ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Elections without Party System

Elections without Party System Rajni Kothari POLITICAL debate in the country seems to have got hung on the idea of a 'hung parliament' and the coming era of coalition government at the centre that it thai will necessitate. To me this appears to be a highly oversimplified reading of the situation which does not tell us much about the real shifts, that are likely to inform the political system in the coming years, starting with the 1986 election. It overlooks the specific condition in which the Indian polity finds itself in general and the peculiarly specific situation obtaining before the 1996 election in respect of the political, socio-economic and moral dimensions of the polity which has led to a virtual collapse of both the party system and the political system of which, for close to half a century, it provided the operating dynamic. The 'collapse' that I have in mind here is not just of the Congress as the ruling party at the centre and until not long ago in a majority of the slates but rather of the entire party system that I had more than 30 years ago characterised as the 'Congress system'. The so-called 'hung parliament' is not just a matter of no single party getting a majority but rather of no party or a clear alliance of parties being in a position to govern. A system that hinged so much on a functioning and in many ways unique party system is suddenly being rendered impotent with the collapse of that party system and the considerable national consensus that it had for so long represented (certainly for the first 20 to 25 years after independence but even after that when the Congress continued, whether in government or in opposition, to be the key player and setting the tone for the overall functioning of the system).

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