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PSIR 1B-10.1 Party System in Indian Politics – Previous Year Questions – Solved

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] The decade 1989-1999 has created an epochal shift in the Indian party system at the national level. Identify the major national trends in the party system during this era. [2023/15m/200w/8b]

The decade between 1989 and 1999 saw significant changes and trends in the Indian political landscape and indeed marked an epochal shift in the Indian party system at the national level.

The most notable trend during this period was the emergence of coalition politics at the national level. The era marked a departure from single-party dominance to coalition governments, primarily due to the lack of a clear majority by any single party. Several coalition governments, often referred to as “unholy alliances,” were formed at the centre. These coalitions involved diverse regional and ideological parties coming together to gain power.

The era also witnessed the rise of regional parties, which played pivotal roles in national politics. Parties like the Janata Dal (and its factions), Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and others gained prominence, particularly in Northern and Eastern states. These parties championed regional and caste-based interests.

Further, the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations in 1990 altered the political dynamics, as OBC politics gained prominence, with parties like the Samajwadi Party and BSP seeking to represent the interests of these groups.

The trend toward regional parties and regional aspirations became increasingly evident. States started playing a more crucial role in shaping national politics. The politics of each state began to influence the formation and stability of governments at the national level.

The rise of coalition politics, the emergence of regional and caste-based parties, the Mandal-Mandir movements, and the fragmentation of the Congress Party were central to the changes in the national party system. This era marked the beginning of a more pluralistic and decentralized political landscape in India, which continues to shape the country’s politics today. [276 words]

2] How far is it correct that the regional parties have strengthened Indian democracy and federal system? Substantiate your answer with suitable examples. [2022/15m/200w/8c]

Over the last few decades, the number and the strength of regional parties have expanded. This has made the parliament of India politically more diverse, bringing various discourses into the mainstream.

The first regional party that broke what Rajani Kothari called the ‘one party dominant’ system in India was the DMK which won the 1967 election of Tamil Nadu. And gradually the growing centralization attempt by the central government saw resistance from the state government, strengthening the democratic process in the meanwhile. This broke the one-party federalism.

In the next phase from 1967 onwards, the Congress party was in the centre but lost power in many states where many regional parties emerged. This phase is called the expressive phase, witnessing more direct and conflictual federal dynamics between the Congress-led centre and the opposition parties-led state governments. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw a huge political crisis in states like Assam, Punjab, Kashmir and Mizoram; partly caused by the centralizing tendencies of the centre.

The third phase in this evolution is called the multi-party federalism period. Here, a reconfiguration of Indian politics took place which created the regionalisation of national politics. As the regional actors played a national political role at the centre by joining either of the national coalitions led by Congress and BJP, acrimonious centre-state conflicts declined and indiscriminate use of Article 356 to topple state government became rare. The fourth phase that the contemporary political scenario brings in is again a dominant system.

Though India’s federal system has an inherent central bias, the evolving nature of our party system has strengthened the cooperative trends of our federal system. [271 words]

3] The Indian party system is shaped by a complex interaction of the country’s federal structure, electoral system and social cleavages.” Explain. [2021/20m/250w/7a]

The Indian party system is certainly the consequence of its characteristics like the federal structure, electoral system and social cleavages.

India’s federal structure plays a significant role in shaping the party system. The existence of regional parties is a direct consequence of the federal structure. Different states in India have distinct political and regional dynamics, and regional parties often emerge to champion the specific interests and demands of particular states or regions. These parties focus on regional issues and often play a crucial role in state-level politics.

The electoral system in India, which follows a multi-party proportional representation system, also influences the party system. The use of the first-past-the-post system at the constituency level and the allocation of seats based on proportional representation at the state and national levels have led to a multi-party system in India. This system encourages the emergence of multiple parties and provides opportunities for smaller parties to gain representation, especially in states where regional dynamics are prominent.

India’s social cleavages, such as caste, religion, language, and region, also create a significant impact on the party system. These cleavages influence the formation of political alliances, party ideologies, and voting patterns. Parties often cater to specific social groups or seek to mobilize support based on social cleavages. For example, parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) focus on Dalit empowerment, while parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) often mobilize support along religious lines.

It is important to note that these factors interact with each other in a dynamic manner, leading to a complex party system in India. The party system is not static, and it evolves over time as a response to changing political, social, and economic dynamics. Factors such as the emergence of new social cleavages, shifting regional dynamics, and changes in the electoral system can further shape the party system in India. [308 words]

4] To what extent has the inadequate intra-party democracy affected the functioning of Indian Democracy? [2020/20m/250w/8a]

Political parties are one of the essential components of democracy. However, if the parties themselves lack intra-party democracy, it undermines the spirit of empowerment and affects the overall democracy.

In many political parties in India, power tends to be concentrated in the hands of a few influential leaders or families. This lack of internal democracy results in decision-making processes being dominated by a select group, limiting the participation and representation of party members. As a result, the voices and preferences of party members, including grassroots workers, may be marginalized or disregarded.

