Era of Coalition governments in india

Era of Coalition governments in india

The term coalition has been derived from the Latin word meaning to go or grow together. Thus, interpreted the term coalition means an act of coalescing or uniting into one body or alliance. It indicates the combination of a number of bodies or parts into one body or whole. In the political sense, the term is used for an alliance or temporary union between various political groups for the exercise or control of political power. Prof Ogg defines it in the Encyclopedia of Social Science as a ‘co-operative arrangement under which distinct political parties or all events members of such parties unite to form a government of ministry’.1 A coalition is thus an alliance between two or more hitherto separate or even hostile groups or parties formed in order to carry on the governance and share the principle offices of the state.

In a parliamentary democracy, coalitions arise mainly as a result of political compulsion. These might result from racial, communal, religious, economic, social or political conflicts. It may also be formed due to emergency. Policies that are adopted by the coalition government are made by the coalescing parties and merely finalized by the leader of the coalition. In a conflictual coalition game each party opposes every other party and each party seeks its own maximum ministerial advantage.

The 1967 elections also initiated the dual era of short-lived coalition govemments and politics of defection. However, the elections broke Congress’s monopoly of power in the states. Congress was replaced not by a single party in any of the states but by a multiplicity of parties and groups and independents. Coalition governments were formed in all opposition-ruled states except in Tamil Nadu. In Punjab, Bihar and U.P., opposition governments included Swatantra, Jan Sangh, BKD, Socialists and CPI. Though CPM did not join these governments, it, too, actively supported them.  Congress too formed coalition governments in some of the states where it had been reduced to a minority, allying with independents and breakaway groups from the opposition parties. Except the DMK government in Tamil Naau and the Swatantra-led government in Orissa, the coalition governments in all the other states, whether formed by Congress or the opposition, proved to be highly unstable and could not stay in power for long. All the coalition governments suffered from constant tensions and internal strains because of the heterogeneity of the partners. These governments would get formed, break up as a result of changing loyalties of MLAs and then are re-formed again.

Since 1989, sets of coalitions and minority governments in New Delhi is an important aspect of the paradigmatic shifts in the Indian political system in terms of political federalization and economic liberalization in the 1990’s. The coalition and minority governments at the Centre appeared after a long spell of Congress dominance until 1989. Although coalition governments at the Centre formally began in 1989 and have continued since, but the Janata Party (1977-79) in power at New Delhi also was a de facto coalition. The decade (1989-99) featured a series of unstable coalitions and minority governments, following each other like a game of musical chair. In India, the coalitions and minority governments are the outcome of the failure of the parliamentary system to satisfy the norms of getting absolute majority of seats in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) to form government. Since 1989, no single party has succeeded in winning comfortable majority in the House except in 2014 Parliamentary Elections when the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) could secure 282 seats. In 2014 elections, BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) claimed a historic victory when it secured 336 seats (including 282 of the BJP.)

Regional political parties and coalition politics have resulted in the furthering of criminalisation of politics. The problems of persons with criminal records entering electoral politics, and through them into the representative bodies, have received a big boost from the proliferation of regional political parties. The coalition politics have given them a national exposure at the cost of the credibility of the political system. Today, there are several leaders who are playing important roles in the regional and national politics while having some or the other criminal cases pending against them. With the help of regional parties, coalition politics has helped in spreading the malady of political corruption much more comprehensively throughout the Indian political system.2 Regional political parties do not give up their parochial approach and therefore are narrow in their outlook. These parties tend to get support through populism. In this system, power shifts from the Centre to States. All regional partners of a coalition have their stronger agendas and there is no national agenda. As a result, the States tend to become strong and the Centre becomes weak.

The period from 1967 to 1977 witnessed the passage from one-party dominance to a multi-party politics. Several states had moved towards a two-party system, though two-parties vary from state to state. This change, since the 1989 elections, may mark the beginning of a new era in the party system. Political development over the last decade of 20th Century makes it clear that Indian politics now has a strong lower class thrust. This development, in combination with the increased influence of regional and state-based parties, mirrors a paradigm shift in politics. These parties have increased their vote share to 8-9 per cent of the popular vote. Two factors have contributed to the multiplication of parties: One has been the growing power of regionalism and regional parties; and the other, intensified pursuit of political power rather than disagreement over principle. This explains the fracturing of the Janata Dal in 1999, the formation of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on the eve of the 1999 general election in Maharashtra and splits in the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in UP in 1998.

Intensification of competitive politics changed the party system from being a rivalry between national parties to that of the regional parties. The nineties have witnessed a succession of minority or coalition governments. The coalition governments were formed in 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2004-2009) by several political parties. From 1989 to 1999 eight governments were formed. Many small parties have acquired disproportionate influence because the few seats they held were crucial to forming a coalition government. Since 1977, 138 state governments were formed; 40 were coalitions and their average life was not more than 26 months. At the national level, right from 1977 many parties have emerged to form the governments but they were not real coalitions..

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