Mumbai: Pre-poll alliances are widely expected to play a critical role in upcoming state elections and next year’s general elections. These alliances, a reflection of India’s political diversity and the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party, can have important implications for electoral competition and governance. To show this, a recent study by Vishal More and others of the IDFC Institute analyses general and assembly election results data using effective number of parties—a metric that weighs parties by the number of seats they actually win, thus discounting those with few seats and disregarding entirely those who draw a blank. The research finds that while there can be space for five to six parties at the state level, electoral contests at the booth level are usually restricted to two candidates. For parties, this creates opportunities for political realignment and alliance formation.

Analysing the opportunities for political realignment in each state, the authors find that opportunities vary across states with Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra identified as the states where political realignment is more likely.

Political realignment is likely to have significant implications on the governance and policy. According to the researchers, a less stable party system may not allow for sound policy-making, resulting in a more populist model of governance. The study’s data also highlights how India’s political diversity has increased significantly over time, with a considerable jump in the 1990s. And while there was a decline in diversity in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the rise of the BJP, data from the subsequent assembly elections suggests political diversity remains high.

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