India is today undergoing a complex and tortuous political transition. The demise of th6 one party dominance system has given birth to an eraof coali- tions. With the decline of the Congress and in the absence of a national alternative having a counttywide spread, it was logical for the people to repose faith in different parties and groups, some confined to region. 2. The transormative process has however been fraught with un- precedented instability and weak governance.
The tentative experiment in coali- tion government, specifically at the centre, has evoked mixed responses ranging from extreme scepticism to post facto admiration and acceptance. There have been a plethora of scholarly aaicles from senior politicians,journalists and even consti- tutional experts about the inevitability of the arrival of coalition politics in the working of our democracy. 3. A clear and in depth analysis of coalition polities is crucial for us to understand the myriad of changes that are occumng our polity in order to better manage the transition and anticipate and influence the’ future course.
4. As demands by religious, cultural or ethnic groups for greater autonomy have increased in India, there is an urgent need to think afresh about approaches to structures of governance in multicultural arid multiethnic societies like India. India’s experience as arguably the most diverse society in the world and her attempt to wrestle with tensions between centralising and decentralising ten- dencies is reflected in our experiment in coalition government. 5. This paper seeks t o achieve the following objectives.
(i) To study the key developments in the recent politics of India. (ii) To outline a theoretical framework within which coalition politics is examined. . . (iii) To identify the issue areas specially the challenges that the experiment with coalition government throws up. (iv) To ksess and critically examine the efficacy and desirability of coalition politics for. * Reader in Law, La1 Bahadur Sastry National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, Uttranchal State. ** M. L. ~chdor,. Andhara University, Vishakhapatnam. VO~.
XIV COALITION POLITICS I INDIA N 23 Definition of Coalition :- 6. The term ‘coalition’ is derived from the Latin word ‘coalitio” which is the veral substantive of coalescere which means to grow together. However, as actu- ally used, it somewhatbelies it nominal meaning, ‘for theunits or the elements brought into combinationby a coalition very seldom grow together in any leteral senseI2. 7. According to the dictionary meaning coalition means an act of coa- lescing, or uniting into one body: a union ofhpersons, states: alliance.
In the strict political sense the word coalition is used for ‘alliance or tenzporary union into a single government of distinct parties or members of distinct parties3 In other words, it – ‘commonly denotes a cooperative arrangementunder which distinct political parties, or at all events members of such parties u ~ t to form a government or mini~try’~. e 8. It is generally regarded as the product of parliamentary democratic . process and is commyly used in connection with political parties, particularly in multiparty system: It may, however, refer to,an alliance of forces within a party of of groups 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 differences and act in conunon. 9. Coalition thus refers to a combination of political groups or forces, temporary in nature and for specific objectives. It is also generally accepted that a coalition can take p l a only within the contexts of mixed motive in which both ~ conflict and common interest are simultaneouslypresent and must govern the Course of action chosen. Coalition politics : A Theoretical Framework :- 10.
Inspite of the fact that the subj’ect of coalitions is not of recent origin, it has not entrenched itself as a part of the literature on political science expecially with regard to a theoretical understanding of the concept. In India, the – study of coalitions is of recent origin though the developments of the las two to three decades have witnessed ap upsurge in the writings on coalition politics. 11. Two seminal contributions to the theoretical literatureon coalition + politics are found in the works of William H. Riker and William A. Gammon5.
1. The Dictionary of English Language, P 509. . 2. Funk and Wagnalls, New Standard Dictionary ofthe English L&guage, New York, Funk and Wagnalts Co,1963, P 600 . 3 EncycIopaedia of Britannica,Vol. 5, Chicago, P. 883. 4. Frederick A. Ogg “Coalit~on”, Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences,Vo1. 3 NY, McMillan Co. 1963, P. 600 5. William H. Riker ‘Tkeory of Polit~calCoalitions’ and W. A Gammon ‘Coalition Formation’ CENTRAL INDIA LAW QUARTEKLY primarily employed game theory to study coalition politics thus imparting a more disciplinedtone to the whole field.
