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Principal State Level Contests and Derivative National Choices: Electoral Trends in 2004-09

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Political choices in a national election increasingly derive from the competitive format, electoral cycle, political agenda, participatory pattern and social cleavages defined in state politics. In this sense, the political choices made at the state level are mostly "principal" and those made at the national level are increasingly "derivative". But state level politics shapes and filters rather than pre-determines the national outcome. Using this framework and the trends in 2004-09, this study attempts to understand the structure of contestation that will shape the final outcome in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The complex pattern of principal outcomes and timing in the political calendar shows that neither of the two major national alliances can sweep the polls nor be swept away in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In all probability, we are going to witness one more election in which no single party or pre-poll alliance is likely to get a clear majority and one where the smallest of changes in individual states is likely to have a major impact on government formation in New Delhi.

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