India is the world’s largest democracy. We have a multi-party system of governance at the centre. According to the constitutional provisions, the party with the highest majority through a general election is entitled to form the government and its leader is elected as the Prime Minister of India.
A coalition government is formed when two or more political parties enter into an alliance, willingly or unwillingly, and usually compromising upon their respective party’s policy and agendas. A number of countries in the world, including Australia, United Kingdom, Finland, Indonesia etc. have witnessed the formation of coalition government at the centre.
The politics of coalition has nowadays become the harsh reality of Indian politics presently. It is of no doubt that a coalition government gives the chance and pleasure of running a government, but in due course of time, temporal friendships, deceit and blackmailing turn out to be the cause of brutal termination of a coalition government.
Morarji Desai led ‘Janata Government’ was the first coalition government in the country in the year 1977. India had since then seen more than eight coalition governments. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed during the late nineties and which ruled till 2004 was the first successful coalition government which had completed time period of 5 years under the able leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Right after the rule of the NDA government, the United Progressive Alliance spearheaded by the Indian National Congress as the majority party successfully ruled India for a period of ten years from 2004 till the last general elections in 2014.
After the General Election 2014, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lead NDA government again took possession of the Union Government. Not only that, BJP got 282 seats and an absolute majority on its own capability.
There is no denying the fact that in the last three decades, coalition politics has played a vital role in the Indian politics. During the opinion and the exit poll survey, a number of reputed news agencies predicted that BJP may come out as the largest party but may not get majority on its own capability. But when BJP got the absolute majority on its own, experts predicted that it may be the end of coalition government in the country.
But we must remember that although BJP won in the large scale but it would not have been possible without its associate parties. Because when a coalition contests an election the vote share of all parties in the coalition come together and clears the way to victory.
Experts have said that if BJP contested the elections alone then might have got less number of seats instead of the282 seats. This just makes it clear that other coalition parties had played an important role to boost BJP in their quest for power.
There are quite a few benefits of a government made as a product of coalition? The small parties indulged in a coalition argue that it saves the huge expenditure of re-election. Quite right but doesn’t the untimely death of coalition government cost a by-election each time?
Isn’t it the politics of coalition which makes the nation pay a huge price in the name of MLAs, MPs, chairman of various committees, government nominated councils and their presidents?
The stupid common Indian has lost faith in politics. All politicians are corrupt, liars, and unaccountable to a common man. And adding to this, the temporal politics of coalition has made the situation even worse. It has become a time of extreme mistrust and confusion to those who are supposed to provide good governance, to respect the Constitution and to build a strong and developed nation. Unfortunately the Constitution of India doesn’t provide us with any solution to this incurable disease.
An alliance made before or after elections should be given a chance to form the government but its allies must make sure that this, government should function for the next five years. Regional and small parties, allying in the coalition should be forced to sign a pact for at least five years and the parties or individuals who break the coalition should be adequately punished with cancellation of recognition of party status or cancellation of membership for an individual in the Parliament. The act of breaking a coalition is nothing but a deceit of public mandate!
Although coalition governments do have advantages. The regional parties involving in the coalition put pressure on the government for the development of their own areas. The central government also cannot take any wrong and anti-public decision easily.
There are disadvantages too. It has been seen quite a number of times that regional coalition parties put pressure on the government not to implement certain important policies because of opportunist politics. For example, the UPA government failed to increase passenger fares of Indian Railways between 2004 and 2013 because of compulsion of coalition politics even though fare hike was too much needed. The Morarji Desai, VP Singh, Chandrashekhar, Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral led governments lasted only one or two years because of internal coalitional dispute.
These days in India, it is seen that there is a tendency to choose one party government. This trend has been noticed in some state legislative assembly elections like Bengal and Delhi. In this sense, one can say that the public is displeased on coalition governments. But it should not be deciphered that the public will not elect coalition government in future. Because, in other hand, one party governments have some limitations. It totally depends on the situation what type of government public want to elect.
Probably the biggest advantage of coalition government at the centre is the proportionate representation of the representatives of regional political parties in the Lok Sabha. This works as an effective tool to ward off undemocratic bills being passed in parliament which does not equilibrate with the agenda’s or demands of participating parties.
However, this advantage can sometimes be a disadvantage for itself. It may result in unnecessary discussions upon the passing of a bill in the parliament which may lead to slowing down of the proceedings in the lower house and delaying the passing and implementation of important bills.
Outside support in the coalition is also a matter of concern for the ruling party, for they may withdraw their support anytime. This makes the government fragile, and right policies can’t be implemented, which impedes the development process. Often, the ruling party is forced to be in tune with the coalition parties, to safeguard their majority in the government.
It’s always assumed that in politics, there aren’t any permanent rival and no permanent allies and parties change their agendas and manifestos to suit their needs to form a government in the centre be it a coalition based government or a single party at the centre.
People vote for individual party candidates or for independent candidates. They do not vote for the coalition. And as such, no coalition government can claim to have the mandate of the people. A hung Parliament is a consequence of a fractured mandate and the resultant coalition government is nothing but a temporal arrangement.