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

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Dim Possibility of a 'Third Alternative'

Regionalisation of the Indian polity has not resulted in a viable federal front at the national level.

It is widely accepted that the Congress Party will receive a reduced mandate in the 2014 parliamentary elections because of the deep unpopularity of the United Progressive Alliance-II government. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sought to cash in on this anti-incumbency feeling but no one expects the party to attain a majority on its own. And the National Democratic Alliance that the BJP heads is at this point still a shell of a grouping because the polarising politics associated with the communal Right, symbolised by the party’s chief mascot, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has kept potential partners away. Unless the unaffiliated regional parties gravitate to one or the other alliance between now and the elections, this could well mean that a “third alternative” will have a strong influence on government formation.

While the Congress and the BJP continue to remain national parties, two-party bipolarity has not emerged as a permanent feature of India’s polity because of the power of the regional parties and, to a lesser extent, of the Left as well. There has no doubt been a “derived bipolarity” at the centre since 1998, but the Congress and the BJP are critically dependent on regional allies. The regional parties themselves have not been able to form a “federal front” with a programme of policies distinct from the two major parties that could help them stake a claim to form a government.

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