He uses the n-person game to develop his theory and simplify a highly complex phenomenon. 12. He puts forth the notion that in order to discover the trends or design of a coalition, it is advisable to maek an assessment of the human behaviour of the members constituting a. coalition. expecially of those who are at the helm of a coalition. Riker holds that general decision making policy of a coalition depehds upon its leader. The analysis of his leadetship is as essential as the analysis of a mathematical theorem or a chemical reaction.
Riker’s theory finds its echoes in Bryce who subscribes to much of the former’s views. , 13. A coalition can take place in two phases: pre election alliance or adjustments between the parties and post election union to share political power and run the government. The former type of coalition has two additional advan- tages than the later. A pre poll understanding provides a common platform to the parties in order to attract the electrorate on the basis of the joint manifesto.
Moreo- ver, the radicalism of such parties is softened to a great extent in the process of mutual concessions without causing the slightest damage to the image of either of them. 14. There are generally three types of situations, which inevitably give rise to a coalition government in a spte. \ a) Inability of any single party, in a multi-party system, to form minis- try by commanding a working majority,in the Lower House of ~a’rliament a bi- in cameral legislature. Owing to the fractured mandate at the polls, India has in recent years increasingly been confronted with such a situation.
b) Existence of a dead lock between the two parties in abi-party system that is an even balance between (he two parties, leading on of the two to ally itself with any minor go& such as a neutral oi defectors. 4, c) A national crisis necessitating the suspension af party strife and the concentration of all forces in a ‘common direction for the common safety. . 15. The latter two types of situations are most commonly found in the history of England. England is classic land ofbilparty system and it is therethat the above types of coalitions have occasionally taken place.
16. A coalition can be tacit or implied and formal or experss. A tacit , coalition is a mere understanding with some grsup without actually coalescing with it. An express or formal coalition is a formal and legitimat alliance with some group with a clqar understanding of give and take. In a formal coalition the * . , VO~. XIV COALITION POLITICS I INDIA N 25 oFthis is the BJP led sharing of power is real and substantial. A perfect ~llustration formation that currently runs the country Indian Experience with Coalition Polities.
17. Unlikegeneral perckption, coalition in polltics is not a new concept . for lndian politics. Coalitionism as a form of government is common and widely pracuced in Eusope, India, too, has accunlulated not ~ncons~derable amount of e q e – rlence in the form of governing arrangement. 18. Undivided India got its first experience of coalition government in 1937, when the Government of India Act, 1935 became operatwe.
At that time J~nnah asked for a coalition consisting of Congress and Muslin1 League in U.P. but Congress, the party holding majority did not entertain’ this demand. Mohm Ali Jinnah at that time argued that in India, coalition was the only respectable device to give to the Muslims a fair share in governance, In other states like NWFP and Punjab Congress formed coalitions with other regional parties. * 19. In 1037 tlfe Interim Government under the Prinle Minister ship oCNehru Was the first formal coalition consisting the congress, the Muslim league, the Hindu Mahasabha etc.
The electoral history of India and the record of Union Government since independence can be divided into two phases – first, upto 1989, a period of elght electons resulting in electroal majority for one party and rela- tively stable Union Governments except for a period of 1967-72 and the second, the decade since 1989 marked by fractured verdicts in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999, resulting in the formation of minority or coaIition governments. Coalition Politics: A Critical Evaluation :- 20. Acceptance of coalition politics as an important political phe- nomenon today, makes it imperative to study their advantages and disadvantages..
Bryce once remarked “administrationfomled by coalition of parlies is usually weak, not merely because the combination is unstable but because men whose professed principles differ are likely to be entangled in inconsistencies or driveh to unsatis- factory compromises. ” 21. Coalition pditics in a democratic polity is a reflex of a living and continuous interaction between a pasty’s natural & hence ultimate quest to come to power by itself and the expedient perhaps transitory inter-party collabora- tion to capture the reins of government.
