“In the new era of coalition politics, political parties are not aligning or realigning on the basis of ideology.” What arguments would you put forward to support or oppose this statement?
The coalition government became an integral part of the Indian political system and a regular feature. The period after 1989 witnessed the rise of coalition governments at the Centre, with no political party receiving the majority. It saw the rise of alliance among two or more political parties and their quest to form a government and retain power.
a. Alliance politics came to be defined as the alliance of opportunities and convenience than the one based on ideologies. We may give the example of how the National Front government in 1989 was supported by the BJP and the Left Front, which represented different ideologies altogether.
b. The period from 1989 witnessed no party getting clear majority. It also saw widened contestation among various political parties. With the end of the Congress System, we saw the emergence of a multi-party system, with parties competing against each other and forming alliances to form governments.
c. We saw the rise of regional parties that emerged as important regional players holding the strings of the government at the Centre. We saw the rise of caste-based parties who represented the interests of Dalits and became a determining factor in every election. Caste became an important vote bank factor. National parties realised the importance of regional parties in the formation of the government, which also acted as a restraint on them from taking independent decisions.
d. Coalition and alliance politics was the politics of convenience and opportunities. The political equation changed after every election. Parties began to enter into pre-poll and post-poll alliances to challenge the existing political force. In 1989, both the Left and the BJP supported the National Front government because they wanted to keep the Congress out of power. The Left continued to support the non-Congress government in 1996. During this period, Congress also extended its aid to this government. This move by both the left and the Congress was aimed to keep the BJP out of power.
e. The coalition added a new chapter of political instability in the Indian democratic politics. We may give the example of how after the 12th Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led coalition government was formed but could not last 13 months. Because of the withdrawal of the support of Jayalalithaa from AIADMK, the BJP-led coalition could not secure majority votes.
f. The coalition government has imposed certain restraints on the prime minister from taking independent decisions by putting political compulsions on him, as he has to accommodate interests of various factions and parties that are part of the coalition.
The prime minister also faces the challenge of reaching at a consensus on various policy matters. If any party withdraws support, then the prime minister is under a compulsion to prove his strength on the floor of the house. The threat of withdrawing support has been a major hindrance to the functioning of coalitions.