In the year 1990 onward, India’s party system had a sudden, swift change. Between 1991 -1999, regional parties have increased their vote from 26% to 46%, and the number of regional parties represented in ‘Rayasabha’ house increased from 19-35. The rising trend of regional parties in India is very important because it dramatically changed the set of parties exercising power in the world’s largest democracy. Today Regional parties hold key positions of power and they are responsible for both toppling national government and keeping them afloat. In comparative perspective the rise of regional parties constitutes an instance of party system change with the growth of far right and green parties in Europe and the collapse of some Latin American party systems.
When ‘Single Party Majority'(SPM) government is the situation, large parties exercise a monopoly of participation in government. If political leaders believe that ‘SPM’ government is a stable feature of the politics, then the payoffs for membership in small parties are very small because member of small parties have little expectations of gaining the benefits of controlling the central government – power, policymaking influence, patronage resources, and graft. By contrast, any large party has a significant chance of winning central power. But, when there is a chance of coalition government, the advantage of membership in small and large parties similar. Although large party leads coalition governments, because small parties are important players in the government formation process, they may often extract sizeable concessions for their support.
Moving from SPM to coalition government (or vice versa) alters the advantage of membership in a small party. If politicians react to those advantages accordingly, then after a change from SPM to coalition government leaders will always prefer smaller parties, leading to increase party system dispersion. In the case of moving from coalition to SPM government, leaders should choose larger parties, resulting into party system consolidation. When National parties are hard to form or regional parties are particularly appealing to the election, the dispersion associated with the paradigm of SPM to coalition government can generate regionalization.
In this account of party system change, political elites are the crucial actors, and voters are noticeably absent. Recent studies of regional parties and party system nationalization similarly presume that when elites establish and join certain kinds of parties, voters will follow.1 This elite-based approach rests on the simple assumption that voters vote, in part, on the basis of the politicians in a political party. Consequently, as popular, credible, or high-quality politicians move from one type of party into another, voters too should shift their vote choice correspondingly. The greater the weight that voters place on politicians, the more that changes in party personnel will produce party system change.