Thus by its very nature coalition politics is Subject to contradictory nlotivational pulls and pressures. It is therefore not sur- prising if parties tend to use the coalition exped~ents hlfill the ultimate objec- to tives, it IS equally understandable if parties avoid and even prefer to opt out of a 26 CENTRAL INDIA LAW QUARTERLY 2001 coalition if the former goal tends to cost the latter. Thus stability is a major casualty – in a coalition government that which is an essential requirement for carrying out . any long-range programme of economic and social development and providing ad- – ministration.
22. The leadership of the real executive (PMICM) is one of the ac- cepted principles of parliamentary This principle hardly appeafs to be empirically tenable’in the context of coalition politics in India. The followingreasons may be discussed; Firstly, a person does not owe his position as PM/CM to his election . , as leader of a particular party or to his pre-eminence within a party but to inter- party acceptance which is usually the result of hard bargaining. There are claims and counter claims which results in the creation of the post of a Dy.
Leadership which tends to be more contractual than a cultivated one and as such he is PM or CM more by courtesy than by right, though there are always exceptions. Secondly, the PWCM doesn? always &joy even elbowroom free- dom in the distribution of partfolios. This distribution is in fact part & parcel of ” the agreementgoverning the coalition. Thirdly, the PWCM is always fighting the battle of political sur- vival-sometimes placating the prospective defectors with more minister ship, at others being at the beck call of co-ordination committees ,and at still other maneuvering for an alternative set of political alignments.
Although he is follow- ing Carlyle literally ‘I am their leader, therefore I must follow them’. 23. The principles of collective responsibility so critical to parlia- mentary democracy, are also se.. ously threatened by coalition politics. There are numerous examples of responsibility being more individual ffian collective espe- cially in state governments-anextreme case being that of Ajoy Mukherjee, the CM of West Bengal who would resort to hunger strikes a d mass satyagrahas against Jyoti Basu, Home Minister in his own Cabinet. The cabinet, which consists of representatives from different parties, speaks in many voices.
The sense of direc- tion and unity of purpose gets lost. . 24. Political homogeneity is another characteristicsof a parliamen- taq government. This in turn is rooted in programmatic unity.. Though coalition governments do make efforts to provide for progrmmatic unity through mini- mum programmes, they are very poor substitutes – ill-conceived compromises of contradictory programmatic pullgand pressures. The parties in the coalition also have different support structure, which further militate against minimum pro- grammes being treated as an integrated programmatic unit, and more importantly against its implementatibn.
Thus minimum programmes are many a time and evil however necessary- dysfunctional to political homogeneity, they are more a source v01. XIV COALITION POLITICS IN INDIA 27 of weakness than strength. 25. Another dysfunctionality is that it affects the morale of the rank andfile ofthe parties. With frequent elections at all levels, . the problem that arises is that of alignment Continued partnership at one level may come in contlict with possi- bility of competition an another levels. The rank and file doesn’t alivays appreciate the competition of national level politics.
They are further alienated if they don’t get adequate share of ofices and patrongage. There are no assurances for them that the policy of their party will get properly implemented. 26. Neutrality of the civil servants under a coalition government some- times. suffers. The contradictory pulls and pressures of the coalition model may either cripple independence on the part of the civil servants that may become too strong and just ignore the miGsteria1btdding. Neither attitude isconducive to na- tion building. 27. Many critics of the coalition experiment raise the question of its negatively affecting relations between the Center and the States.
Obviously in terms of its relation with the Central government a state government will be at an advan- tage if formed by a party which suppotts the Central government. On the other hand, a state government formed by parties, which are in the opposition in the parliament, will have a difficult passage. However, this is not only true of coalition goverments. Even with single party majority governments such problems do arise and these have more to do with working out an effective federal structure-that al- – lows smooth Center State relation than with coalition politics per se. ‘
28. Then comes the question of growth of fissiparous tendencies and . factionalism based on region, caste, community etc. getting stronger due to coali- ‘ tion politics. However, the reverse is also true. Diversity in society gets political representation more clearly through coalition ratherbthan single party dominance. Thus,in explaining $e success or failure of coalitions, political culture is an important factor. Cultures which accord a central place to accepting and nego- tiating differences are considered conducive to the consolidation and stability of federal coalitions.
