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Friday, November 26, 2010

Coalition Politics in India

DYNAMICS OF COALITION POLITICS IN INDIAFor most of the years since independence, the federal government has been led by the Indian National Congress (INC), Politics in the states have been dominated by several national parties including the INC, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and various regional parties. From 1950 to 1990, barring two brief periods, the INC enjoyed a parliamentary majority. The INC was out of power between 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party won the election owing to public discontent with the corruption of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1989, a Janata Dal-led National Front coalition in alliance with the Left Front coalition won the elections but managed to stay in power for only two years. As the 1991 elections gave no political party a majority, the INC formed a minority government under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was able to complete its five-year term. The years 1996–1998 were a period of turmoil in the federal government with several short-lived alliances holding sway. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996, followed by the United Front coalition that excluded both the BJP and the INC. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with several other parties and became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term. In the 2004 Indian elections, the INC won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), supported by various parties.

As like any other democracy, political parties represent different sections among the Indian society and regions, and their core values play a major role in the politics of India. Both the executive branch and the legislative branch of the government are run by the representatives of the political parties who have been elected through the elections. Through the electoral process, the people of India choose which majority in the lower house, a government can be formed by that party or the coalition.

India has a multi-party system, where there are a number of national as well as regional parties. A regional party may gain a majority and rule a particular state. If a party represents more than 4 states then such parties are considered as national parties. In the years since India's independence, India has been ruled by the Indian National Congress (INC) for 48 of those years. The party enjoyed a parliamentary majority barring two brief periods during the 1970s and late 1980s. This rule was interrupted between 1977 to 1980, when the Janata Party coalition won the election owing to public discontent with the controversial state of emergency declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Janata Dal won elections in 1989, but its government managed to hold on to power for only two years. Between 1996 and 1998, there was a period of political flux with the government being formed first by the right-wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) followed by a left-leaning United Front coalition. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance with smaller regional parties, and became the first non-INC and coalition government to complete a full five-year term. The 2004 Indian elections saw the INC winning the largest number of seats to form a government leading the United Progressive Alliance, and supported by left-parties and those opposed to the BJP.

Political coalition or political alliance is an agreement for cooperation between different political parties on common political agenda, often for purposes of contesting an election to mutually benefit by collectively clearing election thresholds or otherwise benefiting from characteristics of the voting system or for government formation after elections. A coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several parties cooperate. The usual reason given for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in the parliament. In such times, parties have formed all-party coalitions (national unity governments, grand coalitions). If a coalition collapses a confidence vote is held or a motion of no confidence is taken.

coalition - the state of being combined into one body fusion unification, union ,the state of being joined or united or linked , the union of diverse things into one body or form or group, the growing together of parts the act of making or becoming a single unit "the union of opposing factions"

Coalition Politics in India

Coalition and/or minority governments were rare between 1947 and 1989 when the Congress Party won majorities of seats in the Lok Sabha (Lower House), based on only pluralities of 40 to 48 percent of the vote. These victories were an artifact of the first-past-the-post electoral system's disproportional seat-vote ratio by which the leading party gets disproportionately more seats than votes in percentage terms.

However, over the six elections from 1989 to 2004 the Congress's vote share fell steadily from just under 40 percent to 26 percent, each time retaining a plurality, sometimes by less than 1 percent but failing to convert to a majority of seats. The decline in the Congress vote has been matched by the rise in the BJP's vote from 11 percent in 1989 to 25 percent in 1998, sliding to 22 percent in 2004, and by the rise in the vote share of a range of overwhelmingly single-state parties called regional parties (which are not necessarily programmatically regionalist). The combined votes of the Congress and the BJP in the last two elections have been under 50 percent.

These three post-1989 mega-trends-the decline of the Congress and the rise of the BJP and regional parties-have led to minority situations in parliament and in turn to the formation of minority and/or coalition governments. Underlying this multi-partism is the gradual consolidation of political strength in an ever-larger number of states since 1967, and particularly since 1989, by a range of non-Congress parties, which may be the BJP, the Left parties or a range of regional parties, many of the latter representing linguistic, religious, and state-specific caste identities. Taking a long-term view, the regionalization and "ethnification" of parties on caste/religious lines and the formation of multi-party coalitions mark a shift toward a different kind of accommodative politics from the internally grand-coalitional politics practiced by the Congress when it was an encompassing umbrella party. The multi-party coalitions since 1996 signify a shift in the accommodation of group interests to a politics of presence with "ethnicized" parties participating in broad coalitions with "national" parties.