Intra-party democracy deficits contribute to the perpetuation of dynastic politics, where leadership positions and party tickets are often inherited within families. This practice limits opportunities for aspiring leaders and prevents the emergence of fresh talent. It can hinder the growth of a diverse and representative leadership that reflects the aspirations and concerns of a broader range of citizens.

Moreover, without robust internal mechanisms to hold leaders accountable, there is a higher risk of corruption, nepotism, and favouritism. Party leaders may act without transparency or face little consequence for their actions, undermining public trust in the democratic process.

Intra-party democracy fosters healthy policy debates and discussions within political parties. When decision-making processes are opaque or centralized, there is a reduced space for meaningful policy discussions and the development of well-rounded and inclusive party platforms. This can limit the quality of policy-making and hinder the ability of political parties to respond effectively to the needs and aspirations of the people.

In some instances, a lack of intra-party democracy may lead to leadership without merit, which can hinder the progress of a political party. This can have a bearing on national politics as is the case with Congress now. The lack of leadership in the party has resulted in weak opposition and given a free hand to the ruling party.

Addressing the issue of inadequate intra-party democracy is crucial for strengthening Indian democracy. It requires promoting internal democratic processes, encouraging transparency, fostering a culture of debate and participation, and promoting mechanisms for accountability within political parties. [344 words]

5] The changing socio-economic profile of our legislators does not augur well for the health of Indian democracy. Comment. [2019/15m/200w/6c]

Parliament is said to be a mirror of the nation and the profile of parliamentarians is said to reflect the society. If the saying is true, the situation in India is beyond unfortunate.

In the 17th Lok Sabha (2019 – ), 43% of MPs have criminal cases registered against them. 29% of total MPs have been accused of serious crimes such as murder, rape etc. Both the numbers are 30% and 50% respectively higher than those in the 16th Lok Sabha.

The role of money and muscle power has increased in the elections. Thus, many parliamentarians are from criminal backgrounds. A phenomenon known as the ‘criminalization of Indian politics’.

Such representatives have a vested interest in weak governance. Hence they try to keep the system that way. Thus the serious attempts by bureaucrats to improve governance are also curbed.

The role of money in elections also leads to huge corruption. Political leaders try to amass as much as possible before the next election.

Further, in contemporary times, legislation is also becoming a specialized field. The presence of non-serious candidates only leads to noisy discussions, a wastage of precious time of the house, and a waste of public money. The case where three Karnataka ministers were caught seeing objectionable content during a session (2012) is perhaps the lowest point in the case.

The situation is grim, there is an urgent need for electoral reforms. [233 words]

6] Political personalities are more significant than political parties in India. Discuss. [2018/10m/150w/5e]

Dr. B R Ambedkar had warned Indians of hero worship in his speech to the constituent assembly. He suggested that in religion it may be a road to the salvation of the soul, but in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.

It appears that Indians have not paid any heed to this warning. Since the beginning political personalities have assumed more significance than political parties or ideology.

The case is also true for Pandit Nehru, who remained an unquestioned leader of Congress for 17 years after independence. It was all the more true for Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who despite a split from Congress could win a clear mandate in the 1967 elections. And again in 1980 despite her imposition of emergency in 1975.

The trend has continued at present. The success of NDA can be largely attributed to the image of Prime Minister created over a period of time.

Giving more importance to personality undermines the political institutions, the political process of consultation, discussion etc. There is no accountability and there is fear of such leaders turning into demagogues.

It is time we pay attention to what Dr. Ambedkar had said. India has successfully continued democracy over the last 75 years, if it is to continue in the future, there needs a major change in consciousness of the people. [227 words]

7] Explain the increasing role of regional political parties in national politics. [2018/15m/200w/8b]

The increasing role of regional political parties in national politics is a significant trend in Indian democracy. Regional parties, which primarily operate at the state or regional level, have gained prominence and influence in national politics for several reasons.

The fragmented nature of the party system in India often necessitates coalition governments at the national level. Regional parties, with their dedicated support bases in specific states, become important players in the formation of these coalitions. They can provide the necessary support and contribute to the stability of the central government. In return, they can leverage their position to secure concessions and policy commitments for their regions.

Identity plays a significant role in Indian politics. And regional parties are better situated to mobilize voters based on these identities. These parties champion the cause of social and cultural identity, further consolidating their support base and giving them a unique position in national politics.

Regional parties also emerge as viable alternatives to national parties in states where there is anti-incumbency sentiment against the ruling national party. They capitalize on dissatisfaction with national-level policies or leadership and position themselves as the regional voice against the central government. This allows them to gain traction and electoral success at both the state and national levels.

Regional parties often bring different policy perspectives and priorities to the national stage. They implement policies tailored to their specific regional contexts and experiment with innovative approaches to governance and development. This diversity of policy experiments can enrich the national policy discourse and provide alternative models of governance.

Conclusively, the regional parties can contribute to a more decentralized and inclusive political system by representing diverse regional aspirations. On the other hand, the dominance of regional parties can lead to fragmented politics, challenges in policy coordination, and the potential neglect of national-level concerns. [301 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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