Recent experiment India with the instability of minority and coalition governments has undeniably generated misgivings, but it need not neces- sarily be so. 29. The diversity and plurality in India’s fabric can be best repre- – sented through coalition politics when even small groups regional groups, etc. hve say in politics. This is not posslble in single party dominance. Even only when that party had with in it various shades of opinions and espoused a niultipliclly of cause. In a vast countly with diversity as ours, coalitions may be thus a necessary stage in the evolution of democracy.
Also, a coalition government need not neces- sarily lead to. instability or discontinuity in policies, nor can they be called 28 . CENI’KAI, INDIA LAW QUARTERLY 200 1 ineffechve or less purposive. The coalition government in Kerela had many achieve- ments to its credit, the most important being land reforms. The coalition, in West Bengal was equally successful- though its success may not be spectablar- in deal- ing with c~mmunal labour Issues. In this connection an exami;e cited by Prof. and Jennings is pertinent.
He observes “curiously knough, the coalition which saved civilization between 1940 and 1945 seems to ,have been af least as united as the . ordinary party overnments. ” 30. With respect to collective responsibility-and the powers of pM,it can be said that while there is undeniably a difference in this respect because of the absence of party discipline mechanisms, the contrast is not as sharp as it is made out to be. It is widely recognized that head of government don’t have absolute to choose and remove colleagues.
Some impose themselves by virtue of thier political weight, while others can’t be removed with impunity. Regional, caste and minority representation has always played a role in cabinet formation. All these factorfonly become accentuated in coalition government situations. 3 1. ~emoc&ticaccountabiliiy iS tjest-achieved in plural ‘societies through coalition politics. Those who bemoan the cost of coalition governance ignore similar deals cloaked in the secrecy of dominant party discipline.
The mul- tiplicity of partners and sub-agendas obviously brings about greater transparency, but the policy outcomes are not necessarily or inferior to those emerging from sirlgle party dispensations. As a result of the pressure experienced by the various partners within the coalition the policies, which finally emerge, are in the nature of a consensus, avoiding extreme positions. For example the BJP had to drop hdandir plans in order to successfidly forge a coaljtion and form the government. . 32. One might now consider the argument that only a bi-party sys- tem will’ lead to eficiency and stability.
Studies have shown that coalitions are more a common feature of the political systems of a majority of countries and the USA, UK, Australia, Canada are really not perfect models ofbi-party system. These two or three parties are only what are called “the main pillars of the political system”. The Americal Government may be cited as the foremost instance of a two party system However, it must be remembered that the American parties are them- selves coalitions of vartio~;forces and groups. 33. In India the Congress6has gone on record against the principle of coalition government, calling them dishonest alliances.
This ignores the possi- bilities of ‘honiest’ alliances and draws sustenante from a typically British aver- sion, which could be and unreliable guide to governance alternatives for a federal . party. 6 Coalition Politics : Congress must day out – V. N. Gadg~l T. 0 L 13’July 1996. VO~. XIV COA1,ITION POL,II ICS IN INDIA 29 Thus, though the Indian experience with coalition hasn’t been very encouraging – it would be follish to d~smiss them altogether.
Challenges and Suggestions :- 34. The main challenge regarding coalition polities is that since in India, it is inevitable, the focus should be on how to ensure that basic issue of good governance, clean politics and administration are not neglected. It is a fact that coalitio politics has come to stay in the I n d m scenario. One party majority system or that of two single party system is passe. The dominant political scenario would be the two coalition gourp. ‘ Thus rather than return to a political centralizationthat was the economic ruin of India, our major national parties need to focus on social and cultural ecosystems, linking them,togetheracross regions and communities”.
35. Electroral dynamics are also ensuring that no single party will be in a position to dominate the political scenario. Politics of consensus is sought to be achieved, which unfortunately often becomes polities of one- upmanship and bargaining. In this context, however a contrasting and different view may be taken oftwo former home secretaries of India, Mr. N. N. Vohra and Mr. K. Padmanabhiah. Mr. Vohra has an optimistic viewpoint that since meetings are so often and there is so much con’s&ation, decision,taken may be slow, but they are more lasting.
