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Social Cleavages, Party Organization, and the End of Single-Party Dominance: Insights from India

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When do electorally dominant parties lose power in democracies? Drawing on the experiences of India's states during the period of Indian National Congress dominance, we argue that single-party dominance is less likely to endure under two conditions: first, when one of the opposition parties possesses a longstanding and robust party organization and, second, when there is a single social cleavage dividing the political class into two main cleavage groups. Both conditions contribute to the demise of a dominant party system by encouraging a previously fragmented opposition to consolidate behind one large party capable of challenging the dominant party. We provide support for our argument with evidence from across India's states and with more in-depth case studies of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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