Today, there are only seven states out of twenty-eight (and Delhi with seven Lok Sabha seats) in which the two national parties, Congress and BJP, are the two leading parties in parliamentary elections: Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Arunachal Pradesh. They are the two leading parties but in the presence of significant third parties in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur, and Goa. Beginning in 1998, and accelerating in the 1999 and 2004 elections, the party system has become very loosely bipolar, divided between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition and the Congress-led UPA coalition, with a number of significant parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) (both of UP), the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (of Tamil Nadu), the Asom Gana Parishad (of Assam), and the Left parties, not formally part of either.

The full-term stability of the NDA and the endurance of the UPA for three years as of today, has also been due to the fact that coalitions in India since 1996 have been characterized to a large degree by spatial compatibility, that is, they consist of a patchwork quilt of parties that have state-specific bases and do not compete on each other's turf. This enables even minority coalitions dependent on outside support to last, combined with the fact that in the UPA's case the supporting Left parties, whatever their dissatisfaction with Congress policies do not wish to create an opportunity for the BJP to return to power.

Given the loosely bipolar national party system divided between the UPA and the NDA with a number of non-aligned parties in between, the implications of the BSP's victory in UP for national politics over the next two years are probably as follows. If the BSP successfully consolidates in UP, then we are likely to see further losses there for the Congress or the BJP or both (UP has eighty out of 543 elected Lok Sabha seats) and hence their further dependence on other states to make good the loss and on their coalition partners. Furthermore, if the BSP makes inroads into the largely Congress-inclined Scheduled Caste voters in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra in 2009, the UPA could be badly hit. Conversely, if the BSP is hit by anti-incumbency in UP, the Congress and the BJP could pick up some of the voters moving away from it.

There are three other important factors that will condition coalition politics in the run-up to the 2009 national elections. First, can the Congress preserve its coalition intact? Already, there have been three exits, the TRS in Andhra Pradesh which was crucial for the 2004 victory there, the MDMK in Tamil Nadu, and the JD(S) in Karnataka which broke with the Congress and wrested the state government from it by forming a coalition with the BJP. Two more partners are shaky-the NCP in Maharashtra and the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir. Second, how will the Congress and the BJP perform in the major state elections due by May 2009-Gujarat (containing twenty-six Lok Sabha seats) in late 2007, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram (nine Lok Sabha seats) during 2007-08, and Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Delhi by late 2008 (containing eighty-two Lok Sabha seats)? While the BJP is well positioned in Gujarat, will anti-incumbency set in against the ruling parties (BJP in all except in Delhi) in the other states by late 2008? If so, will it help the Congress in those major states in the national elections? Third, what will be the state of the economy, which has been in an unprecedented bull run for the past three years, and particularly the politically sensitive inflation and unemployment indicators?

All in all, it would appear that 2009 will most probably be a repeat of the loosely bipolar result of 2004, that is, an NDA and a UPA both falling short of a majority and dependent on support from one or more of a range of non-aligned parties with state-specific bases to form a government. Who rules will depend on the precise arithmetic of the result and pre- and post-electoral coalitions formed.

Reasons for Coalition in India

There are several reasons for the rise of coalition politics in India.

1.Lose of Trust -In early years after independence, our political leaders benefited from the hallo of our independence movement. These leaders commanded a certain degree of moral authority which stood them in good stead not only in winning elections, but also in keeping their parties united.The tendency of the national parties to speak of national level issues, and to force coherence in the politics and views on issues, is at odds with our extremely diverse population. In the initial years, to the extent that the Congress party was able to accommodate regional/ local interests and reflect their aspirations, it was possible to maintain a large single party identity. But over the years, regional and caste identities have begun to increasingly assert themselves in the political space.

2.Inability to Represent India’s diversity-Coalition politics also thrives because of the inability of national parties to continue to give a feeling to the diverse population in India that they are able to adequately represent their disparate interests. During the Nehru years, the vote share of the Congress party was between 40 pc and 48 pc. Since the late 80s, the BJP has been seen as a second credible ‘national’ party. This has resulted in a fracturing of the vote between the two large parties. Between 1989 and 2004, the Congress vote share has declined from almost 40 pc to a little over 25 pc. The BJP’s vote share increased from about 11 pc in 1989 to a little below 25 pc in recent elections.
3.The moral degeneration in politics- combined with regional parties’ ability provide credible alternatives to the Congress party in the states, led to a situation, where ‘horse trading’ became relatively common in unsettling state governments. The brazen manner in which political parties traded MLAs led to the passage of the anti-defection law in 1985. The law said that MLAs and MPs who disobeyed their party whip and defected would lose their seat from the house they were elected to. While this law was hailed as a panacea to prevent the unethical behaviour of defections amongst elected representatives, it also gave enormous power to the leadership of political parties to force all the members to act strictly in accordance with party diktat. This lack of political voice to smaller groups within national parties continues provide fillip to coalition politics in India.

