Alliance Politics Amid the BJP’s Rise: More Continuity than Change in 2019

AuthorAdam Ziegfeld
Date01 December 2019
Published date01 December 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Alliance Politics Amid the BJP’s
Rise: More Continuity than
Change in 2019
Adam Ziegfeld1
Pre-election alliances have long figured prominently in Indian elections. Has the politics surrounding
pre-election alliances changed with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? This article analyzes
patterns of election alliance formation across India’s states and examines the extent to which these
alliances affected the outcome of the 2019 election. It finds that patterns of alliance formation in the
run-up to the 2019 election did not, on the whole, differ noticeably from prior elections. Though
the BJP’s strong performance muted the impact of some key alliances, election alliances nevertheless
had a perceptible impact on the final allocation of seats and appear to have influenced voting behaviour
largely as anticipated.
Election alliances, voting behaviour, BJP
Election season in India invariably means that the drama of pre-election alliances takes centre stage.
Ahead of virtually every election, political parties negotiate with one another over whether to form a
pre-election alliance, also known as a seat-sharing agreement. When parties conclude a pre-election alli-
ance, they agree not to compete against each other. In a single-member district plurality electoral system
like India’s, parties in a pre-election alliance divide up the seats being contested, each fielding candidates
only in their designated seats. In doing so, they hope to amass multiple parties’ support behind a single
candidate in each race, thereby maximizing the likelihood that the alliance’s candidates win their seats.
The success or failure of alliance negotiations can determine who ultimately comes to power after the
Just as Indian politics has changed, so too has the politics surrounding pre-election alliances. In
India’s first post-independence decades, opposition parties formed broad pre-election alliances aimed
mainly at dislodging the dominant party, Congress, from power (Sharma, 1989; Ziegfeld & Tudor, 2017).
As the BJP emerged as Congress’ chief rival in the 1990s, it aggressively formed pre-election alliances,
often with regional parties, in its bid to expand across India and cobble together stable national-level
Studies in Indian Politics
7(2) 191–205, 2019
© 2019 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2321023019874894
1 Department of Political Science, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA.
Corresponding author:
Adam Ziegfeld, Department of Political Science, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.

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