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International Research Journal , September 2010 ISSN- 0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/30097 VOL I * ISSUE 12

Research Paper

COALITION POLITICS IN INDIA:


PROSPECTS & PROBLEMS
September, 2010

* Dr. A.K.Pandey

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* Assicate
Prof. Comm.Dept.
Sant Gadge
Maharaj
Mahavidyalaya, Walgaom.
* Govt..
D. B. Girls
P.G. Auto. College
,Raipur
(Chhattisgarh)

In general, the term coalition means temporary


combination of groups or individuals formed to pursue
specific objectives through joint action. The term
coalition is most often used in connection with political
parties. Coalition governments, which are frequently
found in multiparty countries like India, France, Italy,
and many other countries of the world, are formed when
no single party is strong enough to obtain an electoral
majority. The resulting government usually distributes
political posts to representatives of all coalition
members. A Coalition Government might also be created
in a time of national difficulty or crisis, for example
during wartime, to give a Government the high degree
of perceived political legitimacy. Coalition Governments
usually does not appear in countries in which the cabinet
is chosen by the executive rather than by a lower house,
such as in the United States. However, in semipresidential systems such as France, where the
president formally appoints a prime minister but the
government itself must still maintain the confidence of
the parliament, coalition governments occur quite
regularly.
Cabinets based on a coalition with majority in
parliament, ideally are more stable and long-lived than
minority cabinets while the former are prone to internal
struggles, they have less reason to fear votes of nonconfidence. Sometimes grand coalitions of two large
parties also occur, but these are relatively rare and large
parties usually prefer to associate with small ones
(though currently the governments of both Israel and
Germany include the two largest parties). However, if
none of the larger parties can receive enough votes to
form their preferred coalition, a grand coalition might be
their only choice for forming a government.In many
democratic countries, such as Germany, France, India,
Israel and Italy, government by a coalition of political
parties is considered normal. Often in such countries
there are many political parties with a significant level
of popular support in elections. This means no one
party usually can gain more than 30% of the seats in the
parliament or national assembly, so it is necessary for

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several parties to come together to form a viable


government, generally under the premiership of the
leader of the largest party involved. In other states,
such as the UK, USA and Japan, there are fewer
significant political parties and coalitions are rare, as
after an election a winning party is able to form an
effective government without any help from others.
This debate is closely related to issues of voting reform,
as countries with some form of proportional
representation tend to have more political parties in
parliament than those that use a first-past-the-post
system, and so are more likely to have coalition
governments.
India has had coalition governments at the
centre as well as in the states since the last two decades.
Coalition governments are not a new phenomenon in
India. Since 1967, 60 coalition governments have
functioned in Indian polity. On an average, these
governments lasted for 26 months. However, the
communist coalition government in West Bengal has
lasted for more than 25 years. In the wake of the decline
of Congress Dominance, the fragmentation of the
National Party System and the emergence of party
systems at the regional level have turned India into
a chequered federal chessboard. The past and likely
future patterns of coalition governments in India are
suggestive of at least three models of power sharing:
(a) coalition of more or less equal partners, e.g. the
National Front and the United Front, (b) coalition of
relatively smaller parties led by a major party, e.g.
National Democratic Alliance; and (c) coalition of
relatively smaller parties facilitated but not
necessarily led by a prime minister from the major
party, e.g. the coalition of parties formed in 2004
around the Indian National Congress, avowing
secular Indian Nationalism. In a rather short span of
over a decade, India has witnessed coalition
governments of three major muted hues: (a) middleof-the-road Centrist Congress Minority Government
of P.V. Narsimha Rao, going against its Left Centre of
reputation, initiated neo-liberal economic reforms in

RESEARCH ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION

International Research Journal , September 2010 ISSN- 0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/30097 VOL I * ISSUE 12