4.Growth of Regional Political Parties- growth of regional parties has been another reason for the emergence of coalition politics in India.

Dynamics of Coalition politics in India

An important issue that comes up in this context is whether coalitions have indeed weakened our ability to govern. It is true that a government formed by a single party majority can take significant decisions more easily than in a coalition situation. In a single party government, there is less incentive to work towards building a national consensus on issues, having a wider debate or accommodating the interests of those who might lose out.

In a coalition situation, governments are forced to build consensus amongst the allies. In theory, to the extent that these efforts at consensus building are debated on the merits of the issues involved, coalition governments are actually healthy. In practice, however, the perception that these negotiations amongst allies sometimes amount to unhealthy and unethical quid-pro-quos, is gaining ground. The recent cash-for-votes issue that erupted in Parliament, and widespread media coverage about the kinds of ‘deals’ that have been struck with various allies to get support for the India-US nuclear agreement, have only reinforced our concerns about tenuous nature of coalition politics.

If we as a nation are likely to live with coalition politics, there are some important issues we need to consider. Hollow as it might sound, we need a massive push for enforceable ethics reforms among political parties, how parties raise funds, how they spend them, how much of it needs to be transparent and other related issues. As a country, we cannot wait for a chance discovery of an oasis in the desert to save us. This needs a concerted effort of citizens from across the country to push for higherstandardsinpubliclife.

Arguments for and against coalition government



More Consensus based politics-Advocates of proportional representation suggest that a coalition government leads to more consensus-based politics, in that a government comprising differing parties (often based on different ideologies) would need to concur in regard to governmental policy.

Reflect popular opinion in a better manner-Another stated advantage is that a coalition government better reflects the popular opinion of the electorate within a country.

MORE DEMOCRATIC.It represents much broader spectrum of public opinion

Creates honest and Dynanic political system. It allows voters more choice



Leads to DisharmonyThose who disapprove of coalition governments believe that such governments have a tendency to be fractious and prone to disharmony. This is because coalitions would necessarily include different parties with differing beliefs and who, therefore, may not always agree on the correct path for governmental policy. Sometimes the results of an election are such that the coalitions which are mathematically most probable are ideologically infeasible, such as in Flanders or Northern Ireland. A second difficulty might be the ability of minor parties to play "kingmaker" and, particularly in close elections, gain far more for their support than their vote would otherwise indicate.

Coalition of the WickedCoalition governments have also been criticized of sustaining a consensus on issues when disagreement and the consequent discussion would be more fruitful. To forge a consensus, the leaders of ruling coalition parties can agree to silence their disagreements on an issue to unify the coalition against the opposition. The coalition partners, if they control the parliamentary majority, can collude to make the parliamentary discussion on the issue irrelevant by consistently disregarding the arguments of the opposition and voting against the opposition's proposals — even if there is disagreement within the ruling parties about the issue.

Powerful parties likely tobe oligocraticPowerful parties can also act in an oligocratic way to form an alliance to stifle the growth of emerging parties. Of course, such an event is rare in coalition governments when compared to two-party systems, which typically exists because of stifling the growth of emerging parties, often through discriminatory ballot access regulations and plurality voting systems, etc.A single, more powerful party can shape the policies of the coalition disproportionately. Smaller or less powerful parties can be intimidated to not openly disagree. In order to maintain the coalition, they will have to vote against the party's platform in the parliament. If they do not, the party has to leave the government and loses executive power.


efinition of Coalition :-

The term 'coalition' is derived from the Latin word 'coalitio" which is

the verbal substantive of coalescere which means to grow together. However, as actuallyused, it somewhat belies it nominal meaning, 'for the units or the elements broughtinto combination by a coalition very seldom grow together in any literal sense. According to the dictionary meaning coalition means an act of coalescing,or uniting into one body: a union of persons, states: alliance. In the strictpolitical sense the word coalition is used for 'alliance or temporary union into a singlegovernment of distinct parties or members of distinct parties3 In other words, it -'commonly denotes a cooperative arrangement under which distinct political parties,or at all events members of such parties u ~ ttoe frorm a government or ministry'~. It is generally regarded as the product of parliamentary democraticprocess and is commyly used in connection with political parties, particularly inmultiparty system: It may, however, refer to,an alliance of forces within a party of ofgroups cutting across party lines. It is applied to the union of two or more parties,or, as generally happens, portions of parties, who agree to sink there differencesand act in communion. Coalition thus refers to a combination of political groups or forces,temporary in nature and for specific objectives. It is also generally accepted that acoalition can take p l a o~nl y within the contexts of mixed motive in which bothconflict and common interest are simultaneously present and must govern the Course

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