The party systems at both levels – national and state moved towards a fragmentation from The late 1980s or, more particularly, from the 1990s. What are the features of these Fragmentary systems

The fragmentation of party systems at both the national and state levels in India since the late 1980s or the 1990s is characterized by several distinct features.

These features reflect a shift away from single-party dominance and the emergence of multi-party competition. Here are some key features of these fragmentary party systems:

  1. Multiplicity of Political Parties: One of the defining features of fragmentary party systems is the proliferation of political parties. Instead of a dominant party or a limited number of major parties, these systems witness the emergence of numerous smaller and regional parties. This multiplicity reflects a diversification of political options and a fragmentation of voter preferences along regional, caste, linguistic, or issue-based lines.
  • Regional and State-Level Parties: Fragmentary party systems are marked by the prominence of regional and state-level parties. These parties often cater to specific regional or local interests and mobilize support based on regional identity, language, or subnational aspirations. They challenge the dominance of national parties and play a crucial role in shaping state-level politics and policy-making.
  • Coalition Politics: Fragmentary party systems have fostered an era of coalition politics at both the national and state levels. With no single party commanding a clear majority, alliances and coalition governments have become the norm. Parties must engage in post-election negotiations and form alliances to gain power, leading to shifting alliances, power-sharing arrangements, and policy compromises.
  • Social and Identity-Based Fragmentation: Fragmentary party systems in India have witnessed the rise of parties based on social identities, such as caste or religion. Parties representing specific caste groups or religious communities have gained prominence and mobilized support along identity-based lines. This fragmentation based on social identities has both challenged and reshaped traditional political alignments and voting patterns.
  • Issue-Based Fragmentation: Fragmentary party systems are also characterized by the emergence of parties that prioritize specific policy issues or ideological positions. Parties focused on issues such as environmental conservation, regional development, farmer rights, or governance reforms have gained traction. This issue-based fragmentation reflects the diversification of political agendas and the increasing importance of specific policy concerns in electoral politics.
  • Electoral Volatility: Fragmentary party systems often experience higher levels of electoral volatility compared to systems dominated by a single party. Voters’ preferences are more fluid, and electoral outcomes become less predictable. This volatility can be attributed to the multiplicity of parties, the presence of strong regional or local leaders, and the changing political dynamics at the state and national levels.
  • Coalition Governments and Policy Constraints: In fragmentary party systems, coalition governments are prone to policy constraints and challenges in decision-making. Coalitions often necessitate compromises and negotiations among diverse parties with conflicting interests. This can lead to policy gridlock, delays, and difficulty in implementing coherent and sustained policy agendas.

These features of fragmentary party systems reflect a diversification of political landscape, increased representation of regional and social interests, and a more complex and fluid political environment. While they bring forth challenges in governance and policy-making, they also provide opportunities for diverse voices to be heard and for the accommodation of different interests within the political system.

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