Coalitions Can Be Irksome, But They Are Good For A Vibrant Democracy

Coalition politics is an effective antidote to political hubris. When leaders get blinded by their own awesomeness, at times calling themselves God’s gift to the world, you know it’s time for gods to intervene. In a democracy, ordinary people, who make or break leaders and governments, are gods. They have just delivered their opinion on the matter through the election results.

Coalition politics, it’s obvious now, may be chaotic but it’s a necessity in a diverse country like India. There’s enough evidence in Indian polity to emphasise that power derived from absolute majority breeds absolute arrogance. Leaders and parties develop contempt for institutions and democratic processes and, by extension, for people. They seek to subvert democracy by imposing personality cults and nasty, divisive agendas.

Democracies need robust independent institutions to be more equitable and to thrive. Coalitions have a sobering impact on the natural instincts of political alphas to destroy them. They ensure check-and-balance from within. Besides, they bring more players into the decision-making process and thus more divergent interests into the picture.

We have seen the worst of coalition politics during the UPA regime, and we have experienced the worst of single-party dominant politics, including that of Indira Gandhi’s Congress. Between both the former is certainly a better choice. It confines jostling for power and privileges within the political class. Institutions, and democracy in general, stay safe.

Multi-party governments allow collective and party-centric bargaining a level playing field. Mutual tension and disagreement are a natural spin-off of this process. The success of coalitions depends on the maturity of parties to manage the contradictions and move along. Senior partners should not be seen running away with the cake while others have to manage with the crumbs. They should not be making arm-twisting a necessary tool of communication.

By coalition, we don’t mean a combination of parties where one single party is well beyond the majority mark of 272 and others just hang around. In that case the big party can stifle the views of others and bulldoze them into submission. An ideal coalition is when the anchoring party’s survival in power is dependent on the support of allies to a degree but not entirely. Election results this time may have thrown an agreeable alignment of numbers.

Smaller regional parties with little stake in national politics are known to play hardball with established national parties to squeeze out bargains, often illicit ones. In the game of support, political arm-twisting is a regular tool. The logical, though undesirable, extension of this unholy arrangement is that ministers of political partners stay virtually independent with their portfolios with little respect for the principle of collective responsibility. The alleged 2G scam during the UPA emanated from this weakness in coalition politics.

There are certain disadvantages of coalition politics but it’s still better than dictatorial traits let loose by the brute majority of a single party.

(By arrangement with PerspectiveBytes)

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