Coalition Government

A coalition government is a form of government in which political parties cooperate to form a government. The usual reason for such an arrangement is that no single party has achieved an absolute majority after an election.

In this article, candidates will learn about Coalition government within the context of the IAS Exam.

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Meaning of Coalition Government

The term ‘coalition’ is derived from the Latin world ‘coalitio’ which means ‘to grow together’. Thus, technically, coalition means the act of uniting parts into one body or whole. Politically, coalition means an alliance of distinct political parties

Coalition usually occurs in modern parliaments when no single political party can muster a majority of votes. Two or more parties, who have enough elected members between them to form a majority, may then be able to agree on a common programme that does not require too many drastic compromises with their individual policies and can proceed to form a government.

Candidates can read similar Polity articles from links below:

Functions of Parliament in IndiaSessions of Indian Parliament

Get more Polity Notes for UPSC in the linked article.

Features of Coalition Government

The features of a Coalition Government are highlighted below:

  1. Coalition is formed for the sake of reward, material or psychic
  2. A coalition implies the existence of a least two partners
  3. The underlying principle of a coalition system stands on the simple fact of temporary conjunction of specific interest.
  4. Coalition politics is not a static but a dynamic affair as coalition players and groups can dissolve and form new ones
  5. The keynote of coalition politics is compromise and rigid dogma has no place in it.
  6. A coalition works on the basis of a minimum programme, which may not be ideal for each partner of the coalition.
  7. Pragmatism and not ideology is the hall-mark of coalition politics. In making political adjustments, principles may have to be set aside.
  8. The purpose of a coalition adjustment is to seize power.

In India, coalitions have come up before or after elections. The pre-poll coalition is considered advantageous as it provides a common platform for all parties to woo the electorate on the basis of a joint manifesto. A post-election union is intended to enable constituents to share political power and run the government.

Formation of Coalition Governments in India

The table below highlights the Coalition Government formed in India in the ensuing years:

Formation of Coalition Governments in India (1977-Present)

Period Coalition Prime Minister (Party)
1977-1979 Janata Party Morarji Desai (Congress (O))
1979-1980 Janta Party (Secular) Charan Singh (Janata (S))
1989-1990 National Front V.P Singh (Janata Dal)
1990-1991 Janata Dal (Socialist) or Samajwadi Janata Party Chandra Shekar (Janata Dal (S) or Samajwadi Party)
1996-1997 United Front H..D Deve Gowda (Janata Dal)
1997-1998 United Front I.K Gujral (Janata Dal)
1997-1998 BJP-led Coalition A.B. Vajpayee (BJP)
1999-2004 National Democratic Alliance (NDA) A.B. Vajpayee (BJP)
2004-2009 United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Manmohan Singh (Congress)
2009-2014 United Progressive Alliance – II (UPA-II) Manmohan Singh (Congress)
2014-2019 National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Narendra Modi (BJP)
2019-present National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Narendra Modi (BJP)

Merits and Demerits of Coalition Government

The merits and demerits of a coalition government is highlighted in the table below:

Demerits and Merits of Coalition Government

Merits Demerits
  • There is an accommodation of diverse interests in the functioning of the government.
  • A coalition government acts as a channel to meet the expectations and redress the grievances of different groups
  • India is a highly diversified country. There are different cultures, languages, castes, religions and ethnic groups. This means that the coalition government’s more representative in nature and reflects the popular opinion of the electorate
  • A coalition government  comprises different political parties having their own ideologies or agendas. But the government policy requires the concurrence of all the coalition partners. Therefore, a coalition government leads to consensus-based politics
  • Coalition politics strengthens the federal fabric of the Indian political system. This is because a coalition government is more sensitive and responsive to regional demands
  • A coalition government reduces the chances of despotic rule. This is due to the reduced domination of a single political party in the functioning of the government. All the members of the coalition participate in the decision making.
  • They are unstable or prone to instability. The difference of opinion among coalition members leads to the collapse of the government
  • Leadership of the Prime Minister is a principle of parliamentary form of government. This principle is curtailed in a coalition government as the Prime Minister is required to consult the coalition partners before taking any major decisions.
  • The Steering Committee or the Coordination Committee of the coalition partners acts as the ‘Super-Cabinet’ and thereby it undermines the role and position of the cabinet in the functioning of the government machinery
  • There is a possibility of the smaller constituents of the coalition government playing the role of a ‘king-maker’. They demand more than strength in the Parliament
  • The leaders of regional parties bring in the regional facts in the national decision-making. They pressurise the central executive to act on their lines; otherwise, they would threaten to withdraw from the coalition
  • The members of the coalition governments do not assume responsibility for the administrative failures and lapses. They could play blame games and there by escape from collective and individual responsibilities

Frequently asked Questions about Coalition Governments

Under which conditions can a coalition government be formed?

A coalition government might also be created in a time of national difficulty or crisis (for example, during wartime or economic crisis) to, give a government the high degree of perceived political legitimacy or collective identity, it can also play a role in diminishing internal political strife.

What are the positive and negative aspects of a coalition government?

Advocates of proportional representation suggest that a coalition government leads to more consensus-based politics, as a government comprising differing parties (often based on different ideologies) need to compromise about governmental policy. Another stated advantage is that a coalition government better reflects the popular opinion of the electorate within a country. Those who disapprove of coalition governments believe that such governments have a tendency to be fractious and prone to disharmony, as their component parties hold differing beliefs and thus may not always agree on policy.

Aspirants can find complete information about upcoming Government Exams through the linked article. More exam-related preparation materials will be found through the links given below

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