes. These parties argue that because OBCs make up a sizable portion of Indian society, it was only democratic for them to receive adequate representation in administration and a proportionate share of political power.

The key element was the pro-Hindu forces' demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. It exposed the perils of inciting communal tensions within a secular nation. This led to the BJP's growth.

The third and last reason was the market, as a result of India's 1991 choice to liberalise its economy, embrace globalisation's forces, and embrace global economic integration. This rupture with the past redefined the boundaries of mainstream economic discourse in India, creating both new alignments in favour of opening up as well as reactionary forces who fretted about the adverse consequences for India’s poor and its limited industrial base.

From Multipolarity to Unipolarity:

Indian politics was synonymous with coalition politics, following decades of Congress Party dominance at the national level; however, no single party was strong enough to win a parliamentary majority on its own, instead relying on dozens of pre- and post-election allies to form a governingh coalition. Thus, the BJP's success in 2014 sparked debate over whether India had abandoned the age of multipolarity and coalitions in favour of a new, dominant-party system in which the BJP seized the central pole role previously held by the Congress. Following the BJP's second straight single-party majority in 2019, which comes on the heels of huge political developments at the state level in India, the available data points in one direction: 2014 was not an outlier; rather, it was a signal of a new age. This demonstrates that we have advanced from multipolarity to unipolarity.


Significant changes have shaped and will continue to shape Indian politics.Peoples movements are bringing issues such as poverty, displacement, minimum wages, livelihood, and social security to the political agenda, reminding the state of its duty. Similarly, questions of justice and democracy are being expressed by individuals across class, caste, gender, and region. While we cannot forecast the future of democracy, we do know that politics is in motion and that processes are always churning.

The Indian party system is one of the world's most perplexing systems. As a system, it is rigid enough to withstand continuous defections while remaining malleable enough to absorb new alliances; inclusive enough to accommodate enormous diversity while remaining exclusive enough to be controlled by a few leaders; mature enough to allow peaceful turnovers while remaining inapt to arouse spontaneous violence; and finally, old enough to qualify as "one of the world's oldest" while remaining youthful enough to produce new parties overnight. Its ever-evolving nature, characterised by exceptional adaptability and durability, defies conventional understanding about political parties.

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