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The party system in India goes against Duverger’s law.

By July 7, 2022May 22nd, 2023Mains Answer Writing, PSIR OPTIONAL

Ques. The party system in India goes against Duverger’s law. Comment and elaborate on the conditions that caused the same.


    • Political parties are one of the most important institutions of modern Democracy. Sartori defines a political party as ‘any political group identified by an official label that presents at elections, and is capable of placing through elections candidates for public office’. The historical evolution of political parties in India revolves around the advent of colonisation.
    • Post-independence, India has evolved into a multi-party system. However, the Indian party system has emerged as an anomaly to Duverger’s law. The law claims that plurality-rule elections (such as first past the post) structured within single-member districts tend to favour a two-party system, whereas “the double ballot majority system and proportional representation tend to favour multipartyism.” 
    • This is because of the tendency over time for third and more parties to get eliminated due to the combination of two effects—under representation or over representation of parties, depending on weather they get more or less of the threshold votes.
    • It is also due to a ‘psychological effect’, whereby voters do not tend to ‘waste’ their votes on parties that do not have a realistic chance but vote for the party that would be likely to defeat the ‘least liked’ party. 
    • In India, electoral democracy despite following the path of first past the post system for ease of understanding by people has developed into a multiparty system with a number of prominent parties emerging at both national and state levels. 
    • Myron Weiner has explained this by delving into the motivation of the politicians where the minor parties were social groups providing emotional satisfaction to activists, entirely apart from the goal of winning elections. 
    • Parties in India are a form of identity politics resulting in the organization providing emotional satisfaction to its member instead of forming a serious strategic organization, losing their impact on the elections. This also helps in the continuation of a multiple party system.
    • Zoya Hassan points that it is the social heterogeneity of the country which is reflected in the variegated character of Indian political system, and that has made it impossible of a single set of parties to emerge across the country.
    • Furthermore, India is one of the few Democracies where the electoral turn out of lower orders of society is well above than most privileged sections. This is especially remarkable considering the absence of compulsory voting. The inclusion of vulnerable sections and the democratic upsurge led to emergence of a number of regional parties to accommodate the interests of their specific states and regions. 
    • However Duverger’s Law isn’t particularly dead in India. Yogendra Yadav has elaborated that it “works in India too, except that it works at the state level”. It must be however mentioned that the increasing tendencies of parties to be part of two opposing and large coalitions has functionally brought India’s case closer to Duverger’s Law.