• kewal sethi

coalition era


coalition era

is a coalition a truly democratically elected government? is a question posted by a friend. his argument, briefly, is that coalition after the elections is unethical, if not illegal. the voters have voted for a party because they may be against the bigger party. by aligning with the bigger party, they are betraying the voters. at the back of his arguments is the phenomenon of horse trading.

our experience with coalition has been mixed. the recent experience, with its paralysis of decision making. numerous scams of high value, the premier expressing his helplessness and citing coalition handicap make us wary of the coalitions. as opposed to this, we had the earlier NDA experience which was not bad and which lasted its full term without any untoward incident.

truly speaking, democracy is not really the rule by the majority. it is the rule in accordance with accepted principles of polity in which there are consultations before decisions are made. not for nothing, in UK, the model of our democracy, the party in minority is called her majesty's opposition. it can be argued that in an election, the voters vote for the policies (as outlined in manifestoes or election speeches) of a party. by aligning, they have to give up these policies which is against the spirit of their commitment to the voters. on the other hand, democracy is rule by consensus. when political parties come together, they arrive at, or should arrive at, common minimum programme which does not violate the basic stand of the party but, at the same time, does not offend other parties. for example BJP shelved its promise of common civil code to run the coalition. the voters do understand these limitations and, as i said earlier, even if a certain party is not in government, it ought to be consulted before a decision is made as it also represents a section of voters.

unfortunately, in india, we have parties of arrogance, who think that their view is the only acceptable view. the rest is either anti-national, or anti-voter or anti-something. tolerance which is the hallmark of democratic polity is absent. this leads to politics of confrontation. we have seen lack of coordination even within the ruling coalition where the parties whose ministers sit in the cabinet oppose the decisions made in the cabinet. the loss of working hours in the parliament which should calmly discuss issues is the result of this intolerance.

i have argued in another blog that not only the parties, partners in a coalition, should have their views respected but also the views of members of parliament belonging to a party. the disqalification of members for defying the whip should be done away with. if the parties owe commitment to the voters, so do the members and should reflect the thinking of the voters on the particular point being discussed for example the question of FDI in retail.

the coalitions are not bad per se. there is a coalition in UK but there is no confrontation between the partners. in france or in germany coalitions have been there for decades but the economic progress is not endangered thereby. japan is another country with coalition. the trouble in india lies elsewhere.

will recall be a suitable option. again, we have the tradition of nominating the spouse/ son/ daughter to succeed the member if something like arrest/ disqualification/ demise happens to him. even if recall is successful, the elections that follow may see his close relative coming in as a substitute. it would not help. call it cynicism. call it pessimism. the solution lies elsewhere but it can be outlined some other time.


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