Mr. Vohra who was also.principa1secretary to Prime Minister, I. K. Gujral, there have been few governments where the Cabinet & Cabinet Committees have met ‘so of- teli. Mr. Padmanabhiah also agrees and says that in a multiparty government, the state satraps who are rewarded with cabinet portfolios do not resist development related decisions. 36. However, an alternative and differing viewpoint have been given by former Cabinet Secretary T. S. R. Secretary T. S. R. Subhramaniumwho says that simply bringing about a meeting between two ministers of different parties be- comes a herculean task, more a process of appeasement.
This is one of the most important challenges for not only the ministers but also the bureaucrates. They have to rise above parochial and narrow considerkims and think in terms of the national interest. 37. The question therefore arises as to how this can be ensured. h g h t atthe time of formation of (he coalition the number game should not be followed. Capabilities and merit of the legislators/parliamentarians’concerned should be taken into account. The choice of the leader of the coalition also should be taken with utmost care. The obvious choice of leader will be the leader of the 7.
Changing to Conquer-Adusting the BJP to Indian Reality. MD Nalapat. Times of Ind~a, May 9. 1999. , 30 CENTRAL INDIA LAW QUARTERLY 2001 largest party of the coalition of parties. Ideally this person should be one with a vision, with a capacity to shoulder responsibilities and pressures and an ability to strike a chord among different constituents of coalition. Need for a basic common program which may guide the future course of action is necessary. This would ensure that at least basic administrationand governance would not come to a stand- stdl. 38. Often, coalitidns are formed after the electoral process is over.
This sometimes leads to politics of horse-trading, especially if two groups of parties have roughly the same strength. Therefore, it is desirable that pre-poll alliances are formed whch would mean that atleast the voters are clear of their choices and later on after election results, the people’s mandate is respected. It is @soimportant that majority should be tested on the floor of the house and a specific time period be given before the floor test. Often this time period varies, and unnecessarily this leads to allegation of bias against the President or Governor as the case may be. 39.
In coalition politics, it is understandable that the parties to the coalition will try to expand their support bas. This can not be avoidedaltogether, but this should not be the immediate-andexclusive objective of the partners, whd should also owe loyalty to the coalition and the common minimum program. The coalition of parties should endure consultation-and co-operation between the or- ganizational and ministerial wings through devices such such as co-ordination / , consultation committees. Cohstitutional functionaries such as the President, the . Prime minister, the Governor, the Chief Ministers as well as the Civil.
Servants should not transgress or be denied their nom~al simply because the Govern- role ment happened-tobe a coalition. 40. A closer look alswo needs to bt taken at whether the first past ~ the post system is serving the its purpose in a coalition politics system or whether a system if say proportional representation would be more suitable. In the latter the final result would more closely reflect the wishes of the people, However smaller parties would be sidelined and marginalised which in itself may not be desirable.
41. Since coalition politics has come to stay and all parties have come to realise the inevi, .rbilib of-coalition and pofitical alliances their tactics will also accordingly change. They will aim at compatibility which would reduce and even remove in-coalition stressesand c~nflicts. This would necessary lead to prior formulation of ideological and policy commitment oriented to solving issues than merely gaining power. Coalition will probably work better if there are two or three major parties which might act as the anchor or pillars of the system. The other parties can co-operate with them in an endeavour to provide a stable govern- ment. – Vol. XIV COALITION POLITICS IN INDIA 31 42.
In the context of the emergenceof a competitive multi-party system and the inevitability of coalition politics, minor ‘reforms need to be initiated in the scheme of parliamentary governance to expand the demdcratic space and increase the effectiveness of government. The suggestion that the Prime Minis- ter should be elected by the Lok Sabha and the Council of Ministers can be removed by a vote of no-confidence by the Lak Sabha only after the House had selected an Blternsttive leader also needs to be widely debated and implemeW, if there is con- sensus among parties on thls issue. 43. India has now moved much ahead fiom where it was fiftyyears ago.
