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Rethinking Party System Nationalization in India (1952–2014)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2016


This article provides a new conceptual and empirical analysis of party system nationalization, based on four different measurements. Unlike previous nationalization studies, these measurements conceptualize party system nationalization on the basis of electoral performance in national (general or federal) and sub-national (state) elections. After introducing these measurements we apply them to 16 general and 351 state elections in India, the world’s largest democracy with strong sub-national governments. By incorporating state election results we are able to demonstrate that: (1) the pattern of denationalization in India has been more gradual than assumed in previous studies of party system nationalization; (2) denationalization in recent decades results less from dual voting (vote shifting between state and federal elections) than from the growing divergence among state party systems (in state and federal elections); (3) the 2014 general election result, although potentially transformative in the long run, provides more evidence of continuity than change in the short run.

Copyright © The Author(s). Published by Government and Opposition Limited and Cambridge University Press 2016 

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Arjan H. Schakel is Assistant Professor in Research Methods in the Department of Political Science at the University of Maastricht. Contact email:

Wilfried Swenden is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. Contact email:


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