1991; (b) three Left-of-centre governments formed


by the Janata-Dal-led National/United Front; and (c)
two Right-of-Centre coalition governments formed
by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National
Democratic Alliance under Atal Behari Vajpayee, a
votary of secular version of Hindu nationalism.
While stressing that nomination of Prime Ministerial
candidate decides the future of the coalition
governments. The nomination of Morarji Desai as prime
minister during Janata Party regime of 1977 had caused
a feeling of unhappiness among Babu Jagjivanram and
Choudhary Charan Singh. The merits of coalition
Governments in India are following: 1. We need to
understand that the concept of coalition government
originated in India because of regional disparity and
the failure of national parties to meet the aspirations
and needs of all the states.
The coalition government addresses the
regional disparity more than the single party rule. I
agree that it may not perform at its full throttle but it is
always good for inclusive growth of all the regions, of
all the people of a country than the high growth of only
selected people and region. 2. Coalition government is
more democratic, and hence fairer, because it represents
a much broader spectrum of public opinion than
government by one party alone. In almost all coalitions,
a majority of citizens voted for the parties which form
the government and so their views and interests are
represented in political decision-making. 3. Coalition
government creates a more honest and dynamic political
system, allowing voters a clearer choice at election
time. In countries where coalition government is very
rare, such as the UK or USA, the main parties straddle
a wide spectrum of opinion and can be seen as coalitions
of competing interest groups and ideologies. At
elections, however, such parties present themselves,
perhaps fraudulently, to voters as united behind
particular views and policies, whereas in power their
internal divisions may have a serious, and often unseen,
impact upon decision-making. In countries with
coalition governments the greater number of political
parties gives the voter a more honest choice and brings
differences of opinion out into the open for debate. It
is also easier for parties to split, or new ones to be
formed, as new political issues divide opinion, because
new parties still have a chance of a share in political
power. 4. Coalitions provide good government because
their decisions are made in the interests of a majority of
the people. Because a wide consensus of opinion is
involved, any policy will be debated thoroughly within
the government before it is implemented. Single-party
government is much more likely to impose badly
thought-out policies upon parliament and people,

60

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perhaps for narrowly ideological reasons (for example,


the emergency rule under Mrs. Indira Gandhi).When
difficult or historic decisions have to be taken, for
example in wartime, or over an issue such as membership
of the European Union or NATO, the consent of
politicians representing a wide range of interests and
opinion is important in committing the country and its
people to difficult but necessary courses of action
5. Coalition government provides more continuity in
administration. In countries without a tradition of
coalition governments, parties can remain in government
or opposition for long periods, and an adversarial
political culture develops. When a change does occur,
the members of the new administration seldom have
any experience of government to draw upon, and often
embark upon a wholesale reversal of the previous
regimes policies; neither of these things is in the public
interest. In states with coalition politics, however, there
are usually at least some ministers with considerable
experience under the previous government. A more
consensual style of politics also allows for a more gradual
and constructive shift of policy between
administrations. 6. Such government functions on
principle of politics of consensus. Besides, states are
given more powers, and the base of concept of federalism
is strengthened. I am of the firm opinion that stronger
the states of any nation, stronger will be government at
the Centre. 7. In coalition politics, one have to
compromise with all your principles to accommodate
the other and finally you will stand nowhere. The
communist one time severe opposition to congress is
today supporting them. it is the time for India to learn
coalition politics and in future India will only see
coalition govt. 8. Government will be more consensusbased: resulting policies will be broadly approved of for
the benefit of the nation.9. Better representation of the
electorates wishes 10. Better quality of policy: enhanced
scrutiny and increased attention paid to each policy 11.
Increased continuity: election does not lead to dramatic
overhaul which can produce fragmented rule 12. Yet
instability apart, coalition governments have been
effective in enhancing democratic legitimacy,
representativeness, and national unity. Major policy
shifts like neo-liberal economic reforms, federal
decentralization, and grass roots decentralization, in
theory or practice, are largely attributable to the onset
of federal coalitional governance. Coalition
governments in states and at the centre have also
facilitated gradual transition of the Marxist-left and
the Hindu-right into the political establishment, and
thus contributed to the integration of the party
system as well as the nation. The same major national
parties that initially rejected the idea of coalition
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International Research Journal , September 2010 ISSN- 0975-3486 RNI: RAJBIL 2009/30097 VOL I * ISSUE 12