Materialprogress canbe realised faster ifmoral flanksare guarded. That is the weak- . ness today. The foundations of the new. politics cannot be built without an ethtcal base for polit& a d adrmnisbation. )%&lomis a preconditionforthe kind of growth thatstrengthens the roots ofthe new politics. The new politics must revers this slide. F d l y India nee& a new class of polititiqs, less arrogant more aware of the limita- tions, Qpento alternative points of view and prepared to compromise.
The stGggle for dominance has destroyed the re* for the poltics of dialogue and discourse in this cp. mtry. A new drive towardsthe politics of service will provide moral authority to enforce discipline on iqstituions a d manpower. Politics can and must contr~l. n That control cannoi be th-ro,ughcoercive machinery of the state * th6 persuasive t powers of the people. What is required is nothing short of empoweringthe people in the true’ sense of the term, , Conclusion :- 44.
Just as the coalition choices are varied and anomalous, their fu- ture, their stablli~ functioning qualities are also uncertain. Though the success and story of. coalitions is still awaited, there is nearly universal agreement. that coali- tions ill. e needed in a parliamentary democracy. There should be nothing to deter us from danger of instability or ineffectiive or temporary combination for a stop-gap arrangement, since the coalitions are a sound test of the effectiveness of a political system and of the parties’ ability to connive at specific, clear and meaningfulpolicy.
Despite its appwent shortcomings and limitations, the coalitions provide the only feasible and viable alternatwe in d parliamentary democracy and provide a bulwark and necessary safeguard against the unsung collapse of a democratic set up. ——————————————————– In 2014, let us say “NO” to coalition politics 1 inShare Pre-poll surveys conducted by various news outlets, including this newspaper, reveal that regional parties will once again play kingmakers in 2014.
Coalition politics, with regional parties allying with national parties, will continue to be the norm. This is not good news. Regional parties are a euphemism for state-specific, community or caste based, family centric parties. Parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, AIADMK, DMK, Shiv Sena, Telegu Desam Party have had affected the course of national politics, even though their only real constituents are restricted to a state or a community in the state. Most of these parties are family businesses, making the interests they serve even more limited.
If regional parties have a decisive say in forming the next national government, then once again, the act of national governance will become a complex web of balancing regional, caste, community and family interests. Often putting the welfare of the country as a whole at a distant second place. The experience of the past twenty-odd years, particularly the last two governments (UPA I and more so UPA II) is indication enough to realize that not giving a single party the full mandate is a recipe for disaster.
Parliamentary elections are about electing a national government. We don’t have a presidential form of government, so it is not enough to consider whether Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi should become prime minister while casting our vote. A political party must win 272 seats to form the government. In the past two decades, national parties or political parties with pan-India presence like the Congress and BJP have allied with regional parties either before elections or after to make the magic mark.
In return, these regional parties have been given ministerial positions and have had a say on national policy. With the electorate failing to give full mandate to the national parties, regional parties have been able to punch above their weight. The regional parties have been able to influence national policy to suit the needs of their smaller constituencies and often taking national policy making hostage to their limited interests, which range from personal score settling to caste-based demands to state-specific demands.
So Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj Party, which are essentially parties concerned only with Uttar Pradesh, have been able to prevent the government from taking a decision they think hurt their prospects in the state, simply because they can threaten to withdraw the support of 20-odd members in Parliament and destabilize the government. The government at the centre finds itself hamstrung, unable to act for the fear of losing the support of a regional party and destabilizing the government. It has also become a convenient excuse for not taking difficult decisions.
Governance and policy-making have been reduced to back room deals for petty gains and continued stint in power. It has allowed for the misuse of government agencies for political deals. Instead of governance, the lead political party in the central government is busy keeping the various regional parties happy so that it can maintain the magic 272 mark in the Lok Sabha. A preoccupation that further helps shield governance and decision-making from sunlight and public scrutiny. A fractured mandate has often been explained as reflective of the voters’ mood and disenchantment with the political class.
It has also been explained as reflection of the inability of national