Thursday, May 14, 2009

India Election watch

Unstable Parties and Alliances

India… the largest democracy in the world. Pride or no pride. But this exactly is the reason for the mushrooming of many political parties, both large and small in the recent past. And as this powerful democracy gears to the polls, there is some need for retrospection now. I was wondering when the last time was, when a single political party rose to the helm, without any alliances. Use your guess work or your intuition, the answer definitely points to the distant past. In 1977 Janata Party formed the government. From then the uncertain times began, the era of coalitions started taking the toll. In 1989, a Janata Dal-led National Front coalition in alliance with the Left Front coalition stayed in power for only two years. The period between 1996–1998 was one of turmoil, maelstrom at the centre as several short-lived alliances emerged and none of them having their say for long. Elucidating this… The Bharatiya Janta Party (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. A success.

In the 2004 Indian elections, the INC formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), supported by various parties. This is past. What will happen in 2009? Most likely we will see another coalition party coming to power. That is again a matter of speculation. Adding to the predictions, the open assertions of INC and BJP saying that without support from their allies they will not be in a position to form the Government is something which makes the run for power tougher. This clearly indicates that the Dominant Party System is on decline and minority and/or coalition governments have become the order of the day.

Instability apart, coalition governments have been effective in enhancing democratic legitimacy, representativeness and national unity. Government policies are more consensus-based and resulting policies are broadly approved of. Each policy goes through rigorous scrutiny and increased attention is paid for coalition is always at a stake. But coalitions can also mean too much of a compromise. Given these conditions, are we ready for an alternative form of government: presidential system? Whatever conclusion we may draw from the discussion, as of now, the fact of the matter is that India as had coalition governments in the past and it will continue to have in the future as well. Therefore, it is in best interest for all that parties develop a sense of understanding and do not play games of power politics and bad politics. Coalitions can outplay all the other forms of the government if they remember the basic idea behind democracy. After all it’s a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

- Swapnil Saurav

Originally written on 11 April 2009 for 5th Dimension-

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