politics have today accepted it and are maturing into system and in their elected representatives. 5. Coalition
skilled and virtuoso performers at the game.
governments are definitely far less effective, not durable,
Problems of coalition governments
and non-dependable as compared to the governments
1. Coalition government is actually less democratic as formed by any one party with a definite ideology and
the balance of power is inevitably held by the small principles. 6. In coalition governments, MLAs and
parties who can barter their support for concessions MPs from all the parties are given portfolios / ministries
from the main groups within the coalition. This means and appointed as Ministers. These ministers are
that a party with little popular support is able to impose appointed on the recommendations of the parent party,
its policies upon the majority by a process of political without taking the qualification, character and criminal
blackmail. Possible examples of this might include the / clean record of the MLAs and MPs. 7. Many times
role of religious parties in Israel, the Greens in Germany it is found that the numbers of ministers are so very
and France, and the demand of constitutional reforms large that the leaders run out of portfolios to be given
by the Lib Dems in the UK as their price of coalition to the incumbents. That means there is no office existing
support in a future hung parliament. Democracy may be and some MLAs and MPs become ministers. We have
further undermined if the process of coalition-making even seen ministers without portfolios or minister with
is subject to the whim of a monarch or president, able some meaningless portfolios. Such ministers are asked
to decide who to ask to attempt to form a government, to run their office without portfolios from their
whether to call new elections, etc. 2. Coalition residences, with hardly any officials working under
government is less transparent. Because a party has no them. 8. This is a blatant misuse and waste of the
real chance of forming a government alone, the revenues collected out of the hard-earned money of the
manifestos they present to the public become irrelevant people of India. 9. I think coalition govt. cannot able
and often wildly unrealistic. Real decisions about to proper development of country because the
political programmes are made after the election, in a government hasnt power to take decision himself.
process of secretive back-room negotiation from which If you turn the pages of Indian History after
the public is excluded. 3. Coalitions provide bad Independence, we can clearly see that most of the time
government because they are unable to take a long- coalition government failed to give the good governance
term view. Sometimes an ideological compass is to the people of India. We can take the example as
follows: 1.Janta Dal government at centre in 1989 2.
necessaryANALYSIS
for governments to navigate
in difficult
RESEARCH
AND
EVALUATION
political and economic waters, and coalitions lack such Previous state government in Karnataka (Congress
a unifying philosophy. In addition planning for the Janta Dal alliance) 3. BJP lead alliance headed by A.B.
long-term often requires decisions to be made that are Bajpayee had not smooth run 4. Last government
unpopular in the short-term. Coalitions often fail such alliance in U.P. before Mayavati government
Conclusion: - I conclude that since India is
tests because temporary unpopularity may encourage
one of the parties involved to defect, in search of a a diverse country with different ethnic, linguistic, and
populist advantage. It might be agreed that sometimes religious communities, it also has diverse ideologies.
exceptional circumstances, such as war, require a Due to this, the benefit that a coalition has is that it leads
coalition government (although the USA did not have to more consensus based politics and reflects the
one in either World War). This does not mean that such popular opinion of the electorate. In order to have stable
governments are better in normal conditions. Major coalitions, it is necessary that political parties moderate
constitutional decisions are better dealt with through their ideologies and programmes. They should be more
referendum 4. Coalition governments are very unstable, open to take others point of view as well. They must
often collapsing and reforming at frequent intervals accommodate each others interests and concerns. In
Italy, for example, averages more than one government India, parties do not always agree on the correct path
per year since 1945.In India all non-Congress coalitions for government policy. Different parties have different
except last bajpayees ministry didnt completed its full interests and beliefs and it is difficult to sustain a
term and the first Bajpayee ministry lasted for only consensus on issues when disagreement arises.
thirteen days. This greatly restricts the ability of However, this is not to say that we have never had
governments to deal with major reforms and means that successful coalitions. Governments in W. Bengal,
politicians seldom stay in any particular ministerial post Kerala, N.D.A. last ministry as well as present U.P.A.
for long enough to get to grips with its demands. At the Government led by Congress at centre have been
same time, this squabbling between political parties successful coalition.
erodes the confidence of the public in their political
Context

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