Small parties often become vital for power and even can be seen steering power along with national parties being the coalition partners at the Centre when there is a shortfall of seats, even though they remain outsiders in their own State.
Small parties are more powerful in their bargaining capacities while elections are at the doorstep. They seek power at the local, State and national levels. Their primary aim is to hold office at the State level. The succession of hung parliaments from 1989 to 2014 proved that small parties, maybe with a single MP, might be vital for the governing coalition.
Most of them remain small and did not grow into regional parties large enough to govern their own States. Kerala Congresses of Kerala are the best examples. They fight each other, change coalitions as per opportunities arise and always be in power irrespective of politics. Kerala congresses are inevitable for LDF and UDF to be in power in Kerala.
Fragmented national legislatures give small parties more opportunities to participate in coalitions in Delhi. This national grip helps many of them survive while they have little success in their own States. For example, the Lok Janshakti Party found national opportunities relatively easily but got a place in the Bihar Cabinet only recently.
In Tamil Nadu, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) responded to federal opportunities, while being excluded from government in its home State. Outside of the State government, the PMK finds it challenging to establish unique positions, apart from its identity politics.
On the other hand, it tried to leverage national opportunities for its benefit at the State level. Projects were funded in favoured constituencies, and MPs lobbied in Delhi for benefits at the State level. Anbumani Ramadoss used his ministerial experience to enhance his image at the State level, making it the centrepiece of his 2016 Assembly election campaign.
A place in Parliament confers prestige on small parties and a national stage on which to perform. Patronage resources can be extracted from the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme and coalition allies. The PMK enters the NDA in 2019 with a promise from the Centre of a new rail connection between Morappur and Dharmapuri.